DETROIT - Polk Co., a statistical research and analysis firm, has acquired full ownership of Carfax Vehicle History Service, which compiles the histories of used cars and sells the information to dealers and consumers.
Polk had owned 35 percent of Carfax. It purchased the remaining 65 percent from Blackburn Group Inc. of London, Ontario. The price was not disclosed. Carfax is in Fairfax, Va.
Dick Raines, Carfax president since 1993, will continue in that capacity. He said the biggest advantages of the acquisition for Carfax are Polk's experience in producing data for the auto industry and its financial and technical resources. Polk is in Southfield, Mich.
'Our consumer market has been explosive; I think we have the backing we need to take (Carfax) to the next step,' Raines said.
Using the vehicle identification number, Carfax provides potential buyers with information that affects the value of a used vehicle, such as whether it has been in an accident or a flood; odometer records; the number of owners; and in what part of the country it has been driven.
'There would be no way to find this out unless you went to each state and stood in line for a title search,' Raines said.
Carfax gathers about 75 percent of its vehicle history information from Polk data and the rest from state title data, extended service warranty contracts and state emissions system data, Raines said.
Carfax started with five employees in 1993 and generated less than $1 million in revenue, Raines said. The company has grown to almost 200 employees; Raines refused to disclose current revenue.
The size of the used-car market - more than 40 million annually - coupled with the scanty information available about used vehicles, is fueling Carfax's growth, Raines said.
Carfax's Web site, www.carfax.
com, gets more than 10 million hits annually. About 9,000 dealers in the United States and Canada make up about 70 percent of the company's business. Dealers who subscribe to Carfax use the service to get information about the histories of the vehicles they plan to buy at auction or take as trade-ins.
'With a new car, you know what it is,' Raines said. 'With used cars, there is a lot of variation and a lot of perceived risks.'