Two years after wheels were stolen from eight vehicles at Executive Honda in Wallingford, Conn., the thief was caught and one set of wheels was recovered when an unwitting customer came in for service on a 2003 Honda Accord.
The 2003 vehicle had 2013 Accord wheels on it, and an adviser noticed they were the same type of wheels that had gone missing. He was able to check the vehicle identification number on each wheel to prove they were one of the sets Executive Honda had reported stolen, because of a product called InvisibleVin.
“You feel violated when something is stolen. Finding the person benefits every dealer around because these things go in spurts,” said Mark Altieri, director of operations for Executive Auto Group.
Police confiscated the wheels and eventually found and prosecuted the customer’s cousin who had stolen them, Altieri said.
InvisibleVin is a product by PassKey Corp. that came out in 2012. Using fluorescent migratory gel, certified dealership technicians stencil the VIN onto a vehicle’s door panels, wheels, trunk and hood, so if the car is stripped down, all the parts have it, Altieri said.
The VIN embeds into each surface layer of the vehicle: the clear coat, paint and primer. It’s hidden from thieves because the ink is invisible. The VIN appears only under ultraviolet light, and since it migrates through each layer, it is virtually impossible to remove. The car would have to be burned down to bare metal, said Brad Deveran, CEO of PassKey. Even if the VIN was painted over 10 times with black paint, he said, it would show under ultraviolet light.
Nationwide, 51 franchised new-car dealerships sell InvisibleVin, Deveran said.
Executive Auto Group has 11 rooftops in Connecticut besides Executive Honda in Wallingford. All the stores mark every vehicle in inventory with InvisibleVin and offer a companion warranty product to customers in the F&I office.
One product, which the Executive Group dealerships sell for $299, includes a payout of $5,000, split between the dealer and the customer, if a stolen vehicle is not recovered in 30 days. If the car is found, the product comes with a benefit that covers up to $1,000 of the deductible if the vehicle is found damaged. The benefit does not cover the deductible on stolen wheels, though. An upgraded product that covers wheels is $399.
At some of Executive Auto Group’s stores, 80 percent of consumers buy the warranty product, Altieri said. The penetration rate for the entire group averaged 62 to 63 percent last year. The dealership group’s 2016 target is 70 percent.
‘People will jump on’
Altieri believes InvisibleVin will catch on with dealers and customers the way key insurance did.
Before key insurance, “everybody was thinking, ‘What’s the next thing?’” in the product world, Altieri said. That type of product never would have crossed his mind, he said. Now it’s an essential F&I product at his dealerships.
He believes InvisibleVin will become the next must-have product in the F&I product world. “Other people will jump on once they see the value in it,” he says.