At this interview from Used Car Week 2022, Kathryn Schifferle talks with Jeremy Louisos about Work Truck Solutions. She explains how this company helps dealers and buyers track modifications made to commercial vehicles.
Jeremy Louisos: Greetings. My name is Jeremy Louisos. I’m with Preowned Auto Logistics. And we’re here with another episode of the PAL Podcast. We’re here at Used Car Week 2022 in San Diego. Yeah, we’re going to bring up our next friend here, and actually, we’re meeting for the very first time.
Kathryn Schifferle: We are. Nice to meet you.
Jeremy: Kathryn it’s a pleasure to meet you. Please, if you would just introduce yourself for a moment, and-
Kathryn: You bet.
Jeremy: Let the folks know what you do.
Kathryn: Alrighty. Well, I’m the founder and chief vision officer now of a company called Work Truck Solutions. And I don’t know if you knew, but we actually have a problem in this commercial vehicle space, which is that the vehicles are produced by an OEM, but then they’re completed by another company for their purpose of what they’re going to be used for.
Jeremy: Gotcha. Yes. Specific, yeah. The equipment’s going to vary by subset that..
Kathryn: Very much. By the use case. And so whether it’s a box truck or whether it’s a flatbed, or whether it’s a van that’s upfitted for packages, all of that doesn’t get added to the VIN. The VIN is produced and then no one keeps track of what that vehicle becomes, which means you can’t go online and search for it.
And that’s what I discovered back in 2009. I was publishing a magazine called Ford Pros Magazine about selling commercial vehicles, and it just made me crazy because why couldn’t I go online and search for a dump truck? And so that’s how come we started Work Truck Solutions and started helping dealers being able to show customers vehicles by what they became and searchable, and have the data around the configuration.
Jeremy: And so how does that data get to the customer? Are they on your platform? Are you supplying this to their platform? What does that look like?
Kathryn: We started by providing dealerships with a plug-in to their website, which allowed their customer, first of all, to come and know that that dealer actually had any commercial inventory. And then secondly, we do these little wire frames that let you click and shop for a particular type of vehicle. And then on the vehicle detail page, we have all the configuration information. And then because dealers typically in the franchise business for sure, they are focused on retail, we realize that the commercial departments had no tools that help them be B2B and to help their customers.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve built a full platform that helps a dealership manage their commercial department and help their customers. And then about halfway through, we realized that we could start helping fitters, that’s the term for the companies that build these extra bodies and these things, because they didn’t know what was still on a dealer’s lot after they sold them without getting into a car and driving there with a clipboard.
Jeremy: That sounds efficient.
Kathryn: We started telling them every night when something moved and then we aggregated inventory that was on a dealer’s lot into a central site for them to have so that a customer was brand loyal, like to Nap Hide or Redding, that they could come somewhere and shop. And then General Motors asked us to help them with that same thing, so we power the tier one sites, chevrolet.com, gmc.com, and GMfleet.com.
Somebody can go nationally and shop for an upfitted vehicle on one of those chassis or vans. And then three years ago, actually as of Monday, we launched a national marketplace called Comvoy, C-O-M-V-O-Y, which is the first marketplace that gives customers, buyers, business buyers a frictionless way to search for commercial vehicles that are specifically by their needs, so a 12 foot bed or a 16 foot box, or any of those things that are quite frankly, really important to them.
Jeremy: Yeah. From identifying this deficit in the marketplace in 2009 to what you just launched a few weeks ago, it sounds, did you say it was three weeks ago?
Kathryn: Three years ago.
Jeremy: Three years ago, the latest product.
Kathryn: That’s not the latest.
Jeremy: Okay. It gets better, but there’s more.
Kathryn: It does. If you think about this, so 80% of our US GDP depends on commercial vehicles. $170 billion in new vehicle sales, $160 billion in used commercial vehicle sales every year. But that’s only the beginning because there’s this whole ecosystem around the journey of a vehicle through ownership and et cetera, maintenance and telematics and insurance and finance.
And those are all different for commercial business owners of vehicles because they’re different, right? That’s a $1.5 trillion space. And so I get very excited about it because each time we look at what we’ve delivered, we find new ways to link the stakeholders together to make their lives more efficient, to help the end buyers, to help the fleets, all of them, have visibility and efficiency, and to have what they need and what they want.
Jeremy: Well, I also appreciate your passion in this space. Looking towards Used Car Week 2022 here in San Diego, how’s the show been going for you?
Kathryn: Well, it’s great. We’ve been primarily focused on franchise dealerships. We have about 1,000 dealerships that are primarily class one through seven franchise. But over the last six months to a year, we’ve started looking at how do we take all the information that we’ve got around used commercial vehicles, because of course, there are very few new ones.
And how do we help these end buyers who need to buy a used vehicle now when they normally maybe wouldn’t, but they need it because they get up in the morning and they have to do their job. Last year we launched what we call VAST, Vehicle Acquisition Search Tool, which helps the dealers find used inventory from sources like auctions and rental companies and finance companies, et cetera.
And because we started doing that, we went, “Well, we could help independent dealers then too, access inventory and our platform and all the tools are cool for them as well too.” I came here, I spoke, I guess it was yesterday, about how important the commercial space is and how it could be a really big, honestly, a very big opportunity for a used dealership in their community because businesses have other needs besides just commercial. They also have families and employees and owners that are looking for other cars and other vehicles. And commercial buyers are five times more loyal than retail buyers.
Jeremy: Wow. Yeah. That’s another big factor. In closing this up, are there any takeaways maybe from something that you learned during this show or something exciting that you could share that maybe you hadn’t had in your mind prior to coming to Used Car Week?
Kathryn: I think so. It’s been great. I’ve sat in on a lot of really great events and talked to some of our partners in the auction space. I’ve really learned more about how I see technology making that more, not just visible, but more efficient, including inspections for unique commercial vehicles, including how do we do things around DID-ing, how do we help that whole space move those really unique vehicles, not only through the system better, but if you match them to the right customer, there’s a significant value increase, two to $10,000 extra value that’s just sitting there ready to be enjoyed by someone.
Jeremy: Well said. If folks want to learn more, how can they find you?
Jeremy: That’s great. Well, thank you so much for taking the time. It was a pleasure for having you on here.
Kathryn: Nice meeting you.
Jeremy: Yeah, it was great.