In 1988, Rusty West and his father Russell were “sitting around having a beer, watching a game on TV and talking about stuff,” as Rusty recalls.
The topic turned to leasing, which was just taking hold in the auto industry. The elder West was a pioneer of independent vehicle leasing in Atlanta. The son was about to get a West Georgia College degree in math and computer programming.
Says Rusty. “We thought it would be great to develop a reference; a system of electronically taking all the elements of a lease — the selling price, number of months, down payment, mileage, payment plans — then program that data so it gives the parameters of a deal to dealers based on how much profit they want to make.”
That's the origin of Market Scan, a company that allows dealers to electronically and quickly work vehicle deals and financing.
It's also the origin of LeaseProfit, Market Scan's first software product.
Sorting all that information and breaking it into workable units proved invaluable in the face of thousands of different lease and finance programs.
Father and son launched Market Scan in Atlanta. In 1990, Rusty moved the operation to Los Angeles. It's headquartered in Westlake Village, CA.
“We were doing OK in Atlanta, but California is cutting edge in terms of forward-thinking dealers,” says Rusty.
He first set up shop across from the Thousand Oaks Auto Mall. It was tough in the beginning.
“I'd look across at the mall and think not one of the dealers there was a client,” he says. That was then. “Now they all are.” So are about 5,000 other dealers.
In California alone, Market Scan delivers 83% of the leases, more than $6 billion a year.
“We were blessed with having a good product at the right time and place,” says Rusty.
Market Scan is entering a new phase. Last year, the company introduced Profitcenter, software that helps dealers track closing ratios, offers a one-solution sales process for walk-ins, reviews inventory (including lot age, equity position and recent auction value) and helps work deals. It also expedites purchases as well as leases.
In December, the firm hired Ronald H. Means as the new CEO. Russell West is chairman, Rusty president focusing on technology innovation and development.
Means offers management expertise in the electronics and technology markets. He was president and COO for Quantum Digital Solutions.
“Market Scan is going through another growth spurt, with sales increasing 50%,” says Means.
Here's a typical Market Scan scenario:
Using a computer kiosk, a car salesman swipes a customer's driver's license. While the customer is on a test drive, the dealership does a credit check. By the time the customer returns, the dealership has enough credit information to match that customer to particular cars and deals called up on the computer screen.
Market Scan software can reduce average time spent with a customer from three hours to 45 minutes, says Means.
The firm's field support staff has been increased from 50 to 75. Means says they not only show dealership personnel what buttons to push, they also rework previously unsuccessful deals to see what could have been done differently without losing the customer.
“The field support is essential,” says Means. “It's a waste of time if you don't know how to use the system…Dealers spend $300 to get a customer in. The automated system does not let go of that customer. The less time you spend on a deal, the happier the customer and the less likely he is to walk away.”