I had the unfortunate experience of shopping for a new car last week. Auto dealers try everything to make the process more enjoyable, but let’s face it – buying a car can be a daunting task.
It was made even more so by the inability of one of the largest Toyota dealers in New England to know where its inventory was located. According to the sales rep, there was one Rav 4 model left in the style that my daughter was interested in.
We crammed into a tight Toyota Prius to take a one-mile ride to one of the dealership’s storage lots. When we got there, our rep could not locate the car among the thousands stored at the lot.
It didn’t take long for me to mention that many dealers use RFID for lot management so that they can locate vehicles much faster. My sales rep snickered at the idea, which was clearly strike one in my book.
This not-so-joy ride went on for nearly 20 minutes, as our sales rep held one hand out his window, desperately clicking the mystery car’s remote every second with the hope that we would get lucky and hear a faint beep from the car off in the distance.
Our trip took us through two parking lots and down a steep embankment into the dealer’s “prep lot,” where cars are inspected before they go onto the lot.
There are two things inherently wrong with this process. For starters, it made the normally long and painful car-buying process even longer and more painful. In addition, our sales rep wasted valuable time that could be used to sell more vehicles and make his dealership more productive. My guess is that this car hunt is standard operating procedure at this dealership, meaning that sales reps are likely wasting hours of selling time each day.
This likely sounds agonizingly familiar to apparel retailers, who are using RFID with great success to locate inventory quickly while ensuring that sales associates are on the sales floor engaging with the customer.
As a customer, I would have been very impressed to see a RFID reader drone making the rounds over that lot, or some overhead RFID reader system, with the data needed to locate the car sent directly to my sales rep’s mobile device.
According to GAO RFID, an RFID solution could provide total visibility of all cars in the lot, facilitate just-in-time delivery of cars as they are needed, allow inventory of less popular cars to be reduced, and provide automatic notification when a car enters or leaves the lot.
The auto industry is no stranger to RFID, with the technology already being used in similar use cases. In 2014 BMW began using the technology to track vehicles that arrive for service at its largest dealership in Germany. A Ford Motor subsidiary relies on RFID to speed up the production of 150 police cruisers a day at its plant in Detroit.
And Volvo is using passive RFID technology to track two million cars as they move through the production process at its manufacturing facilities in Belgium and China.