Jeremy Louisos from Preowned Auto Logistics (PAL) talks with John Maher about advanced technology integration for dealerships. He explains the challenges dealerships have when shipping vehicles or moving vehicles between their locations. Then, he talks about how the PAL portal can be integrated with dealership management systems (DMS) to provide real-time, automated inventory tracking.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Jeremy Louisos, Senior Vice President at Preowned Auto Logistics, a car shipping and auto transport and logistics company in Massachusetts. And our topic today is advanced technology integration for dealerships. Welcome, Jeremy.
Jeremy Louisos: Hey, John. Thanks for having me.
The Technology Dealerships Use for Inventory Tracking
John: Absolutely. So Jeremy, tell me a little bit about what types of advanced technology dealerships use for things like inventory and location tracking of the cars that are in their inventory and things like that.
Jeremy: I would say that it really varies quite a bit. We work with a number of dealerships that approach that challenge differently. I think we’re pretty far away from the days where there was just a keyboard, and I don’t mean a keyboard for a computer, a board with rows of keys and that was how they would manage with key tags.
They’re still using the key tags, still have the board of keys there, but they’ve brought technology computers in. At least some basic inventory management for most of the dealerships that we work with. There are some, especially larger groups that might get a little bit more sophisticated and there are some groups that are pretty light on the technology side. They’re using a basic system. I mean, some are even running off of things like Excel still.
We see a wide range, but some of the basics that are pretty uniform across most of the customers we work with is they’re going to have a way of keeping track of what’s on their lot. So, a vehicle comes in, they’re going to enter it into their DMS, a dealership management system, or maybe an inventory management system. They’re going to have some way of logging in a new vehicle, assigning a stock number, and putting the basics of the vehicle in.
And then it will track its time at the dealership. A lot of that software will allow the dealerships to write deals, connect with customers. Some more sophisticated software might even integrate with some marketing tools, allow them to push their inventory to different places on the internet. And then once the vehicle has been sold, they close it out and they know that it’s no longer part of their inventory.
So all the systems work on that level. What we found is a lot of those systems have the limitation of really managing what is onsite. And it’s a little trickier, especially when you have these larger motor groups, to pull it all together, which is a place that we’d like to come in and help a little bit.
Inventory Challenges for Dealerships With Multiple Locations
John: Right. So like you said, when you have these larger motor groups, you’ve got maybe dozens even of locations all around, in different states and things like that.
And not only did they each have their own inventory, but they have inventory of their cars that they’re trading back and forth and, “You take that one and we’ll take that one,” and that sort of thing. So that must add to the complexity of a system like that where they have to keep track of all these cars on multiple lots.
Jeremy: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It can become a real challenge. The more locations you have, the more vehicles you have coming and going, it can become a trickier challenge for these dealerships for sure.
Jeremy: But that’s where we like to introduce ourselves.
Technology to Track Internal Shipping for Dealerships
John: Preowned Auto Logistics handles a lot of that car shipping, and not just shipping of customers cars to other locations when they’re moving, but shipping of cars for dealerships. Whether it’s from one dealership to a different automotive group or within an automotive group from one location to another.
And so, what is the technology that PAL has that you can offer to a dealership and to integrate with their systems, to help them with these issues?
Jeremy: This is where it gets really exciting for me. This is a part of this industry that I really love. So we laid out the challenge. We have folks that have vehicles coming and going from different locations. They might have different buyers that are purchasing, they might have trade-ins that have come in. They might be swapping.
Maybe the groups are working that out or the dealerships are working that out, where they’re sending one to a sister store. Or there could be a central management team that’s moving lots of inventory. And so new stuff coming in and stuff swapping out, stuff being sold. It’s coming and going everywhere.
Reducing Unnecessary Communication About Vehicle Locations
Jeremy: One of the things that we found early on, we were getting lots of communications. Folks were emailing, calling, trying to figure out, “Hey, I have the keys for this car, but I don’t know where the vehicle is,” or, “My management system is showing that this car was supposed to be at this store, but someone’s asking me at the other store if they have it.”
And so we initially were trying to cut down on that communication. And a lot of these folks, especially the regional managers, they were saying, “Just go to Preowned Auto Logistics, go to PAL. They’ll tell you where that vehicle is.” We realized, man, we’re moving these things all over the place for these dealerships. But by a virtue of us keeping that transportation record, we pride ourselves on keeping a very clean database. By having that record, we end up having the perfect database to know where all the dealerships’ vehicles are at any given time.
And so we thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to somehow pass that information out,” something a little more automated than just waiting for the panicked phone call. Give the customers peace of mind, we’ll cut down on communication, but this is really a value add for our clients.
So the first iteration of that for us were these nightly email updates. Our management system, our database, would send out notifications and we still use this techno … This is a great way to start on that auto transportation technology path in my opinion. We’ll flip that on, just any client that comes into our data ecosystem, we’ll just flip them onto those nightly email updates and they just get a rundown.
They can see every vehicle that was moved within a period of that day, every vehicle they have shipped with us, or even in a shipping status like it’s been dispatched or it’s on a truck, or it landed at the dealership that day. And they always get that rundown and know exactly where everything is for location. That’s especially helpful for those smaller dealerships that have that single shingle. And they’re just viewing their inventory, it cuts down that communication.
Online Customer Portal for Real-Time Vehicle Tracking
Jeremy: But what about the folks that are running a whole bunch of stores? Well, that’s where we upped the game a little bit and we rolled out … I think we’ve been running strong for about six or seven years with our PAL Portal. This is an online customer portal where a customer can jump on the internet, log into their PAL Portal. And now they can see in real time those same statuses they would get in the nightly update, but they can also do things like VIN search.
Really the first feature that folks fall in love with, “Hey, where the heck is this vehicle? Well, I’m going to pop into my PAL Portal that I have running in the background all day, pop that VIN in.” And you can see every move that that vehicle has ever made. And you’ll say, “Bingo, it’s at this store. We moved it last week from New Jersey to New Mexico.”
And so by giving our customers that level of access in real time, man, it really ups the level of visibility, clarity. Cuts down on their challenge of having to manage all the inventory.
Jeremy: Yeah, so there’s a lot there and really, that’s a good place to start, but the rabbit hole goes deeper.
Integrating PAL Portal and Dealership Management System
John: Right. So tell me a little bit more about how the PAL Portal then gets integrated maybe into the DMS or IMS system that a dealership already has, so that they talk well with each other.
Jeremy: So we’ve invested heavily in technology. There’s two things that we really pride ourselves on. It’s customer service… that has to be number one. We have a team of experts here that know the industry inside and out. They can help you with anything and we’ll bend over backwards to do so. But to keep up, that’s the bedrock, but you need the technology piece.
So we’ve really focused on growing our technology as we’ve developed, especially the last 10 years, we’ve put a big emphasis on that. So we actually have in-house developers that can do really automagic things, how I like to put it. So you might have your DMS, your dealership management system, you have a car checked in. And then you say, “All right, well, this is one that I want to ship to, let’s say, an auction.”
You will have a status that you change it to, a transportation status or to auction status or whatever your management system might say. We can set up … There’s a few different ways we can do it. We can do it through old fashioned FTP sends. A lot of what we do now is through APIs, the system will generate a transmission in our system. That status update will trigger an order generated in our system.
We send out a confirmation email or however the client likes to communicate with us, verify that things are good to go, and that’s it. There was no need to call, email, there was nothing. Just by doing what they do, deciding to transport that vehicle, they’ve now automagically connected with their auto transportation service and we’re off to the races.
So that right now to me is about as cutting edge as what’s out there. We can provide the dealerships, the information as to where everything is. And then when they’re looking to make the decisions as to how they want to move this stuff around, we are in real time creating orders and making those moves, without them doing anything other than clicking a button in their own system.
Setting Up Advanced Technology for Dealerships
John: And what’s involved in getting that set up, how long does that generally take?
Jeremy: Yeah, it really depends on the setup. We’ve done some really complicated, large setups that, as challenging as they, we’ve got it down to about a week. For a lighter setup we might be able to get it done in a few days.
So we’re not talking about a big time commitment, especially for our customers. We have the stuff built, we know it, we’re experts at it. We can get folks set up very quickly.
Advantages of Integrating the PAL Portal and DMS
John: And again, just what are some of the advantages then once a dealership has the PAL Portal and their DMS connected like that. What’s the feedback that you get from dealerships in terms of how it changes the way that they do their business?
Jeremy: It’s funny, I think at our best you don’t know we’re there.
Saves Time by Automating Processes
Jeremy: So at our best, this stuff’s just happening. And the dealerships, these folks have a very important job in front of them. They’re selling cars and it’s a tough gig, especially right now. And it’s just, they’re so focused on that, that we rather them not notice us at all. For them the experience is just happening.
It’s when we have someone that maybe has been working at one location and then they go to a new dealership that’s not using us. And they say, “Oh, what the heck is going on here? I got to do all this work again?” So that’s when we get the feedback, it’s when they’re not using it anymore.
Jeremy: But yeah, typically the feedback is, yeah, this stuff is … We don’t have to think about it… it makes it nice and easy. They love it.
Offers Instant Quotes and Estimated Times of Arrival
And if I could just throw one thing in, John, and I could talk about this stuff for days. I hate to go on and on, but the final step here is we can actually tie in their … Some dealerships are using a number of peripheral services that can also be brought in. So we can provide instant transportation quotes and ETA’s, and all that kind of stuff once we do the advanced integration.
So that’s a newer one we’ve just been doing the past few years. But to me, if we’re talking cutting edge, that’s the one I’d want to put on … Anyone listening? That’s the one to have on your radar, it’s some cool stuff.
Contact PAL to Learn About Technology for Dealerships
John: Right, awesome. All right. Well, that’s really great information, Jeremy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Jeremy: Appreciate it.
John: And for more information or to request a quote for your auto shipping needs or to learn more about the PAL Portal, visit the website at preownedautologistics.com or call eight, seven, seven, five, four, two, one, nine, five, five.