Autosoft introduces 2nd DMS module for appraisal, inventory pricing


Autosoft announced Wednesday that it has introduced Inventory Management, a second DMS module that provides dealerships with vehicle appraisal, inventory pricing, and merchandising functionality with mobile capabilities.

This follows Autosoft’s launch of its next-generation DMS earlier this year, the company said.

The new cloud-based platform lets dealerships utilize all key solutions from one database that can be accessed by a single sign-on.

“A single platform has proven to enhance the customer experience as well as improve speed, productivity, and scalability for every department. It enables stronger decision-making since all staff have real-time access to the same data,” Autosoft president and chief executive officer Bryce Veon said in a news release.

Additionally, Autosoft said that it is in the process of developing the accounting, service, parts, and CRM aspects of the platform.

With the new Inventory Management solution dealers can access auction data from Manheim Market Reports and book values from Black Book, NADA and Kelley Blue Book.

Via the solution’s inventory bookout functionality dealers can get instant access to data from the desking screen in Autosoft sales and F&I.

Along with the release of Inventory Management, Autosoft said that it is preparing to introduce an embedded software applications marketplace where dealerships can easily customize their solution to their specific needs.

ClearVin expands vehicle history services to meet dealership needs


Vehicle history report provider ClearVin announced Tuesday that it is expanding its vehicle history reporting service to help automotive industry businesses better determine vehicles’ quality and potential sale value.

Integration with ClearVin now allows business such as automotive dealerships, insurance companies and automotive auction houses to view current title brand history, lien history and insurance claim information directly on their system without having to leave their proprietary platforms.

“ClearVin was started to meet the consumer need for a vehicle history report that contained dealer level data at a lower price point than what the industry currently had on offer,” company chief executive officer Yury Strachuk explained in a news release. "As we improved our reporting to meet federal and state regulations as to what constitutes a 'Valid' vehicle history report, we found that ClearVin had grown into a service that could meet business to business needs."

Additionally, ClearVin shared that it recently launched its affiliate program for businesses with web or app audiences who are potentially interested in detailed vehicle history reports.

Last year, the company began collaborating with J.D. Power Valuation Services to deliver NADA Values data to its client base of dealers and wholesalers who buy and sell used vehicles through its product.

Toyota, Lexus leverage White Clarke financing tool in UK


This week, White Clarke Group highlighted that one of its tools is being leveraged by Toyota and Lexus Financial Services throughout the United Kingdom. The captives launched the new NGage system nationwide for instant, seamless and transparent customer finance quotations and agreements.

White Clarke said that Toyota and Lexus dealers across the U.K. are making the business of financing a vehicle purchase quicker and simpler for customers with the introduction of NGage, a new, web-based electronic point-of-sale system.

Commissioned by Toyota and Lexus Financial Services, NGage is designed to provide a wealth of features designed to help customers choose the package that’s right for them and, when happy with the details, use an electronic signature to agree the finance deal. Quotations can be compared side-by-side with appropriate interest rates (quoted as APR) and finance approval can be obtained almost immediately.

White Clarke pointed out the process eliminates the need for paper documents at the quotation and agreement stage and avoids the delays that can occur when documents have to be physically signed and returned. The company said the clarity and ease of use are in line with the kind of streamlined purchase procedures customers experience and appreciate in other retail areas.

At the same time as NGage makes for a seamless and transparent customer experience, White Clarke went on to mention the solution is also designed to be robust and secure. For example, any application for finance has to be supported by customer proof of identity.

NGage uses CALMS software designed by the White Clarke, enabling interfaces with leading credit bureaus and vehicle data services. It is highly flexible and can be accessed using a wide range of devices, from desktop computers to tablets and smartphones.

“We have sought to produce a best-in-class front-end system that will help strengthen our performance in fleet, retail and direct customer sales,” said Fran Kenny, director of operations at Toyota Financial Services.

“We have had positive feedback from our dealers and we see great potential in the business agility that NGage can provide,” Kenny continued. “Auto finance is dynamic, fast-growing marketplace, so it’s important for us to be agile and contain costs while delivering business change that benefits us, our dealers and our customers.”

NGage has been developed and extensively tested prior to a national roll-out through Toyota and Lexus’ 234 centers over a six-week period with full implementation completed by end of November.  At the same time, an e-training program has been used for all dealer and internal staff to learn how the system works and the benefits it can deliver.

“We are delighted that Toyota Financial Services, having completed a thorough market assessment has chosen to extend its partnership with White Clarke Group through the implementation of White Clarke Group’s new CALMS3 product,” said Brendan Gleeson, group chief executive officer at White Clarke Group.

“CALMS3 has undergone a complete technical upgrade utilizing the latest UX technology and design techniques to deliver greater agility and transform the customer experience, including the implementation of the CALMS3 digital processing and e-Signature/e-ID functionality,” Gleeson went on to say. “It’s fantastic to have had such a smooth and well received go-live.”

8 findings from Fed’s mobile banking and payments study


Consumers likely are not just shopping for their next vehicle with their mobile device. They’re probably going to be making installment contract payments with those devices, too, if they’re not doing so already.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston recently released results of an elaborate study with multiple Federal Reserve Banks and other financial institutions about their mobile banking and payment practices and plans.

Policymakers stated the study confirms that mobile banking comprises a standard and maturing set of services for consumers, offered by 89 percent of respondents, and that retail mobile payment services, while not yet widespread, are already offered by 24 percent of survey respondents.

Officials highlighted that the following eight points are mobile banking findings common to institutions across most districts:

—Retail mobile banking is ubiquitous at U.S. financial institutions: Eighty-nine percent of financial institution respondents currently offer mobile banking services to consumers; and 97 percent will offer these service by 2018.

—By 2018, 77 percent of bank and 47 percent of credit union respondents anticipate providing mobile banking services to other customer segments including commercial and small business, government agencies, educational entities, and non-profits – commercial and small business are the most prevalent.

—Nearly all financial institutions offer or plan to offer mobile apps that support the two dominant mobile operating systems: Ninety-eight percent to support Apple iOS and 97 percent to support Android OS.

—Most respondents offer or plan to offer the following services to consumers: ability to check balances (92 percent); transfer funds between their accounts within the FI (90 percent); mobile enrollment (71 percent); and single sign-on capabilities (61 percent).

—Of those financial institutions tracking customer adoption, 54 percent now have more than 20 percent of their retail customers enrolled in mobile banking; and 44 percent have more than 20 percent actively using these services.

—Among financial institutions offering and tracking business mobile banking adoption, more than half (55 percent) still have adoption rates less than 5 percent.

—Mobile banking is essentially a free service to retail customers; only eight percent either charge or plan to charge an explicit mobile banking fee and only for some advanced services; however, 25 percent of respondents currently charge or are considering fees for mobile banking services to business customers.

—The key mobile banking security concern cited by respondents is the consumer’s lack of protective behavior. In response, financial institutions have implemented a range of mitigation controls — more than 80 percent support inactivity timeouts and multi-factor authentication (MFA), as well as mobile alerts –to enhance security and help change consumer behavior.

The complete study is available here.

Start-up leverages blockchain to create long-distance ride-sharing platform


How vehicles get utilized by buyers once they leave your showroom continues to change at a breakneck pace.

Companies such as Lyft and Uber have carved out business activities by often providing short-distance transportation; say to or from an airport or back home if you’ve had too many beverages at happy hour.

Meanwhile, a new start-up company, SnagRide, has positioned itself as a modern ridesharing platform built on the Ethereum blockchain that connects drivers and passengers with affordable, long-distance travel.

SnagRide claims to be America’s first long-distance ridesharing community that combines artificial intelligence with blockchain technology through smart contracts.

“We’ve revolutionized the concept of ridesharing by introducing a platform that builds atop blockchain, equipped with a level of encryption, protection and efficiency unavailable in any other type of ridesharing application within the U.S. right now," said Terry Chan, founder and chief executive officer of SnagRide.

While insisting on being the first long-distance ridesharing community that draws on AI and blockchain technology through Smart Contracts, SnagRide believes it’s poised to be a disruptive and unique platform.

Chan explained that smart contract technology can enable the new platform to securely manage the lifecycle between drivers and passengers that are willing to travel together between cities. SnagRide's AI bot uses data analytics from Ethereum smart contracts to match drivers and passengers who are willing to travel together.

SnagRide's AI technology matches drivers and riders based on their demonstrated habits and preferences from prior SnagRide journeys.

Aware that the world is in need of more reliable and affordable long distance ridesharing solutions, SnagRide aims to provide a more convenient and comfortable traveling experience, one that is affordable, eco-friendly and reliable.

“We are very excited for SnagRide to be released in the App Store and Android Play Store for download in the coming months, delving into the ridesharing market that has desperately been in need of a long distance ride-sharing service,” Chan said.

In an effort to increase interest in its product, SnagRide announced the launch of its SnagRide (MILE) token sale. The pre-sale phase of the crowdsale is scheduled to happen over a span of four weeks, starting Jan. 10. The presale will be followed by SnagRide's official crowdsale campaign.

The participants in SnagRide presale can purchase MILE tokens with BTC, ETH and LTC payments. The platform offers an attractive bonus to early investors. Those who participate during the first week of the pre-sale stand to receive a 40 percent bonus. The bonus percentage will reduce by 10 percent each week, leading to 30 percent, 20 percent and 10 percent during the second, third and fourth weeks respectively.

Pre-sale (Jan. 10) Week One Bonus: 40 percent

Pre-sale: (Jan. 17) Week Two Bonus: 30 percent

Pre-sale: (Jan. 24) Week Three Bonus: 20 percent

Pre-sale: (Jan. 31) Week Four Bonus: 10 percent

SnagRide has set a maximum cap of 100 million MILE tokens, of which 84 percent will be distributed to the public, 15 percent will be retained by the team and 1 percent will be allocated for bounties. All unsold tokens after the completion of crowdsale will be burned, according to the company. 

CarStory introduces new search tech designed to speed-up results

AUSTIN, Texas - 

CarStory announced Tuesday that it has introduced CarStory MicroDB, its new a patent-pending search and compression technology designed to increase automotive searches on desktops and mobile devices.

CarStory MicroDB improves automotive searches by over 40 times, according to CarStory.

“This is a really exciting evolution of search technology, empowering browsers with the capabilities of the datacenter,” parent company Vast chief architect Benedict Smith said in a news release. “This redefines 'instant' in a way that has to be experienced to appreciate. It's the culmination of years of work, utilizing browser technologies only now reaching maturity, and is very much the future of web technology.”

No matter the device or connection method, CarStory said by compressing and pushing the data to the client with CarStory MicroDB, sites can experience the full interactivity and a substantial increase in speed.

CarStory MicroDB can be experienced in beta at, it is currently available for individual licensing to enterprise partners, such as marketplaces and dealer website providers.

“CarStory MicroDB changes the game in automotive search. Most sites are frustratingly slow and every delay results in lost sales, traffic and loyalty,” Vast chief executive officer John Price added. “Speed and a great experience are now inextricably linked. You can’t deliver one without the other. We’re excited to set a new bar for what speed means in the industry.”

DealerRater adds 2 new offerings to Connections product suite

WALTHAM, Mass. - 

DealerRater has introduced additional enhanced offerings as part of its new Connections product suite that is designed to create personal connections between dealerships’ top salespeople and ready-to-buy shoppers.

First launched in September, DealerRater Connections allows dealerships to create dealer and employee profiles linked to their reviews shared across DealerRater’s strategic syndication partner sites.

The new DealerRater Connections Plus leverages ReviewBuilder, which offers users an automated and customized way to earn more reviews. And the new Connections Premier offering provides dealerships with a dedicated Success Partner whose role is to jumpstart onboarding and keep employee profiles up-to-date.

“Over the past 15 years, we have witnessed a growing importance around a dealership’s online reputation to build more trust in the car buying process. In that time, consumers have written more than four million dealership reviews on DealerRater,” company general manager Jamie Oldershaw said in a news release. “In an effort to bring our dealer partners a new level of automation, convenience and personalization to their review-building program, we’re thrilled to introduce DealerRater Connections Plus and DealerRater Connections Premier.

“We know the majority of car buyers prefer to select a salesperson before arriving at the dealership, and 80 percent of DealerRater Certified Salespeople say their employee profile helps them sell more cars,” he said. “It goes without saying that we want to make it as easy as possible for dealers to reach shoppers by building their digital footprint and drive business growth.”

Additionally, using ReviewBuilder, dealers can solicit up to four times more reviews automatically via text or email through integrations with most DMS systems, according to DealerRater.

“DealerRater reviews help me stand out in a crowd of other salespeople and lets the customer know I’m a trustworthy sales consultant who will take good care of them,” said Rick Kruger, DealerRater certified salesperson and sales and leasing consultant at Don Ayres Honda in Fort Wayne, Ind.

“Building strong rapport with a customer is critical to making a sale, and through my employee profile I get to build that relationship before they even walk in the showroom. Not to mention, I have more customers seeking me out – some have traveled more than 150 miles just for me,” Kruger continued.

EFG Companies releases award-winning service-drive app developed by Northwood students


What was nurtured in the classroom is now ready for deployment to help your dealership service drive.

This week, EFG Companies announced the launch of Driver’s Advocate, a mobile app representing the culmination of both the 2015 and 2016 Northwood University Innovator of the Year Award winning products. Driver’s Advocate was designed to foster greater consumer loyalty through service drive retention, while also providing theft protection and inventory management.

Driver’s Advocate provides consumers with:

• A service scheduler

• Direct, mileage-based messaging with service and maintenance reminders

• A loyalty point tracker, where loyalty points can be used for discounts on services provided, and/or as a down payment towards their next vehicle purchase with the selling dealership

• A theft tracker that alerts consumers when their vehicle moves while they are not in it

• An easy-to-use fuel finder

The mobile app features click-to-call roadside assistance, centralized, easy access to consumer protection plans, recall notifications, a service center locator, full vehicle information repository and transparent dealer pricing.

“Dealers offering Driver’s Advocate benefit from a significant customer retention tool through the app’s service scheduler, couponing feature and maintenance notifications based on individual consumer mileage,” said Greg Grimes, vice president of operations with the Rohrich Auto Group. Grimes served as a mentor in the 2016 Northwood Innovator of the Year Contest, and Rohrich Auto Group is the first to pilot Driver’s Advocate.

“In addition, dealers have the ability to use the loyalty point tracker as a way to encourage customers to return for their next vehicle purchase if they choose to apply the loyalty points towards a cash value for a down payment,” Grimes added.

According to nationwide consumer research conducted by EFG Companies, more than 65 percent of consumers desire reminders about their vehicle maintenance, and the majority would also like to receive service reminders and specials from their dealership.

The research also indicated 63.5 percent of respondents said the availability of a dealership loyalty program would impact their decision to service at a dealership. And according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, 83 percent of customers that perform their routine maintenance with the selling dealer will return to them to purchase another vehicle.  

“In today’s retail automotive market, the finance and insurance office of a dealership has the unique opportunity to take on a different role in addressing two significant dealer priorities,” EFG Companies president and chief executive officer John Pappanastos said.

“Through products like Driver’s Advocate, dealers can create those one-on-one consumer relationships to address individual needs rather than taking the mass approach,” Pappanastos continued. “In addition, these products have the potential to increase service drive volume and traffic, translating directly to repeat and referral business, which, as we all know, make up the lowest cost sales for the average dealer.”

Of the top mobile app attributes that EFG’s research showed consumers find most valuable, eight are available in the Driver’s Advocate app, including:

—Recall warnings
—Regular maintenance reminders
—Repair history
—Tire and wheel reminders
—Service interval reminders
—Contact information for warranties and roadside assistance
—Vehicle warranty or service contract details
—Service center locator.

In a world where, as reported by Cox Automotive, 70 percent of vehicle buyers never return to the dealership for maintenance, EFG Companies is convinced the mobile app will increase service drive retention by rewarding customers for their loyalty and keeping vehicle maintenance top-of-mind.

By providing consumers with instant access to their vehicle information and their protection plans through Driver’s Advocate, dealers also have the ability to enhance their customer service levels in the service drive.

“Using the app, a customer can pull relevant product and vehicle information for the service manager to put into their system, increasing the efficiency of initiating and processing claims,” said John Stephens, executive vice president at EFG Companies. “By streamlining claims processing in this way, dealers will be able to initiate work on the vehicle much faster, and get consumers back on the road, leading to a more satisfied consumer base.”

Lastly, the theft tracking feature is obviously useful for consumers, but also dealers before the sale.

“This opens several doors when it comes to inventory management,” Stephens said. “Dealers can track their inventory in real time, access test drive history and of course monitor for inventory theft.”

According to a 2016 study by the Insurance Information Institute and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, vehicle theft is on the rise. Officials said, 707,758 motor vehicles were reported stolen in the 2015, up 3.1 percent from 2014.

The Driver’s Advocate mobile app is based on the winning products for the 2015 and 2016 F&I Innovator of the Year competitions at Northwood University.

The winning concept from 2015 was originally designed by three Northwood undergraduate students to provide consumers with a convenient way to stay current on vehicle maintenance and prevent theft. The 2016 winning concept was designed to address Millennial and Generation Z concerns around financial security and deliver on dealership goals around customer retention.

According to a recent report by J.D. Power, millennials will nearly replace Baby Boomers in the car market by the year 2020. Driver’s Advocate addresses three concerns that are top of mind for this generation.

Saddled with $1.31 trillion in student loan debt, EFG Companies insisted this generation is hyper aware of taking on more debt. Using the point tracker, millennials have the ability to reduce or even eliminate their out-of-pocket expense in putting a down payment on their next vehicle.

By monitoring the status through a simple app, EFG went on to mention consumers can receive updates when their vehicle moves while they are not in it, as well as stay on top of vehicle maintenance to preserve resale value.

EFG and Northwood developed this program to spur a greater level of innovation in the F&I space to meet the rapidly evolving consumer demands. Every other year during Northwood’s fall semester, six teams of Northwood undergraduate automotive marketing and management students compete to conceptualize and build a new F&I product while earning course credit. The winning product is selected by a panel of judges based on its business merit and potential to be successfully developed for the retail automotive market.

“This marks the first competition product rolled out to the market,” Northwood University president Keith Pretty said.

“We expect great things from this product roll-out as it serves as a reflection of our philosophy of hands-on learning,” Pretty continued. “This will give our current students enrolled at Northwood the unique opportunity to see the impact their entrepreneurism and leadership can have on the industry.”

A percentage of the revenues generated from Driver’s Advocate will also be returned to Northwood University.

For more information, go to this website.

12 brands already integrated in GM’s in-vehicle mobile commerce platform


Here’s another way your dealership staff can highlight a vehicle from General Motors, including some that are certified pre-owned: Explain how they can order coffee from inside the car, truck or crossover that’s equipped with the automaker’s embedded 4G LTE connectivity.

Starting Wednesday, GM is rolling out a platform for on-demand reservations and purchases of goods and services. With Marketplace, drivers can now order and pay for their favorite coffee — and much more — on the way to work with a simple tap on the dash.

Marketplace can allow customers to order food, find the closest gas station to save on fuel and make dinner reservations on the go. The OEM insisted this development means Marketplace gives drivers of eligible Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles the opportunity to more safely interact with a growing number of their favorite brands in retail, fuel, hospitality, food, hotel and transportation through the in-vehicle touchscreen.

Leveraging 4G LTE connectivity, GM is adding Marketplace to millions of existing 2017 and 2018 model year cars, trucks and crossovers that have compatible infotainment systems, with continued rollout to compatible new vehicles. A separate data plan is not required to use Marketplace.

As the automaker mentioned in the video here and in the window at the top of the page, the first brands accessible through Marketplace include:

—GM lets customers buy 4G LTE Data packages, extend their OnStar subscription or receive offers for certified service, parts and accessories for their specific vehicle.

—Starbucks offers another convenient way for customers to order ahead and enjoy their favorite handcrafted beverage or food item. And as part of the Starbucks Rewards program, members enjoy more value by earning Rewards towards free food and drink.

—Dunkin’ Donuts will help customers start their day off right through an experience that allows DD Perks members to preorder and pay onscreen for their favorite coffee and donut, at their preferred pickup location.

—Wingstop will allow you to skip the wait by re-ordering your favorites and paying ahead, so you can get home in time for the big game

—TGI Fridays will let customers schedule a table reservation for them and their closest friends and family when they need a break from the week.

—Shell will enable the exceptional driver experience, providing ease of payment and savings with INSTANT GOLD STATUS in the Fuel Rewards program. Customers’ closest Shell station will be identified and station amenities showcased among the largest fuel station network in the U.S., with the ability to pay in-dash coming soon.

—ExxonMobil will quickly locate Exxon and Mobil fuel stations with details of what they offer, route you there and get you back on the road faster.

— gives drivers access to hundreds of thousands of hotels and exclusive hotel savings on the go.

—Parkopedia allows drivers to find, reserve and pay for parking, all at the click of a button.

—Applebee’s ensures customers are never too far from Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood whether close to home or miles away with the ability to locate their nearest restaurant, order featured menu items and reorder recent favorites through the convenience of their vehicle’s touchscreen.

—IHOP makes it easy for guests to enjoy hot, fresh all-day breakfast favorites like fluffy buttermilk pancakes on the go, thanks to safe and secure on-dash ordering and location service capabilities that help search and find the nearest restaurant for pickup.

— empowers the neighborhood economy by enabling customers to order online from their favorite local restaurants, wine and spirits shops, grocery stores and laundry and dry-cleaning providers.

“The average American spends 46 minutes per day on the road driving. Leveraging connectivity and our unique data capabilities, we have an opportunity to make every trip more productive and give our customers time back,” said Santiago Chamorro, vice president for global connected customer experience at GM. “Marketplace is the first of a suite of new personalization features that we will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months to nearly four million U.S. drivers.”

To allow merchants to integrate their content as part of the in-vehicle Marketplace ecosystem, GM is working with three main platform partners: Xevo, Conversable and Sionic Mobile.

In addition to improving the in-vehicle experience, Marketplace's seamless in-vehicle connectivity can allow merchant partners to extend their customer relationships into millions of vehicles, where drivers and passengers spend hundreds of hours each year. Marketplace also can leverage real-time interaction data such as location, time of day, etc., as well as Xevo’s strong merchant partnerships and years of automotive software expertise in vehicle applications, cloud and mobile software, machine learning, and data analysis to deliver a highly-personalized experience that makes time spent in the car more productive and enjoyable.

Xevo’s partnership with IBM augments Xevo’s solution by enabling in-vehicle experiences powered by IBM Watson for Marketplace and other automotive OEMs.

“Connected cars are the future of the automotive industry, and a personalized journey is the future of the automotive user experience. Marketplace enables smarter, safer, more productive journeys so that GM can deliver the tailored services their customers really want,” Xevo chief executive officer Dan Gittleman said.

“Marketplace simplifies people's daily lives by helping them make the most of their time. By combining Xevo’s artificial intelligence, car, cloud, and mobile expertise with General Motors, we have delivered a powerful solution that improves the driving experience, while also helping merchant brands strengthen customer loyalty and increase satisfaction,” Gittleman went on to say.

Fastlane gears up to enter independent, used-car dealer market


Fastlane recently announced it will enter the independent and used-car dealer market in January.

An e-commerce platform that gives automotive dealerships the ability to customize their online check-out processes, Fastlane facilitates an online car buying process that both showcases dealers’ available inventory and allows customers to acquire financing, service contracts and insurance.

With an initial focus on franchised dealership groups since its launch earlier this year, the company said it will enter the independent and pre-owned car dealership segment aggressively next year.

“We get numerous inquiries from independent and used-car dealers online and at trade shows, and now we have a product tailored and reasonably priced for these types of dealerships,” Fastlane vice president of sales David Luce said in a news release.

“There are nearly 30,000 independent dealerships in the U.S. market, representing 35-40 percent of the vehicles sold online. With online sales now being a key dynamic in the auto market, we believe our platform is uniquely positioned to help independent and used-car dealers stay competitive,” Luce continued.

Additionally, key tasks associated with the car buying process that Fastlane takes care of include: year, make, model, specifications and price information on each vehicle; warranty and service contract options; aftermarket product options; trade-in evaluations and accurate retail and lease payment information.

“We built Fastlane knowing that the online car-buying process typically differs from dealer to dealer and from region to region,” Fastlane chief executive officer Brandon Hall said. 

“Our technical teams work closely with each dealer to determine how their online car buying experience should work. Then we configure it to their satisfaction. It’s a win-win that makes online purchasing easy for car dealers and their customers,” he said.