Auto auction firm Manheim acquires imaging technology from Synthetik Applied Technologies, a high-tech company that’s been working with Manheim for four-plus years to develop a system to capture extremely high-resolution images of a vehicle’s underbody. As a car is driven over the device, it captures images of its undercarriage. The technology is already in use at some Manheim locations.
The underbody images are used to document damage and help document a vehicle’s overall condition. Manheim executives say the images are important to pre-sale vehicle condition reports and post-sale verification of a vehicle’s precise condition.
The overall goal is to make the online sales experience “as good as seeing it in person,” says Grace Huang, president of Cox Automotive’s Inventory Solutions. Adding the underbody images makes the inspection process faster, more convenient and safer, she says.
Online sales are critical. Manheim says online sales now account for 75%-plus of its auction volume. That’s down from 100% in 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, but up from around 50% pre-pandemic.
Manheim has a fairly long history with Austin, TX-based Synthetik, Huang says. “We co-developed the undercarriage device hardware, which met the specifications of the auctions,” she says. Manheim did not purchase the entire company, just the technology behind the underbody imaging system.
Zach Hallowell, senior vice president at Manheim Digital, says vehicles drive over the undercarriage device, which captures high-resolution images in less than 10 seconds. Before, inspectors had to actually look under the vehicle to check its condition, he says.
Cox Automotive, which is based in Atlanta, acquired another high-tech company, San Francisco-based Fyusion, in January 2021.
Since 2018, Fyusion and Manheim have worked together on an application for mobile devices that captures high-resolution, 3-D images of a vehicle, but not the underbody.
Starting in 2022, Manheim installed Fyusion-equipped “fixed imaging tunnels" at many Manheim locations. As vehicles are driven through the tunnels the system detects The tunnels have captured more than 500,000 images to detect damage to vehicle exteriors, as vehicles drive through. Manheim is adding Synthetik-equipped undercarriage imaging devices to the tunnels at some locations.
Dealers can acquire Fyusion technology from Manheim. It is available as a mobile app to capture high-resolution exterior vehicle images at the dealers' locations. That technology does not capture undercarriage photos, though.
Manheim today has “nearly 40” undercarriage imaging devices installed across 26 of its 76 U.S. locations.
“Now, we have full control over what we see as a pretty key asset,” Hallowell says. “We feel like condition reports are critical to the digital marketplace.”