HERE AND THERE: Transportation Vendors Enhance Technology, Creating Greater Business Transparency

by Mary Wisniewski

Given the copious amount of cars coming and going on auto lots, a dealer could easily develop a “Where’s Waldo” headache from keeping tabs on exactly which car is where.

To eliminate this burden, dealers enlist the help of transportation companies to handle the logistics’ details — and they are all the more important as remarketing heats up. Woodstock, Ga.-based dealership Hennessy Honda, for one, uses McNutt Auto Transport Service, Inc.

“They make it really simple,” says Jody Jarrett, pre-owned director at Hennessy, “We pretty much leave it all in their hands. It is just one less thing to worry about.” Once Jarrett receives a confirmation email for purchasing a Honda, for example, he forwards the e-mail to McNutt and “forgets all about it.” Although Jarrett feels safe leaving the details to McNutt, some used and new car dealerships want to interact more proactively with their transportation companies. To satisfy this desire, Mc- Nutt is refining the way its customers can track vehicles by rolling out an interface that allows dealers and carriers to track transportation business online. “[Our] trucker base can see all of our freight instantaneously, 24/7, and can dispatch themselves,” Tom McNutt, owner, says, explaining this should save time.

“We understand the only reason a purchaser buys a car is to sell it. Weunderstand he can’t sell the car until he gets it there. Once he sells it and turns it, this forces him to buy again. If we get that purchase to him quickly, it creates another job for us.”

To further simplify a dealer’s life, the national transportation provider is connected to GMAC’s SmartAuction, which allows dealers to access McNutt’s data through a portal.

McNutt isn’t the only transportation provider SmartAuction integrates withMeanwhile, Ready Auto Transport (RAT) will be announcing a new relationship with an auction by September, says Mark Jensen, chief executive officer. Ready Auto already has integrated with several online auction web sites, includingSmartAuction, Adesa’s DealerBlock, and Manheim’s OVE. Ready Auto provides real-time transportation quotes at these online auctions, with a goal to provide seamless order transportation services to dealers.

“Our plan was to enter agreements with auctions but not in the traditional sense,” Mark Jensen, chief executive officer, says. “We married our technology to Internet technology.”

The benefit for dealers from RAT, which boasts several online auction relationships, is centralization, Jensen says, explaining dealers can log ontoRAT’s Web Site, and manage all transactions within a single hub. To further help dealers, Jensen says RAT proactively alerts them to their cars’ whereabouts by calls, e-mails and online. Alerting the dealer to where and what source transported the car is one of the newer features clients see when logging into their accounts.

“You think they wouldn’t really care [about transportation] because it’s a messy part of business,” he says. “The truth is they spend a tremendous amount of time managing transportation.” — it also boasts alliances with Ready Auto Transport and AutoTransMart, a relationship that just developed at the end of July 2009. On its launch day, AutoTransSmart received 500 hits to its Web Site, says Steve Kapusta, director of GMAC Remarketing, labeling this a “resounding success.”

The “intriguing” part of AutoTransSmart is its quote model, says Kapusta, explaining the AutoTransMart will provide dealers with an immediate quote, and might offer dealers an even lower rate by holding a reverse auction where carriers bid to win a customer’s freight.

“[A buyer] won’t pay more, but has a good opportunity to pay less,” Kapusta says. GMAC began forming transportation alliances with third-parties several years ago as more and more dealers looked to buy virtual inventory, making immediate quotes essential, says Kapusta. He expects to keep the number of transporters linked up to the site limited to three. AutoTransSmart and McNutt are two of several transportation companies striving to create greater business visibility by
way of technology initiatives.

Insight Network Transportation, a Union Pacific Company, is also focusing on online efforts by launching an e-store to let its clients ship and track vehicles online. This effort, set to hit this month, benefits all of its clients, from dealer to auto auction by creating greater transparency into tracking activity, says Jeff Grandstaff, general manager.

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