Manheim Auction
GPS tracking hardware powers Lot Vision.

Manheim Uses New Locator System to Track Millions of Vehicles

The auto-auction chain moved vehicles 40 million times in 2018 alone. Technology is making it easier to locate their whereabouts.

About 8 million vehicles a year pass through Manheim’s 79 auto auctions and their related facilities.

Across the company’s physical sites spanning more than 6,500 acres (2,630 ha), each vehicle is moved five to six times on average as it passes through service areas such as reconditioning, inspections and sale-day staging.

In 2018 alone, the company moved vehicles 40 million times. It’s a challenge to keep track of their whereabouts. But technology is making it easier.

Manheim’s first-of-its-kind Lot Vision tracking technology uses a GPS-based wireless device, typically placed in a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port. It zooms in on a vehicle’s location within 10 feet (3 m).

“Lot Vision revolutionizes vehicle management at Manheim and strengthens our capability to take vehicle tracking to the next level,” says Grace Huang, president of Cox Automotive Inventory Solutions. “It’s a game-changer for us and our clients.”  

Dealers and transporters can use Lot Vision by inputting a work-order number and activating “Location Services” on a smartphone or tablet to pinpoint vehicle locations and even get a directional path to them.

“It really helps when you are talking about acres and acres of vehicles,” says Robert Grounds, assistant vice president-product management for Cox Automotive, Manheim’s parent company. “How you move them is vital. Before, we had people scanning the entire lot.”

Lot Vision is similar to the technology some dealership groups use to keep track of their vast inventories, notes Derek Hansen, Manheim’s vice president-digital inventory solutions. “It’s a trend that started in retail.”

Manheim created Lot Vision partially in response to feedback from dealer clients. When asked about vehicle-tracking technology, nearly all said they would embrace the innovation. Nearly 90% said they were looking forward to saving more time and experiencing fewer hassles.

Cox2M, Cox Communications’ new connected asset services business line, collaborated with Manheim to develop the GPS tracking hardware that powers Lot Vision. Manheim is Cox2M’s first customer. Dealer clients such as Sonic Automotive and U.S. Auto Sales are piloting the system at some dealerships.

In addition to its physical auctions, Manheim for the past two decades has offered online auctions. Those continue to grow in popularity, Huang tells Wards. “Forty-three percent of sales are through digital channels.”

She adds, “Even if people do come to the auction, it doesn’t mean they aren’t getting the digital experience.” (Grace Huang, left)

That’s because many physical auction-goers check out prospective purchases online beforehand. Or at the auction, they will use their smartphones to garner on-the-spot information.

In recent years, Manheim has brought portable auctions to smaller markets. Those operations – nicknamed auctions in a box – rely on technology for bidding and vehicle displays.

“We even had an auction in a hotel ballroom in Miami,” says Hansen.

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