Dealers decry Reynolds crackdown
Uftring Auto Group's Patrick McKinley supports limiting vendors' DMS access: "We have 250,000 names in our database, and they need to be protected."
Dealers using Reynolds and Reynolds Co.'s management software say they are being inconvenienced and, in some cases, hurt financially by a Reynolds crackdown on other vendors' accessing the dealers' software systems without Reynolds' authorization.
Reynolds, of Dayton, Ohio, has shut noncertified vendors out of about 150 dealerships nationwide because of consumer privacy concerns, said Reynolds spokesman Tom Schwartz.
And the campaign, which began in August, will continue to be rolled out to dealers that use Reynolds' ERA dealer management system, Schwartz said. The system can control everything necessary to run a dealership from inventory, sales, finance and service records to personnel and payroll files.
Reynolds and rival ADP Dealer Services, near Chicago, dominate the business, providing DMS systems to more than 80 percent of U.S. dealerships.
The crackdown has caused business disruptions at Grogan's Towne Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Toledo, Ohio, said Marc Ray, a partner and general sales manager at the store. Ray estimates the store lost more than $20,000 in business during a five-day period in September when Reynolds shut off computer access to a vendor that automatically extracts inventory and sales data from Grogan's Towne's DMS.
The vendor, IntegraLink, was unable during that time to share the data with other vendors that Grogan Towne uses to send inventory to such shopping networks as Cars.com and AutoTrader.com, Ray said. As a consequence, that inventory did not go up on the networks for five days. Other Reynolds customers affected by the crackdown report similar business disruptions.
'Direct negative impact'
"Who knows how many sales we missed over that time?" said Ray. "There's no doubt the blackout had a direct negative impact on our bottom line."
In addition, one affected Chrysler dealer, who asked not to be named, said he received a letter in mid-October from Chrysler Group's Mopar parts division, cautioning the dealer's incentive payments for wholesaling parts to other dealers could be held up if the dealer didn't supply the data previously mined by IntegraLink. "That can cost a dealership thousands of dollars," the dealer said.
In a written comment, Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel said: "Chrysler Group considers this an issue between the dealers and dealer service provider Reynolds and Reynolds, so it would not be appropriate to comment on this matter."
Reynolds said data security is the reason that it has begun prohibiting third-party vendors from directly accessing the DMS of its dealer customers unless they have been certified by Reynolds.
Without Reynolds certification, a third-party vendor can take as much or as little data from a dealer's DMS as the vendor chooses, without any way of verifying what was taken, Schwartz said.
Reynolds refuses to allow that to protect consumers. "The data belongs to the dealers. We all agree on that," Schwartz said. "But we can't have people rooting around in a dealer's DMS. That creates a liability."
Reynolds first notified affected dealers of the crackdown with a letter in August, then blocked the DMS log-ins and passwords of unauthorized third parties, Schwartz said.
Patrick McKinley, controller for the six-store Uftring Auto Group in Peoria, Ill., agrees with Reynolds that dealers shouldn't give vendors unlimited access to their DMS out of consumer security concerns.
A secure option
Uftring has set up what it sees as a secure way to handle its data in line with Reynolds' contract restrictions at its stores, which sell Detroit 3 brands as well as Nissan, Subaru, Jaguar, Land Rover and Saab.
About two years ago, Uftring began using a Reynolds report-generating tool already inside the Reynolds DMS to pull data out and put it on a secured site where vendors could retrieve it in the format they needed, McKinley said.
That process has protected sensitive consumer information while providing the factories and others with the data they require to verify vehicle sales, monitor inventory and pay incentives. Said McKinley: "We have 250,000 names in our database, and they need to be protected."
Schwartz said that the report-building fix and one that enables dealers to download inventory and other data for manufacturers are available to all Reynolds DMS customers. The inventory download tool costs less than $100 a month.
Several affected dealers interviewed for this story said the blackout of IntegraLink was the most damaging aspect of the crackdown.
IntegraLink, a part of ADP Dealer Services, provides a service to automakers and their dealers by automatically extracting data such as sales, parts and inventory from a dealer's DMS and formatting it for the end user.
So far, ADP has not pursued certification with Reynolds for IntegraLink or another data-extraction company it owns, Digital Motorworks Inc. "ADP believes that dealerships own their data and have the right to share it with whom they choose," ADP said in a written statement. "Accordingly, ADP works with its clients to offer them multiple DMS integration options that can help dealers to share their data in a more secure and efficient manner."
Reynolds declined to give a range on what it charges other vendors to get certified on the Reynolds DMS.
Ray, the Toledo Chrysler dealer, said he has been able to get IntegraLink back into Grogan's Towne's DMS through a variety of software patches and other means, including new log-ins and passwords.
But Reynolds constantly discovers the new fixes and shuts out the vendor again, he said.
Ray, whose store sells about 200 new and used vehicles a month, said the crackdown is the final straw in his decision to change DMS vendors when his five-year Reynolds contract runs out in a year. Ray also is a partner in Charlie's Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in nearby Maumee, Ohio.
Said Ray: "It's my data and our server."
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