Vehicle self-inspection tools are streamlining end-of-lease vehicle condition inspection and reporting for OEMs, captives and finance companies, whether vehicles are managed by fleet remarketers, at auctions, parked in marshaling yards, dealerships or consumers’ driveways.
Using digital and artificial intelligence technologies to analyze damages and ascertain those costs, self-inspection tools put in “ordinary” human hands the inspection power, knowledge and judgment skills of what until lately the domain of the seasoned inspection professional.
It’s said the tools are so intuitive, thorough and easy to use that my mom could use it. Well, perhaps not my 93-year-old mother, but you get the point.
This technology promises to:
- Improve lease-return condition processing speed by days, enabling faster asset turn and more profitability
- Deliver a more thorough inspection and condition report, for more precise damages’ accuracy
- Speed remarketing by capturing “glamour” photos for prompt online promotion
- Reduce need for trained, experienced inspectors
- Provide more accurate, complete and standardized data reporting for faster decisioning for OEMs, captives and finance companies regarding asset divestiture and data analysis
Self-guided vehicle inspection tools were a brief topic of discussion during the recent annual Summer Roundtable of the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance.
Afterward, I interviewed executives of two companies on the leading edge of this disruptive technology, DMI and AutoVIN. I also talked to Alliance Inspection Management, a more traditional inspection company moving itself quickly into this technology.
DMI is a mobility solutions provider which developed its self-guided auto inspection platform a few years ago to work with OEMs. “It’s an emerging technology,” said Lisa Brennan, leader of commercial platforms for DMI.
She said the DMI Auto Inspection Platform can be configured for use by most anyone buying or selling vehicles, and that its primarily application is for providing condition reports for OEMs on their end-of-lease vehicles. The data the tool collects helps manufacturers determine the remarket-ability of off-lease assets, get them remarketed and sold more quickly, prevent fraud and gain access to information, “the Holy Grail” of business.
The platform, in use in the automotive market a brief time, though developed by DMI for other business inspection verticals, runs on tablets or smartphones.
Easily configurable for the needs of the user, the platform is “configured hand-in-hand with OEMs and is adaptable to the way that the OEM does their business, and that’s unique, I think,” Brennan said.
Like a well-trained human inspector, the tool recognizes dents and scratches on a vehicle, for instance, and then based on the OEM’s inspection and condition rules, configures a damage description and repair cost. It pulls data from the vehicle VIN, OBD2 scanners, barcode, QR Codes, annotates photos, and when the inspection is completed, provides a damage and cost description. The platform integrates the reporting data to the OEM’s back-end systems, if desired, which Brennan said OEMs are increasingly requesting.
“The industry has been looking for something like this, given rapid changes and the connected car. Otherwise, with standard data collection, an OEM or remarketer using different third-party (inspection) vendors, all who do things differently, may receive inconsistent data. That can be costly and inefficient,” Brennan said.
Richard Carpentier is chief operating officer and senior vice president of operations for AutoVIN, an ADESA company. The company’s self-guided inspection tool, called AutoVIN, has been in-market for about a year. AutoVIN’s clients include vehicle manufacturers; banks and financial institutions; fleet, remarketing, warranty and insurance companies.
“This is a tool that enables lessees or dealers to complete a condition report at the time they want to complete the report. It is a self-guided app that captures the information the captive is looking for at the end of the lease about vehicle condition and possible damages the vehicle may have,” Carpentier said.
He said a forthcoming component of the tool promotes lease retention. “We feel strongly about it is that this is going to enable an added touchpoint through the end-of-lease analyst process, and we feel there’s a gap in that environment today.”
He said self-guided inspections, when encouraged by dealers and other interested parties to be done months before actual lease end, give dealers and lending sources opportunity to initiate lease-retention efforts to keep that customer on that brand.
He said, only a small percentage of leased vehicles in the U.S. get inspected before a consumer drops it off at a dealership. Encouraging consumers to do that, Carpentier said, will require stiff promotion to some consumers — and much less will be needed to tech-savvy lessees.
As Brennan of DMI said, so too did Carpentier that these tools, rather than eliminating the need for trained, experienced third-party inspectors is instead providing more inspection options.
He said not every consumer is going to embrace the technology, even though the time required is just minutes. Some dealers, he added, won’t embrace it either or will lack the personnel to do self-inspections and, thus, will continue to replay on third-party inspection services.
“Well-organized dealers will welcome a tool like this, which is a compliment and not necessarily a replacement for existing staff,” Carpentier said.
Alliance Inspection Management is a traditional boots-on-the-ground inspection service. That too is changing, said Eric Widmer, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
AiM inspectors today use in-house technology integrated with Mitchell Pricing Guides (as does DMI) support its end-of-lease walkthroughs. “This is a very formal process that allows us to capture all the data that’s necessary for the customer, whether an OEM or consumer at home,” Widmer said, noting the company has been in beta testing with its self-guided inspection tool.
“Clearly, we have competitors in this space, but again, the independence of our inspectors is key to us,” Widmer said. “As technology becomes available, it’s going to make the inspector’s job easier, but whether using artificial intelligence or collecting better pictures or better connectivity, the goal is to get a more accurate description of the car. Everyone in this space is looking at how to do that better, but one of the challenges we have is, what does the end-user want from self-inspection?”
For instance, he said, the usage goal for one customer might be to be more efficient at remarketing inventory. For another, the goal might be customer retention — and for a lessee, a more convenient end-of-lease return experience.
“So how you architect this is important, because different users will want different things from it,” Widmer said.
Brennan said human inspector involvement remains important, self-guided tools give customers more choice about the labor model they want to use for conducting inspections.
“We have created a platform that can be leveraged however the user wants to do their business by whichever labor model they want to use, so this tool opens the aperture on how the inspection gets done,” she said.
“The Holy Grail around this is that the OEMs now have their data. It’s not like today’s models don’t deliver that, but the data is inconsistent if the OEM’s using more than one inspection service. As we move into the connected world, standardization becomes more important,” Brennan said.
“We intend to enable OEMs to choose the labor model that works best for them. Leveraging technology delivers better outcomes on all points. For one client we work with, it sees see self-inspection as a game-changer within their space and how (inspection) data can be used in their business model,” Brennan said.