Manheim's Lot Vision, revealed in January, uses a GPS wireless device plugged into a vehicle's onboard diagnostics port, known as the OBD-II port. A vehicle without that port, or certain vehicles built before 1996, use a device hung around the rearview mirror, steering wheel or other spot.
Lot Vision allows the vehicles to be tracked within 10 feet of their location with a directional path pointing to where the car or truck is parked. Tracking devices have individual batteries with a 90-day lifespan; notifications are sent when the battery is running low. The devices — developed by Cox2M, a unit of parent Cox Enterprises' Cox Communications division — are locked into place with a metal key and will send a notification if someone tampers with them. The tracking is controlled via a mobile app or desktop computer.
Lot Vision is installed at Manheim's auctions in Toronto and Dallas and at Florida locations in West Palm Beach, Davie, Clearwater and Lakeland. It will be at 19 locations by the end of 2019. The rollout should be complete at all U.S. locations by mid-2020, Manheim officials said.
"It's a massive undertaking," said Bob Grounds, Manheim associate vice president of product management, although the company declined to share how much it is investing in the installation.
The old technology employs portable terminals that dedicated lot crews use to scan inventory at least twice a day across the entire lot.
"And more or less, the second you scan the car, it's already old data," Grounds said. Lot Vision "eliminates the need to scan for inventory purposes, so we can repurpose those folks into much more important or effective positions or jobs. And finding the vehicle obviously becomes less of an issue."
Where it's in place, Lot Vision has been well-received by employees tasked with keeping tabs on the thousands of used vehicles coming through the locations, Grounds said.
"Ninety-nine percent of our movements outside of a typical sale day is just getting the car to the right spot at the right time within our reconditioning center," Grounds said. "Just knowing where the vehicles are when it's time to move them increases efficiencies greatly."
The technology can also be useful at dealerships. While their lots are much smaller, knowing precise vehicle location helps dealerships make a test drive happen faster and allows them to more efficiently perform general inventory reconciliation. Manheim is working with dealership giant Sonic Automotive Inc. and used-vehicle retailer US Auto Sales to test dealership use of Lot Vision. It is talking with additional dealers as well as importers, automakers and vehicle rental companies about using Lot Vision.