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MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. — When it comes to GPS-based systems, special finance companies and buy-here, pay-here dealers need to ask themselves a simple question: "Do I want the metal or the money?"

For most, it's about the money. That is why it's so curious that many of them end up using GPS systems to collect collateral rather than collect on the loan.

Werner Scherz of GuidePoint Systems, a national supplier of GPS-based vehicle services, recently talked about how dealers and special finance companies can use GPS-based systems to create "behavioral change" that produces benefits for dealers, lenders and the customers.  

You work for a company — GuidePoint Systems — that's been selling GPS tracking systems for a decade and even has initials that spell GPS. It seems kind of ironic that you're being critical of GPS systems.

"I'm not criticizing GPS. I'm merely saying that it's only one part of an overall solution that dealers can use to make their businesses more profitable," he indicated.  

How so?

"Most dealers and special finance companies don't want to be in the repo business. They want to be in the business of selling cars and making loans. For some reason, though, there are a lot of dealers and lenders that believe the only benefit to using a GPS unit is to recover the car if the customer doesn't pay," Scherz responded.

And what's wrong with that?

"That's not using the device to its full effectiveness — it's like having a Swiss Army Knife and only using the corkscrew," he explained.

OK, so what other tools do you offer them?

"Our system has a payment reminder buzzer, starter-interrupt capability and GPS tracking capability. It also comes with stolen-vehicle recovery service and helps protect the vehicle for both the consumer and the lender. It's more of total solution that offers benefits for everyone —the dealer, the lender and the customer," Scherz pointed out.

Why do you need all those functions if you're just really trying to make sure the person pays their bills — and if they don't pay so you can collect the vehicle?

"Again, this goes back to the question we ask dealers and lenders: ‘Why are you in business in the first place?' Most are in it to make money on loans, so we remind them: ‘You want the money, not the metal!' The dealer/lender's focus ought to be getting the customer to pay at a better-than-expected rate. We help them do that with comprehensive solution that creates behavioral change," he highlighted.

Behavioral change? That sounds like something for a psychologist, not a lender or BHPH dealer.

"Not at all," he noted. "We're just trying to change the way consumers think about their car loan and make it more like their cell phone or utility bill. If you don't make your payment, it's shut off immediately. There are immediate consequences to inaction on the part of the customer. So we use the same philosophy, and the reason it's so effective is that, for most of them, the car is the central hub of their lives. The car lets them get to work so they can earn a paycheck, put a roof over their heads, feed their family, etc."

So by reminding the customer that his or her payment is due, it moves the lender to the top of the food chain, so to speak. What does that mean to a lender or BHPH dealer in dollars and cents?

"We've seen dealers and lenders get a 5 to 8 percent lift in collections — in some cases, we've seen a double-digit lift. On a typical $12,000 loan with an expected collection rate of 70 percent that can mean an extra $1,000 in collections. And given that these devices make the most sense on high-risk loans, the key is that they can help risky deals perform more like low-risk loans," Scherz stressed.

What about tampering? Can't customers just take the device out?

"The devices are hidden and hard to get to, but the reality is that tampering does happen. But in our experience it doesn't happen very often. Plus, the device can be set so that if they tamper with it, the starter will be disabled," he explained.

It would seem to me the best way to avoid tampering is to not tell the customer that there's a device in the car?

"Some dealers do feel that way, but there are a lot of good reasons, including legal reasons in some states, to tell the customer that there is a device in the car. First, it lets them know they're going to be reminded to make their payment. Second, the Guidepoint solution does offer the customer the stolen vehicle recovery benefit, which protects their car and may help them qualify for an insurance discount," Scherz concluded.

For more information about GuidePoint Systems Dealer Solutions, visit www.gpsdealersolutions.com or contact Werner Scherz at 877-GPS-FIND, ext. 3148.