Software systems cut wait times -- if they talk
Software vendors are helping dealers in the quest for faster vehicle transactions when they are not tripping over each other.
Dealertrack Technologies, for example, offers a wide selection of products that speed transactions, including online credit applications and software that quickly finds lenders willing to write loans for vehicle buyers.
AutoTrader.com helps take the time and hassle out of trade-ins by offering guaranteed trade-in prices either before a customer gets to the store or while he or she is there.
But for all the advances, software vendors admit that too often, their systems don't communicate very well with one another. And that's a problem because most stores use software from multiple vendors, relying on an assortment of big vendors and small ones to help them run their departments.
"Integration is still an issue," said Raj Sundaram, Dealertrack executive vice president of dealer solutions.
Several large vendors, including Dealertrack, Reynolds and Rey-nolds and ADP Dealer Services, are pushing toward offering complete suites of software for every department, though none is there yet.
Dealertrack started as a leader in finance and insurance tools, compressing the time needed for dealers to arrange financing for vehicles with a credit-application process linked to hundreds of lenders that can vie for deals almost instantaneously.
But through acquisitions, the publicly traded company has added a dealer management system product, inventory management and other tools that dealers can use to help appraise trade-ins and ensure all transaction documents comply with state laws.
Reynolds and Reynolds, along with ADP Dealer Services, the dominant provider of dealer management systems, also offers software that touches nearly every aspect of auto retailing, said Reynolds Vice President Jon Strawsburg.
One way Reynolds helps compress transaction times is with a mobile app called "The eNegotiator" that allows a salesperson to communicate with a desk manager during a price negotiation without leaving the customer's side, Strawsburg said.
Its docuPAD product is a giant desktop screen in F&I that allows customers to see and sign all contract and regulatory documents so that they roll automatically into the DMS for safe storage, Strawsburg said.
DocuPAD also permits the F&I manager to conveniently present extras such as extended warranties on the screen.
The product doesn't necessarily shorten time in F&I, which can take 30 minutes or more. But it ensures all documents are signed and the store is in compliance on all regulations so there is never a need to have the customer come back to correct problems, Strawsburg said.
TrueCar Inc. CEO Scott Painter says the company's site can eliminate much of the angst and time of negotiating vehicle prices by providing customers online a guaranteed price from competing stores before they visit.
That can save 30 minutes-plus on transactions, giving more time to focus on other parts of a sale, such as accessories or F&I products, Painter said.
TrueCar, which went public in May, has additional products on the drawing board to allow more shopping via the Internet and less time in the store. The products include TrueLease, TrueTrade and TrueLoan.
Painter said the reason buyers are still spending two hours or more to buy vehicles is largely because of price negotiations: "The way to get to the transaction is to stop negotiating."
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