Thursday, January 17, 2008

CARFID auto inventory tracking system

Something I wish I had when I was selling cars for VW: A simple RFID system that the dealership could use to track cars on the lot, physically, in real time, no matter where they are in the system, with current status and location of the car and its keys.

When the cars come in from the port or from a train/trailer/boat, they are without any sort of tracking system other than the VIN#. From this point, most dealerships employ a "key-tag" system, where one key is magnetically assigned a stock number and that key-tag is used to track the car. Trouble is, that key is not actually the car. You could have the key floating around on the lot, in a salesperson's desk, in the customers' hands, etc. and not know where the car itself is located at all.

The solution is to peel off one of my handy RFID stickers and attach it to both keys, and the car. The system might seem expensive up front, but you'd have a lot of happy salespeople, happy managers, happy technicians and service managers, and ultimately happy customers. The first line of defense would be a large RFID scanner for the port lot to indicate where the cars are just after coming in. Salespeople, service people and sales managers would immediately know what car has come in and exactly where it is on the lot. They'd also know immediately what features the car has, what color it is and if it's been checked in. The internet managers would love this feature, because that data would go to your website and provide an up-to-the-minute inventory picture. There would be a large RFID reader at the gate of the dealership that read each car as it came on the lot from the port. There would be a smaller reader in the sales office where the keys are kept for test-drives. The moment the key left that room, the computer would know where it was and who took it out (people would check the key out like they already do with a keytag system using their own code).

Sensor readers would be at every gate/door that the cars and keys would go in and out of, tracking the location of all three units assigned to each VIN#. With used cars, the dealership would apply the original sticker tags, but the manufacturer could assign the new cars with the tags so they could track sales as well. Does the detail department have the car? Is it being washed? Is it on a test drive with a salesperson? Has it been sold but not delivered? Does it need to be brought in to inventory? Has the car been stolen? Does is have a deposit, but isn't yet sold? Is a technician checking it out? All this could be knowable via a website link, connected to the inventory system at the dealerships as well as via corporate inventory link. Chachingko!


  1. The industry is moving in this direction but it will take a while to get there. At the rate technology is advancing, it may be there sooner rather than later.

  2. Anonymous: your comment is well, if vaguely, spoken. I'm suggesting that it happens quickly, and that it becomes ubiquitous. For the small footprint that the system will create, the big drop in driving back and forth to your inventory lot will really help everyone including the planet. Sooner is better indeed.