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Can’t make your car payment? Then you can't get it started

 

Norfolk’s Patriot Auto Sales has outfitted most of its cars with a PayTeck Smart Box. The car won’t  start if the customer is late with a payment.
Norfolk’s Patriot Auto Sales has outfitted most of its cars with a PayTeck Smart Box. The car won’t start if the customer is late with a payment. JOHN H. SHEALLY II/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

By JOANNE KIMBERLIN, The Virginian-Pilot
© November 28, 2005

NOTE TO REPO MAN: Might want to look into another line of work.

A new gizmo is upping the odds that even the most hard-knock customer will come up with the car payment. Hooked into the ignition system, the gadget comes in a handful of versions with one common conclusion:

No pay, no start.

It’s worked wonders at Norfolk’s Patriot Auto Sales, where nearly every car that drives off the lot is outfitted with a PayTeck Smart Box, a system that hands over a five -digit code in exchange for each payment. Come due date, the car won’t crank until the customer punches the code into a palm-size keypad wired into the dash.

Located on Military Highway, Patriot is the kind of operation that specializes in steeper interest, high-risk car loans. It advertises “no turndowns”– a corner of the used car business that deals with a “credit-challenged” clientele, as the industry puts it.

 

“Bad credit?” said Art Madden, Patriot’s general manager. “I’d be happy if they just had bad credit.”

Not surprisingly, default rates are high. It’s not unusual for more than a third of the cars sold off such lots to wind up being repossessed. Since Patriot began using PayTeck three years ago, its repos have dropped from about 45 percent to less than 15 percent. Madden figures he has close to 500 of the $200 units on the road – an investment that has not only cut repos but boosted business.

“Without it, we could never make a lot of the sales we do,” Madden said, “not if we wanted to keep our doors open.”

Buyers sign forms acknowledging the Smart Box, agreeing not to tamper with it and promising to return to the dealership for a free removal after the last payment is made.

Payments are due every two weeks at Patriot. Sales staff program the first due date into the Smart Box, and the system keeps track from there. As time runs out, tiny lights on the keypad shift from green to red, and a chirping noise provides an audible nudge. Codes, once keyed in, reset the box for another two weeks. There is a four-day grace period. After that, the unit kicks in and voila: n o vroom.

“It’s amazing how people manage to pay when they know their car won’t start,” Madden said.

Some consumer watchdogs don’t approve, though no complaints have been filed on Virginia’s consumer hot line.

“I think it’s the level of control that bothers me,” said Ken McEldowney, executive director of Consumer Action, a national non profit group based in San Francisco. “It just sounds like Big Brother run amok. There’s got to be a more respectful, less intrusive way of doing this that isn’t so demeaning.”

The systems will not cut off a running motor, but McEldowney still worries about safety.

“What if a young mother with children gets stranded in a dangerous part of town?” he asked. “Or someone needs to go to the hospital?”

But no-start systems have held up in court. In 1999, a handful of customers filed a lawsuit against Mel Farr, an NFL Hall of Famer who became a car dealer in Detroit. The buyers felt the devices posed a danger and wanted them removed. A judge, however, sided with Farr.

To minimize risks, though, Patriot times its no-start systems to switch on at 4 a.m., when cars are more likely to be parked at home. In the case of an emergency, special codes can be used to override the system for one 24-hour period.

And, Madden said, “we work with people, if they seem to be making an honest effort. But if we don’t hear nothing from them or the same relative dies for the third or fourth time, bam, guess what? You’re going nowhere.”

Customers say the systems can be embarrassing, even for those who pay. For discretion, key pads often are tucked inside the glove box, but the chirping can be hard to miss. Some systems sound off every 30 seconds when the deadline draws near – a racket a passenger, or new date, is sure to notice.

“Yeah, that part’s not too good,” said Calvin Flowers, a former customer-turned-salesman at Patriot. Two years ago, after a divorce, Flowers said, his credit was in shreds. He needed a car, but few dealers were willing to take a chance on him. He drove out of Patriot in a 1997 Chrysler LHS, armed with a Smart Box.

“It was a better car than I’d have been able to get without it,” Flowers said. Making prompt payments, he said, also helped him repair his credit.

Mike Simon is president of Payment Protection Systems, one of the early pioneers and now among the largest producers of devices that “move the car payment from the lowest priority to among the highest,” Simon said.

Based in Temecula, Calif., the company initially dealt in automobile anti-theft technology. But at a car convention in the mid-1990s, a dealer commented to Simon that while security is a fine thing, what he really needed was a way to make customers honor their loans. The company started marketing its On Time system in 1999, selling more than 200,000 units at last count. Of late, they’ve shipped to England, Mexico and South America.

“The need is the same everywhere,” Simon said. “Most people want to pay, but it’s not hard for them to get into financial trouble.”

No-start technology is so effective, Simon said, it’s being put to use in other industries. Rental TVs, appliances, printers, medical equipment such as MRI and X-ray machines – “anything that’s electronic and financed,” Simon said, “we can shut it off.”

At Patriot, Madden says he’s in the process of switching to a new Internet-based system that doesn’t use codes. The system requires fewer staff to manage and will allow him to pick the moment when a car carrying one of his loans won’t start. With one phone call, he can shut down a driver anywhere in the country for non payment.

“It’s all the difference for us,” Madden said. “We don’t really like it, but it sure works.”

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE 11/14/2005

SOURCE: Pay Technologies LLC

In a move that promises to expand it’s products throughout the Latin American market, PayTeck appoints Miami, FL. based Trademax Int’l Inc. and its affiliate AUTOSTOP S.A. based in Quito, Ecuador, as its Exclusive Distributor for Pay Technologies LLC innovative credit solutions products in Ecuador. This is just the first move of PayTeck’s expansion into the Latin American markets. Trademax Int’l Inc. also plans to expand with Payteck products into Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela, starting early next year and beyond into other countries in the region based on the success of these early ventures.

Pay Technologies LLC President, James H. Krueger said, "We are very pleased to have Santiago Pareja, Trademax Int’l Inc. President, representing our automotive credit solution products in these countries. Santiago brings vast experience and credibility to this exciting new venture." Santiago Pareja is a life long resident of Ecuador and has excellent knowledge about all local trade practices and procedures. Mr. Pareja was educated in the United States and attended the University of Florida, graduating from Florida International University in Miami.

About: Pay Technologies LLC

 

Pay Technologies LLC designs and builds innovative Starter Interrupt Systems for the automotive dealers and automotive finance industry. The PayTeck code system has for many years proven to provide a reliable, dependable system to make sure your customers make payments when required. The PayTeck controls are designed to encourage timely payments. Programming of the controls is laid out in an easy-to-read owner's manual to explain and operate the PayTeck controls. When the customer makes a payment, the dealer gives the customer a new code. Dealers claim that late payments drop to around 5 percent from more than 30 percent. This results in a positive cash flow for use in the business. Staff needed for collection is reduced, and dealers can now sell deeper, resulting in increased sales. Dealers point out that the PayTeck consumer benefits make for a smooth transition to a successful close. PayTeck has hundreds of dealers all over North America using the PayTeck controls and now in South America

www.payteck.cc. Call (800) 880-3081

Pay Technologies LLC press release – NEWS- for immediate release dated November 2005

Contact:

Pay Technologies LLC –World Headquarters

Mr. James H. Krueger

President and CEO

800-880-3081

 

STATE OF THE ART: Making the Buck Stop Here

Pennsylvania Dealer News, September, 2004

  The idea of making a better profit by doing your own financing probably occurs to most dealers at one time or another. We know the money that interest can pile up because too often we’ve had to pay it as business folks or as consumers. It would be nice to be on the other end of the deal for a change. The other end of the deal may be putting together a “Buy Here, Pay Here” operation and financing sales yourself. 
  Let’s say that Dexter’s Deals which doesn’t finance, buys a $5,000 car at auction and sells it for $6,000 in cash, Dexter pockets $1,000, and then goes back to the auction for another car to check out, buy, transport and show. If Pappy’s YaAll Pays Here sold the same car but handled the financing, it would look like this: 
  $6,000 x 15% x 3 years = $2,700 in interest + the $1,000 profit = $3,700
It is almost like Pappy’s sold four cars to Dexter’s one. Not very surprising that BHPH is an up and coming industry within the auto-remarketing world. Sure, it will take Pappy’s three years to see all of that cash, but Pappy’s will see it: provided the customer pays; and that, is where and when the golden goose of “Buy Here, Pay Here” has all too often in the past, laid a goose egg.
  Many dealers shy away from financing because they know that a “Buy Here, Pay Here” can turn into a “Buy Here, Pay if You Feel Like It” operation, and the dealer is stuck hiring collectors and doing repos. Most into BHPH know there’s no ‘can turn into’ about it: that’s what happens. If selling cars is hard work, financing them has the potential to be a nightmare: running after customers all over town or the state to get payments that are months late, and when you find them, they’re often mad because you want paid. There will always be customers that don’t pay their debts; that is a simple fact of human nature, but there is a way to keep most customers paying on time, even if they are bad credit risks. That way, is using starter interrupt devices.
  The starter interrupt concept is easy to understand and you’ve heard it before: if a customer doesn’t make a payment by the Friday it’s due, the car won’t start on Saturday morning. None of that, “The check’s in the mail,” or “You’ll have it Monday,” it’s No Dough, No Go: Simple as pie. For a buyer who doesn’t pay their car payment, it turns into something like taking your laundry to the laundromat; if you want anything to happen, you’d better put money in the machine or it’s just going to sit there. If a consumer doesn’t pay the telephone bill, it gets shut off; if they don’t pay the electric bill, it gets shut off, there is no reason why cars shouldn’t work the same way. A starter interrupt (SI) also moves a consumer’s car payments to a number one priority item. Maybe the buyer can put off the cable company another month because the cable company doesn’t want to send one service truck to disconnect this week and another one two weeks from now to reconnect when the bill gets paid. For SI systems, it’s a couple of buttons to push and that’s it, game over. So why doesn’t every financier have SIs on the vehicles for which hold they liens? 
  Financiers/sellers have had concerns about putting out vehicles equipped with starter interrupts since they first appeared on the market. A primary fear is that the device will shut the car off in the middle of an intersection. Since they are “starter interrupts,” they only prevent starting the car and do not shut off a vehicle that is in motion or running. You can string the mental dominoes together to make a nasty situation if you put your mind to it. For instance, a buyer fails to make a payment, keeps the car running past the deadline (for some companies 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning,) and then stalls it in the middle of an intersection and it doesn’t start. He gets run over by a steamroller. That situation is a whole lot less likely than one of your buyers running out of gas or having a mechanical breakdown. Some SI companies have systems which come with emergency codes to allow one or two starts for emergencies, and one system allows a special code which gives the consumer 24 hours of use in emergencies.
  So can a buyer sue you for the car not working? Only one case of consequence was filed so far when in late1999 suit was brought involving Mel Farr’s dealership in Detroit. If the name sounds familiar, Farr is the former Detroit Lion running back. Farr was doing business as a new car dealer and later set up a financing program complete with SIs for people that had bad credit in the inner city. Some customers filed a suit claiming that the devices were dangerous and improperly installed. The judge agreed with Farr, that they were safe and gave the dealership a favorable settlement, then made what sounds like an obiter dictum (statement after the judgment over and above by a judge) on Farr’s operation, “In this lawsuit the Mel Farr Automotive Group has demonstrated that it is sincerely and keenly interested in the future of our region. The public can be satisfied that Mel Farr Automotive Group has in place a program to provide the consumers with safe ‘On Time’ devices.” The judge may not have said that Farr’s was a precedent setting case, but folks in the business cite it as one. While you can be sued for anything, dealers rarely get into litigation over these devices. To avoid any problems, dealerships should include complete information, arbitration clauses in their agreements, and make sure that devices are installed properly. Perhaps the best news for SIs is that people are starting to accept them as part of the culture. 
  As a dealer, I’d first be concerned about the time to put it on and the time to take it off: as in, how long do I, the overworked dealer, need to spend putting an SI on a car and how fast can an ornery customer take one off? One company claims that their SI will go on in two minutes for cars 2000 & later, for earlier models they say the installation is about ten minutes. How long would it take for a customer to take one off? About the same, depending on their mechanical skills. If that is a concern, one company makes their SI tamper-proof. It takes a little longer to put on and takes a lot longer to get off. This concern may not be that important as one study of about 50,000 devices showed that only .06% (about 1 in 2000) customers bypassed the unit.
  A second concern might be, “What happens if they still don’t pay when the car stops working?” At that point, with some SI models you are back to the collector and repo 
ballpark, hunting down the buyer and the vehicle. Some SI companies assist with that part by having GPS devices as part of their SI. Those are basically GPS systems with 
cellular technology for computers to call into the GPS/SI unit in the vehicle. For the subsequent repo, there will be very little hunting, the GPS unit tracks the vehicle’s location every six seconds. Since the U.S. Government removed the error factor that they had purposely installed, you can find the vehicle’s location within a yardstick’s length. Another company offers an GPS/SI system that will set off the horn so your blind repo man will find it from that one yard away. The drawbacks of the GPS system are the cost of the GPS unit and the cellular calls. Some packages come with a certain number of hit (calls to the unit) per year. If you have a weekly pay program, the basic 24 calls per year package isn’t going to do it. You already have probably 52 calls a year and if you make a mistake, you could accidentally set it to call several times a day. You won’t know about the error until just before you faint from seeing your next cellular bill from the system. As with cellular phones, there is not cellular service in all areas and depending on the company, there may not be towers where you need them for certain customers.
  For the consumer, one company offers at a low price, a security system where a three digit code number is needed to start the vehicle. This serves as a theft deterrent and may allow the consumer to get a lower insurance rate. One dealer states that many consumers like SIs and dealers often sell them to the consumer when the final payment is made.
  What kind of price are we talking here? That depends on the type of system. First there are the time devices, called passive, even if they are not quite passive. In these systems, the device is set to require a code for every pay period. When the customer enters the code, the SI lets the car start for the next two weeks or month, whatever payment plan you have set up for them. If no new code is plugged into the device, the SI kicks in and the car won’t start. The customer then has to call the dealership and pay up to get a new access code. Passive systems run roughly from $100-200 a unit. When a car is paid off, you take out the SI and put it into another car.
  The second type of unit is the pager device. This kind uses pager-like devices in the SI box to turn on the SI and keep the car from starting. You pay for the unit and then so much for a ‘plan’ to cover for instance, a four-year pay plan. The plans range from $25 for four years to $45 per year and allow you so many hits or calls to the pager per year. While it looks like a simple cost item, you need to look at the TLC- which in this case stands for Total Life Cost. When inquiring about an SI model, you want to find out how much you will pay for the unit, service fee, and the average number of hits you need to make for a customer over the life of the loan. And, you have to look at the coverage area. With a pager system, when the kill signal is sent out, there is no confirmation that it was received, other than the customer calling or showing up with money in hand. 
  Companies usually have coverage maps and some will show you where their signals are so strong that they can send signals to SI units even if the car is inside a building, and where it is only strong enough to reach cars out in the open. The maps also show where there is no coverage. Lower rates can mean they have less towers and your entire customer area may not be covered. GPS systems were already mentioned, and their price range is from about $250 and up. That rate probably will not change since the system requires both cellular and satellite technology so there are a lot of go-betweens with their hands out. While GPS is the only system to pin down the vehicle’s location, the other two systems tend to limit where the vehicle can be. Generally customers go home at night, and if they parked it on the street, street cleaning happens often enough that you will probably find the car in the police impound lot within the month.
  Is every vehicle that goes out with an SI paid for? No, it cuts down on the number of repos and some systems can make repos easier, but it does not eliminate no-pays 
completely. Dealers who use SIs say that payment problems go from 30% of their accounts down to about 5% of their accounts. PayTech’s WebTeckPlus® claims it’s down to a 2.4% default rate. That’s most of your bad BHPH customers becoming good BHPH customers. Putting an SI on the 
golden goose may just make it start laying those golden eggs again the way you planned from the beginning. ?
*Just before press time I had the opportunity to speak with Ray Lyle II of Nice Cars in Tennessee. Ray and his father have been using starter interrupts for several years now and they sell about 6,000 cars a year. They don’t send out a vehicle without one. Ray gave me some interesting details about problems with starter interrupts. One of the problems is with customer understanding. Since having an SI on a customer's car makes his car ‘different,’ if anything goes wrong with the car, the customer figures that it must be the SI. That is rarely the case, the SI problem rate is very low–they’ve had about 5-10 problems out of 18,000 cars and those were mostly because of improper installation which they outsource because of the volume of business that they do. It takes the technician about 20 minutes start to finish to put the device on the car. If a car doesn’t start, a tech can check out the SI device in a couple of minutes without any special equipment.
*More information on SIs can be found on the PIADA Dealer News page at www.piada.org

 

Car won't start? Pay up and it will

Low-end car dealers are rolling out a new weapon against missed payments: remote starter cut-off. March 6, 2003: 4:15 PM EST
By Jonah Freedman, CNN/Money Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - If you don't pay the electric bill, the electric company shuts off the power. If you don't pay your phone bill, your phone stops working. Now people with weak credit histories can have one more thing that stops working when they miss a payment. Their cars.

Starter-interrupt devices, which allow auto financiers to remotely disable cars, are starting to grow in popularity among smaller car dealerships and financing companies who cater mostly to customers with poor credit. A handful of companies manufacture variations of the device, which dealers install on automobiles in order to enforce payment plans.

"What we've done is effectively moved car payments in priority up near gas and phone payments," said Mike Simon, CEO of Payment Protection Systems.

The company, based in Temecula, Calif., manufacturers the On Time system, in which a microchip in the vehicle carries payment-plan data and keeps the car buyer schedule honest with a small red light on the dashboard that blinks when it's time to pay up.

Most starter-interrupt systems also feature a small keypad. When customers miss a payment and their car is shut off, they must contact the dealer and make their payment. They then enter a code supplied by the dealer or financier to start the car. Some systems, like Pay Technologies' PayTeck, require car owners to enter a code after making each scheduled payment.

Payment Protection Systems is growing at a rate of more than 40 percent, said Simon, with a roster of 350 clients. Stan Schwarz said his Denver-based PassTime's client list is now in the thousands.

The start of starter-interrupt

Starter-interrupt systems began appearing slowly on smaller car lots in the late 1990s, mostly at so-called "buy-here, pay-here" dealerships. Such dealerships, which finance the cars they sell, often attract buyers with poor credit history.

The technology was met with serious skepticism at first, stemming from both privacy issues -- some starter-interrupt devices, such as those made by Aircept of Irvine, Calf., have global positioning technology that allows dealers to find out where a car is located -- and possible liability suits.

Farr, who operates Triple M Finance near Detroit, said he still uses the On Time device and has sold between 4,000 and 5,000 cars with the device on them.

"Some (buyers) had concern initially, but we'd give them an explanation and went through the mechanics of it with them," Farr said. "This device is connected only to the starter; there's no way it will stop the car."

Gary Burton, general manager of Key Life Cars in Dalton, Ga., outfits all the cars on his lot with the PayTeck system.

"I love it," he said. "People are actually making their payments."

 

 

A Long Road for Ignition Switches

Auto Remarketing, February 1, 2003

Paul Hobson, News Editor 

For years, starter-interrupt devices have struggled to escape the shadow of bad press, but with a few success stories leaking out and some court decisions favoring the industry, dealers have taken notice.

The buy-here, pay-here industry has slowly started using starter-interrupt devices, also called starter kill switches, since they seem to cut customer delinquencies and repossessions.

"What that does is make (a customer's) their car payment their No. 1 priority," said Stan Schwartz, of Passtime, one of the industry's top starter-interrupt sellers.

Used primarily in the high-stakes business of buy-here, pay-here sales, the devices give dealers a remote way to immobilize cars when their drivers don't make payments. Dealers can send a signal to a kill-switch, and the next time the customer tries to start the car, it won't turn over.

Then the customer has to call the dealership and in order to start the car.

"Instead of you chasing them, they're chasing you," Schwartz said. "It eliminates the guesswork with customers, but it also gets you talking with your customers."

Most starter-interrupt systems require a customer to call and get a code from the dealership after each payment is made. That code will activate the car until the next payment is due.

Some systems like PayTeck include a computer, no larger than a deck of cards, installed in the car to store the customer's account information. The customer can check on the computer when the next payment is due, and like other systems, the customer gets a new activation code after each successful payment.

A customer who knows a car will be shut off if a payment is missed will often make an extra effort to gather the money or at least call the dealership and discuss the problem, Schwartz said.

"What he realizes is, 'Everybody I owe money to I can still put off for 30 or 60 days. However, if I'm late on my car payment for one day, I don't drive,'" he said.

What sellers and users most like to point out is how the devices save dealers money, said Brian Hoppel, vice president of operations for Auto Master Systems, a software company for self-financing dealers.

"It helps the bottom line," he said.

According to PayTeck, a starter-interrupt system can help self-financing dealers reduce collection staffing while improving results, cut default rates and improve profitability.

Of course, many dealers question whether they can convince their customers the devices will help them, and some wonder if they will hurt sales. To answer, some of the industry's top sellers have several selling points to suggest.

First, the devices can help customers rebuilt their credit. Most people who choose buy-here, pay-here dealers have damaged credit, and each successful payment comes with a valid dealer credit receipt, according to PayTeck.

Those credits make it possible to eventually trade up to newer cars at lower interest rates.

Some starter-interrupt devices come with anti-theft systems, helping the customer protect the car, Schwartz said. PayTeck offers a security system at a small cost. The system comes with an electronic keypad that acts as a visual theft deterrent.

With the final payment on a car, the customer can buy the security system or have in removed.

The security systems also help customers lower their insurance premiums since many states offer discounts for them.

For customers concerned with safety, dealers should know the details about how and when their devices shut down cars. For instance, PayTeck freezes cars at 4 a.m., a time drivers are not likely to be on the road.

And of course, the devices don't stop cars in motion.

 

Past Struggles

The development of starter-interrupt devices dates back to the mid-1990s. The first generation was sold in 1997, and Passtime introduced their model at a dealer convention in 1999, Schwartz said.

Some dealers immediately bought them, but others were wary and chose to wait and see how the industry - and especially retail customers - responded to them. Soon, though, more companies started selling starter-interrupt systems, and they gained popularity.

In fact, Passtime added global positioning satellite technology to its services in 2001. It used the system to track customers for repossessions.

One potential setback for the devices was a 2000 lawsuit against a subprime dealer, although the case was eventually settled in the dealer's favor. In that case, Mel Farr, a new-car dealer in Detroit who set up a side business to finance cars for inner-city drivers with bad credit.

Some of Farr's customers complained in a lawsuit that the device was dangerous to drivers and passengers because it was either defective or installed improperly. Farr countered that the devices were safe, and the court agreed.

For the buy-here, pay-here industry this ruling sets the precedent for dealers who wanted to use starter kill-switches without worrying about legal repercussions.

Since that suit was concluded, the starter-interrupt business has slowly emerged from the shadow of bad press and buzz phrases like invasion of privacy.

"The customers are accepting them now," Hoppel said. "At first it was like a hard sell."

 

Similar Devices

Some companies have used GPS devices like starter-interrupt devices. They send signals to the device in order to freeze the ignition when a customer misses a payment.

Since those devices are cellular, they might not work in all areas, Schwartz cautioned, and they can be expensive.

Other GPS devices are used solely for tracking cars should a repossession be needed. That's the approach Future Carz takes with its vehicles, attaching devices that update a vehicle's location every six seconds.

That technology has been used by fleet owners and trucking companies with a lot of vehicles to manage, and dealers are now seeing benefits in using GPS devices, Future Carz stated in a release.

Schwartz said GPS systems could be costly because they had to be removed when the vehicle was paid off. Also, the technology is so new that there are no legal cases dealing with its potential privacy issues.

Cellular technology can also be used to track and disable cars. If a customer doesn't pay on time, the dealer can send an electronic signal to the car and activate the starter-interrupt device.

However, cellular service doesn't work in all areas, so the signal might not always go through.

Starter-interrupt devices are slowly gaining acceptance and will truly arrive when finance companies start using them, Hoppel said. Most consider them too cumbersome for auto portfolios that include thousands of vehicles, but that attitude could change as the systems develop.

 

Auto Sales Give Dealer Way to Grow Finance Business

USED CAR NEWS 10/07/2002

By Jim Stickford

LAUREL, Del. — While buy-here, pay-here dealers lend money to sell cars, Greg Johnson sells cars to loan cash.
Johnson, 46, is the co-owner of The Car Store, a buy-here, pay-here dealership that carries slightly more upscale inventory than most of his competitors.
But owning a used-car dealership was not something he always dreamed of doing.
“I’m not a car guy,” Johnson said. “I am not a mechanical person in any way. I worked in insurance for all of my adult life and was an equal partner in an agency that has three locations and 27 employees. I sold my interest in early 2001.”
Johnson decided to look for a new challenge. In addition to his insurance business, he is also part owner of a business called Cash Advance Plus. The company specializes in making small, unsecured personal loans, often called “payday” loans.
This enterprise led him to start his own dealership. He, along with dealership partner Edward Wilgus, wanted to get into the retail end of the business to better control the application information used to make decisions on car loans.
“We thought we could sell a little better car in a more traditional financial manner that the local buy-here, pay-here dealers,” Johnson said.
So the pair purchased an old tractor dealership and converted it into a used-car lot. Johnson said the site was perfect, located along the main traffic artery in Laurel. The cars range in price from $3,500 to $4,500.
Shortly after opening their first successful store in Laurel, they bought another dealership in nearby Seaford, Del., moved it to a nearby location and re-named it The Car Store.
A third dealership is under development in Salisbury, Md. This lot will retail vehicles in the $8,000-$9,000 range. All three stores will share the same name.
Laurel, Seaford and Sailisbury, Md., are all located in relatively rural areas along Maryland’s and Delaware’s eastern shore, Johnson said.
Johnson advertises in specific local newspapers, but also advertises on radio and television “now and then.”
“We also have a billboard,” Johnson said. “That gives us visibility. We also try to promote the dealerships at our other companies — the finance company and the insurance business.”
Most of their customers are local light-factory workers and state employees.
Johnson spent a lot of time learning the business. He visited the Indianapolis-based used-car chain J.D. Byrider Systems. He has also taken the counsel of industry experts Chris Leedom, of Leedom and Associates of Sarasota, Fla. and Kenneth Shilson, a Houston-based CPA, and founder of the National Association of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers.
Johnson gets his cars from several sources, including wholesalers and nearby auctions. The two lots currently retail about 70 vehicles a month. He expects sales to climb to more than 100 units a month once the Salisbury store is open.
Like every buy-here, pay-here dealer, Johnson has to cope with customers defaulting on loans. Johnson said a lot of effort has been expended to bring the current default rate to under 2 percent a month. The default rate on all outstanding loans is between 18 and 20 percent.
“In January we went to 100 percent starter-interruption systems by Payteck (of Cleveland) in all of our units,” Johnson said. “It’s made a difference. I’m a believer. We haven’t had any problems to date and it hasn’t slowed sales that I can tell.”
Johnson has four mechanics on staff to “try to sell cars that will be running in 30 months.” He also has a car-rental business with a fleet of 75 cars.
So far, Johnson said, the car business has been successful — but not without problems.
“Learning the car side of the business has been a real eye-opener,” Johnson said.
“I knew I had a lot to learn. That was a given. But I didn’t plan on selling 70 cars a month. The pro formas I set up were based on figures closer to 25 or 30 cars a month.”
By selling more than twice the number of cars a month than originally planned, Johnson and staff have had to scramble to find the kinds of cars that fit his inventory profile — at a competitive price.
“As our sales volume increases, it has become harder to get good cars,” he said. “We try to make our cars right before we sell them.
“Coming up with cars that will last our customer 30 months in the right price range has become our biggest challenge.”
Johnson also admits to being somewhat overwhelmed by the auto-auction process.
“It’s been educational going to the auctions,” Johnson said. “I’ve learned it’s very important to understand what a vehicle should go for at an auction. I would not describe the experience as fun, but that’s where the cars are.”
Because he’s been in the business for such a short period, he doesn’t presume to think that he’s got it made.
“I’m still learning,” Johnson said. “We’re trying new things, like having 14 different places where customers can make car payments. So far, so good.”

 

Payment Devices Boost Profits, Good Will

USED CAR NEWS 3/4/2002:

By Jenny King

Philadelphia-area independent John DeFilippo waited until legal issues regarding payment security systems had made their way through the courts in Michigan.
When the electronic device that keeps a vehicle from starting if the owner has missed a payment passed judicial scrutiny, DeFilippo adopted the technology for his buy-here, pay-here vehicles.
Payment security systems have surprised dealers and customers alike, and appear to be growing in popularity. Dealers say they dramatically reduce delinquent payments and all but wipe out repos. More assured they will be paid, dealers can reduce down payments and interest rates, and offer higher quality vehicles.
Customers say they appreciate knowing exactly when each payment is due. Some systems allow payment extensions. And their shut-down capabilities serve as a theft deterrent which can translate into lower insurance rates for buyers.
“My delinquency total is under 20 percent,” said DeFilippo, dealer at DeFilippo Brothers Motor Cars in Prospect Park, Pa. “Customers are not turned off by it. Some have even thanked me.”
DeFilippo started using Passtec devices in the summer of 2000. He said he was one of the first to upgrade to the Denver, Colo. company’s Passtime system. One of its advantages is that the consumer need not come in to the dealership to make a car payment.
While their features vary, payment security systems have this in common: they prevent a driver from starting a vehicle when a payment is delinquent. They all provide plenty of notice that money is due and they will not turn a vehicle off that is already up and running. Some double as theft-deterrents.
Payment security systems tend to be programmed to alert the buyer on a regular basis. Once payment is completed, the device is re-set by punching in a code, swiping a special card or somehow preparing the system to go off again in one week, two weeks, a month, or whenever regular payments are expected at the dealership.
The system is typically installed at the dealership. Some companies offer on-site training in installation and in crediting payments and re-setting devices with codes or other enablers.
Ashley Herndon tells new- and used-car dealers that the OnTime system distinguishes itself in several ways. One of them is documentation for the dealer.
“Our written reports are constantly revised and can tell the dealer where customers are with payments and even who on the staff has received payments from buyers,” said Herndon from company headquarters in Temecula, Calif.
A unique six-digit code is generated with each payment and allows the customer to continue driving into the next period, he said.
Trained individuals at a dealership provide that code when they log in a payment. The buyer enters each new code on a keypad that feeds it into the onboard system.
The OnTime software and applications are patented, Herndon said. Distributors handle products and work individually with dealer customers.
Payteck, from Pay Technologies, LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio, ships its product directly to dealers. The vehicle-installed device will tell the customer how many days remain before the next payment is due.
“We beep the customer two days before the next payment,” said spokesman Jim Krueger. “We have a feature called 911 which will give the consumer an extra 24 hours in case of an emergency. This is available every payment period.”
The customer gets a new code number each time a payment is logged. If payment was done by mail, the buyer can call the dealer for the new code, he said.
“Dealers say very few customers turn away from a deal because there is a payment protection device on a car,” he said. “These individuals know they have damaged credit. We refer to this as a security system. Reaction is more positive than you’d think.”
Devin Spearman, owner of Spearman Motors in Findlay, Ohio, said he initially struggled with remembering to record customer codes, but once he and his staff ironed out the wrinkles he has been pleased with the Payteck system.
“I like the fact that the customer doesn’t have to come in to get a (new) code — the customer can mail in a payment or even use a nearby 24-hour payment center and get a code from us by telephone,” he said. “Our delinquent payments are down from 40-50 percent to about 10 percent.”
Spearman has been using Payteck for about a year. He has his devices set for two-week intervals, even though many customers make weekly payments. It makes re-coding easier, he said.
Tom Keller refers to his company, American Access, Inc., as “the new kid on the block.”
“We believe the Payment Sentry Systems, with pager messaging functions, employ better technology,” he said.
“Ours is the only on-command system. It is not a timer system, it is not customer-intrusive, and the customer is not embarrassed each time he or she comes in to make a payment.”
Keller said the dealer or financial institution controls delinquency by phoning a toll-free number. Following prompts, the dealer can set off a red-light-and-beeper warning in the customer’s vehicle; can interrupt the starter of a parked vehicle, and can utilize an alarm feature that flashes the headlights and sounds the horn of the vehicle in question.
The customer responds by phoning the dealer. That usually happens within 10 minutes of the audio-visual warning, Keller said.
Eva Achtemeier, a spokeswoman for Colorado Springs finance company KMR, said customers do seem to respond to the Payment Security System warning.
“We often keep it on for 24 hours to give the buyer a chance to call about a late payment,” Achtemeier said. “Most of the time we’ll turn the beeping off or re-enable the vehicle after a call.”
The finance company had used a system that required inputting codes and found vehicles would continue running whether or not codes were entered.
Ray Lyle Sr., who with his son Ray Jr. oversees seven Nice Cars dealerships in Tennessee and Georgia, said he was scared by payment security systems.
Lyle figured the best way to find out how they really work was to install them on his own car.
“I’ve used every system on the market,” he said.
Lyle said he no longer would sell a vehicle without a system. There are starter interrupters — Passtime — on virtually all of the 750 vehicles in his inventory.
Lyle said it takes about five minutes for a computer-literate staff member to learn the system he uses. The dealerships’ radio repair specialists handle installations on-site.


PayTeck Adds Directly to Bottom Line
USED CAR NEWS 8/21/2000:

     PayTeck automatic payment controls for buy-here, pay-here dealers are easy-to-use, customer-friendly and deliver bottom-line results.
     The new PayTeck controls offer the dealer the ability to program the cars in a matter of seconds. No waiting for the mechanic to install a unit for a waiting customer.
     The PayTeck controls can be preinstalled on the vehicles on the lot. When a sale is made the dealer takes the exclusive PayTeck LCD-LINK and plugs into the preinstalled controller in the car an programs in the terms.
     To program terms only takes a matter of seconds. This is very efficient for the dealer to get the customer on their way. No waiting or delays. You can also make a safe when the service tech is not around.
     With the PayTeck customer literature, all the benefits and features are explained for the customer. The factory-supplied literature tells the customer how "secure their credit" and how to "secure their investment" with the PayTeck System 2000 featuring Security Plus for the consumers.
     In addition the PayTeck System 2000 tells the customer how many days till payment is due. In case of an emergency, a one-time per-payment emergency code is available.
     When the customers are faced with walking of driving, the dealer payment for the vehicle takes priority. This results in reduced past due accounts, and has a major impact on the balance sheet and cash flow.
     PayTeck is solid-state technology that prove it is worth on the bottom line. It's Web address is www.payteck.cc