The auto finance industry takes online credit applications for granted today, but Dealertrack and RouteOne helped popularize the technology.
"Really, it just took off" after some initial hurdles, said Mark O'Neil, COO for Cox Automotive. O'Neil, 59, is the former president of Dealertrack, and he was on board when Dealertrack launched in 2001. Cox Automotive acquired it in 2015.
Three big auto lenders formed Dealertrack. The initial investors and first customers were JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and subprime lender AmeriCredit Corp., which later became GM Financial.
Even before Dealertrack arrived, followed closely by RouteOne, it was obvious that online credit applications were faster, more efficient and more accurate than phone, fax or overnight delivery.
But individual lenders concentrated on implementing their own proprietary systems, which they limited to their affiliated dealers. Chase Auto Finance was an early adopter, but dealers were reluctant to sign up for a system that sent credit applications exclusively to Chase.
Dealertrack and RouteOne took the opposite approach, making it easy for dealerships to send credit applications to multiple lenders at the same time. That was a winning strategy. Today, the Dealertrack network includes more than 1,600 lenders and 22,000 dealerships.