Outside companies make inroads with inventory software

Pollak: No data overload

Editor's note: RedBumper's software allows comparisons with an unlimited number of competitors. A previous version of this story misstated how many comparisons could be made.

Independent automotive software companies have begun to recognize the potential for inventory management analytics and now offer their own tools, with a price tag attached.

Software company vAuto, which specializes in used-vehicle inventory man-agement, introduced its new-car inventory management system, Conquest, at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in January. Company founder Dale Pollak said vAuto's convention booth was like "Wal-Mart on Black Friday" when he first offered subscriptions.

For a single-franchise dealership, Conquest costs $995 per month with a $495 one-time setup and training fee.

Conquest provides dealers with pricing and inventory data based on all available rebates and demand for a dealership's brand. The software allows dealerships to directly compare themselves with up to 20 other dealers anywhere in the country selling any brand.

"We don't publish pages and pages of information that say what's happening to vehicles in the market," Pollak said. "Rather than show them 10 pages of dense data, we say, 'Look, here is what you don't want to have, here is what you want to have. Click on them, and I'll show you how it's performing.'"

Pollak said one of the advantages vAuto has over a system such as Ford Motor Co.'s Smart Inventory Management System, or SIMS, is that it's an independent source of information.

RedBumper CEO Bruce Thompson, center, speaks with Mansour Khayal, a performance manager. Thompson says, “I want to give the dealer all the tools he needs.”

"Dealers are fairly cynical and suspicious of information that their own manufacturer gives them," he said. 

For Ford dealerships with the SIMS software, Conquest and SIMS have proved to complement each other. 

Terry Chechakli, variable operations director for Smith Auto Group, which operates stores in Missouri and Arkansas, said that although Conquest provides additional pricing data, the group's Ford dealership uses both tools when making orders. 

"We utilize Conquest along with manufacturer programs to figure out what is selling," Chechakli said. "When we print those off and use them against Conquest, they pretty much match up. ... It's not an either/or." 

RedBumper's NewCarIQ is another inventory management software that was introduced at the NADA convention. Like Conquest, it offers pricing data along with inventory analysis and recommendations. RedBumper CEO Bruce Thompson said the tool helps dealers forecast their future lot makeup. 

"It sees supply, then makes stocking recommendations for 60 to 90 days," Thompson said. "We break it down by trim and color in terms of exactly what he needs to be selling or buying. ... It tells the dealer where he's going to end up at the end of the month." 

Though NewCarIQ did not disclose pricing, a spokesman said the company offers flexible pricing plans on a month-to-month or contract basis. 

The software allows dealers to compare themselves with an unlimited number of competitors, and it evaluates the dealer's sales history as far back as three years. Thompson said the software tracks vehicle identification numbers to follow inventory supply and lot turnover. 

"From our perspective, the dealer is my client," Thompson said. "I want to give the dealer all the tools he needs to make all the decisions."

You can reach Katie Burke at kburke@crain.com -- Follow Katie on Twitter: @KatieGBurke

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