Mobile apps are the new frontier of used-car sales
Smartphones, tablets process vehicle data, pricing information, auction bids
Simulcast, a Manheim app, enables dealers to use their smartphones to bid on auction vehicles.
Captive finance companies, auto auctions, third-party Web sites and others unleashed a proliferation of mobile apps and products aimed at remarketers during the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando last month.
The idea was to show dealers how electronic digitalization can streamline the buying, selling and managing of their used-vehicle inventory and give them on-the-go access using smartphones and tablets.
"Of the 5.7 million visits we have per month, about 900,000 are mobile," Joe George, Manheim senior vice president of product development, said of the auction company's online sales channels. "That's growing at a triple-digit rate year over year."
Manheim, which has sold about 4 million vehicles through the Internet since 1999, demonstrated several new apps at the convention. Simulcast on the mobile app, for example, enables dealers to participate in Manheim traditional physical auctions when they're not in the lane or at their desktop. The mobile app puts bidding and buying in the palms of dealers' hands from their iPhones and iPads.
George: There or not there, no difference
In another lane
"We have finally completely eradicated the distinction in the Manheim marketplace between the physical and digital," George said. "I can stand at the auction bidding on a car in a different lane. I'm physically at the sale, but I'm using a digital medium to bid. So is it a physical transaction or a digital transaction?"
In anticipation of its first vehicles coming off lease in December 2012, GM Financial developed GMFDealerSource.com.
The Internet site helps guide dealerships through the process of accepting off-lease vehicles on the finance company's behalf -- also known as grounding -- quickly and accurately.
Along with the site is an app that can scan a vehicle's bar or QR code to reveal vital data, such as the vehicle identification number and trim level, and to give easy access to off-lease vehicle inspection reports.
Dealers who accept the off-lease vehicles can use the app to take advantage of having first shot at buying them, said Dan Heinrich, GM Financial vice president of asset remarketing. The app also makes handling consumer transactions easier.
"It has the ability for the customer to use his finger on the iPad or iPhone to sign the electronic odometer statement," Heinrich said. "The dealer would sign as well."
Experian Automotive introduced AutoCheck Triggers, a program that sends updates when information that affects a vehicle's value is made available as part of its AutoCheck vehicle history report.
Heinrich: Signatures on an iPad, iPhone
Triggers takes into consideration the lag time between an event that happens to a vehicle and when the report of the event is made available publicly, said Dave Nemtuda, an AutoCheck vice president at Experian.
Triggers tracks events such as reported accidents, title designations known as brands and failed emissions tests that might impact vehicle value or disqualify it from becoming certified under a manufacturer program.
Users can select the frequency at which they want to be updated of changes: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or their own timetable.
"It's a great way to compensate for the latency that's built in the system," Nemtuda said.
Not only should dealers get used to using apps, but they should also get used to their customers using them, too, said Clayton Stanfield, senior manager of dealer outreach at eBay Inc. He said online users buy 10,000 used or new vehicles a week using eBay apps.
"Two years ago, mobile was a cool way to do research and check your Facebook status," Stanfield said. "Now it's a way to purchase."
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