Some dealerships in the Manhattan area rely on DropCar's more than 250 drivers to transport vehicles needing service, instead of transporting owners.
DropCar began in New York City in 2015. At the time, drivers could be retained by individuals — for instance, to wait in the car while the client shopped or ate dinner — or as a monthly service that stored customers' vehicles when those vehicles weren't in use, a valuable service given the high cost of parking in the city.
Then the business caught the eye of the fixed operations director at Mercedes-Benz Manhattan, who approached the company to contract with his dealership.
For Mercedes-Benz Manhattan and a growing number of area dealerships, DropCar drivers fetch customers' vehicles and deliver them to the dealership's service department. Once the repair is completed, the drivers return the vehicles to the customers.
Demand for the service from dealerships has grown more quickly "than we initially anticipated," DropCar CEO Spencer Richardson told Automotive News: "These guys are coming to us."
DropCar's arrangement with dealerships provides stores access to the drivers, as well as DropCar's Enterprise Vehicle Assistance & Logistics technology platform. The platform essentially oversees pickup and delivery of vehicles for customers and dealerships, tracking car movement and repair status. Real-time maps, which dealership staff and customers can see, show vehicle location and driver information.
Sal Iacono, Bram Auto Group's vice president of fixed operations, said that since several of the North Bergen, N.J., group's dealerships switched to DropCar more than two years ago, the program has not reduced the stores' loaner total. But managing pickup and delivery of customer vehicles has become easier.
Using a driving service eliminates idle hands on dealership payrolls, while increasing the flexibility of moving vehicles on days when demand is heavy or light, the group's Lexus of Manhattan found. The dealership employed between four and six people to move vehicles, plus one or two managers to coordinate the drivers.
"If we had a team of people that were 100 percent efficient, we could probably make an argument that this is something that we can handle in-house," Iacono said. But that's not the case. "If demand increases significantly one day, and you have a fixed team, they can't handle that."
Toyota of Manhattan and Lexus of Queens, the other two Bram dealerships contracted with DropCar, were unable to offer customer vehicle pickup and delivery until they teamed with the company.
For Iacono, even if the net cost per vehicle transfer is higher with DropCar than before, the agility of outsourcing to a larger company to meet customer demand is worth it.
"It's not about saving money," he said. "It's more about the ease of managing the system, and the ability to satisfy customer demand."