Manheim is launching a significant upgrade to the high-tech, high-resolution images in its used-car condition reports.
The improved images ultimately will automatically detect damage and generate more detailed, accurate — and importantly, more consistent — condition reports.
That capability is critical, because about 80% of Manheim’s wholesale used-car auction volume is sold online nowadays. That means dealers often don’t see the vehicles they’re buying in person before they make a purchase, according to a phone interview with Manheim executives.
“It’s amazing, the technology that’s out there, what can be done — the crispness, the sharpness, of these images,” says Grace Huang, Manheim president. “We love the accuracy, but it’s the consistency that is also really important.”
A lot goes into making damage reports consistent and complete, without missing any camera angles or details. That starts with new, much higher-resolution cameras that have been issued to inspectors across all Manheim locations. Applying artificial intelligence to the images produces a 3-D image of the vehicle, identifying any damage.
To capture the images, the process can use either the mobile cameras or a stationary, drive-through “gantry.” Manheim also is launching its first AI-driven fixed-imaging gantry at its Minneapolis location.
Whether using mobile or fixed cameras, the concept is to eliminate the possibility that any potential damage could be overlooked, and to remove inevitable variation from one human inspector to another, says Zach Hallowell, senior vice president-Manheim Digital.
“People interpret things differently, whereas a computer is very consistent,” Hallowell says in the interview. Besides the improved images, other inputs to condition reports are to include data from a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics port, vehicle repair history and the results of an in-person inspection, inside and out.
“What makes our application unique is, we have to live and die by it. There’s a lot of talk about digital selling of cars, but we have to stand behind the work,” he says.
The high-tech company behind the AI and 3D imaging is San Francisco-based Fyusion. Since 2018, Fyusion and Manheim have worked together on the auction firm’s Manheim Express digital-auction capability. Manheim parent company Cox Automotive, which is based in Atlanta, acquired Fyusion in January 2021.