Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lockboxes Gives Thieves Easy Access to Vehicle Keys

With car buyers demanding a shorter dealership sales process, salespeople don’t have time to search for vehicle keys when prospects want to test drive a car. Attaching lockboxes containing vehicle keys to the side of each vehicle appears to be a perfect solution: The key isn’t out in the open on a pegboard, and it’s kept close to the vehicle, eliminating the hassle of matching the key to the vehicle.

The problem is, while this solution is convenient for salespeople, it also makes it easier for thieves to steal vehicles. The thief simply has to smash the lockbox open to remove the key and drive off in the vehicle.

One unlucky dealership, which happened to store its keys in lockboxes, experienced a theft in which thieves stole six vehicles in a mere 10-15 minutes. In a video that shows a shot of one of the recovered stolen vehicles, there is body damage above where the lockbox was installed, indicating that the thieves went after the vehicle keys.

Lockbox-related thefts have been known to happen before. A dealership in Florida experienced $130,000 in losses after thieves smashed open lockboxes and used the keys to steal several vehicles. In Connecticut, a dealership suffered $200,000 in losses after thieves took advantage of vehicle lockboxes to steal five cars.

For security, keys must be kept in a secure location inside the dealership, ideally behind locked doors. To address the need for quickly finding vehicles on the lot, dealerships can use a lot management solution to quickly look up vehicle locations on their lot from either their key management system or their mobile device.

How does your dealership strike a balance between convenience and security when managing keys?   

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How Secure Is Your Campus Housing During Winter Break?

Snowy college campus
Winter break is a time for university facility managers to kick back and relax, right? Many universities try to alleviate winter break security concerns and costs by closing dormitories and apartments during the break. There is just one problem with that: Students' belongings won't be as secure as expected if a master key falls into the wrong hands.

Property crime is the most common type of on-campus crime, and a reduction in students and staff during the winter break can give a thief the opportunity they've been waiting for. It's a little bit easier to make a clean getaway with easy-to-grab, valuable laptops, TVs and gaming devices if nobody is around. Plus, a misplaced or unsecured key gives them easy access.

Here are the steps your university needs to take to make sure your keys don't fall into sticky fingers during winter break.

Secure Master Keys

Your university likely has a few sets of master keys that grant access to campus buildings. If these keys go missing, you face a major headache. Schools have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars rekeying entire buildings after master keys went missing.

When student or university property is at risk (even during regular semesters), you can't have master keys floating around in unknown hands. Be sure your master keys remain secure when not in use, and don't keep multiple master keys on a single key ring.

Hold Employees Accountable

While having fewer students and staff around would make university housing an attractive target to outside thieves, employees who are willing to abuse their key-access privileges can be just as much of a risk. If you can't track who has keys to a certain building and when they had them, how can you possibly know where to start if a theft is reported after the winter break ends?

Once keys are secure and access is restricted, be sure you also have a way for employees to log what keys they took and when they took them. If a theft occurs during the break and it's believed that the dorm or apartment was accessed with a key, you need a way to figure out who had access to that key at the time. An electronic method of key access that automatically logs key activity would curb problems stemming from employees who aren't properly logging their access.

React Quickly

The trickiest part about reducing winter break theft is the same reason empty dorms are such an alluring target to would-be thieves: the fact that nobody's around means it's harder to catch somebody in the act. That's why it's important to set time limits on key access and to be able to track key activity remotely.

If you're using an electronic key control system, but sure it's capable of sending email or text alerts to notify you if a key isn't returned to the system within a specified time frame. This will allow you to react quickly to a possible security breach and either reduce the chances of a breach or possibly catch somebody in the act.

Has your university experienced problems with burglaries during your winter break? What steps have you taken to reduce theft and make sure key usage privileges aren't abused or don't fall into the wrong hands? Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Teens Don't Get Far With Stolen Sports Cars

Key left in car door
How well does your dealership protect its keys after hours, especially keys for rare or high-end models? Do you go out of your way to make sure your keys aren't easily accessible regardless of the other levels of security a thief has to go through to reach them? A Missouri dealership recently found out the hard way what happens when keys aren't kept secure.

A group of five teens broke into the dealership to steal keys to four new sports cars — a pair of 2016 Dodge Challenger Hellcats and two 2016 Dodge Chargers in powerful Scat Pack trim. While attempting to escape in the vehicles, the teens crashed the two 700-horsepower Challengers and one of the Chargers within a mile of the dealership. Three of the teens were apprehended by police while trying to escape on foot. The second Charger is still missing.

Though three of the cars were recovered — albeit very damaged — the dealership's general manager told a local TV station that it could take several months for Chrysler to replace the four specialty cars. Those cars represent potential sales that the dealership won't be able to make until it has replacements, while employees must also commit time and effort to the police investigation and theft reports.

The dealership was lucky that the powerful sports cars were not involved in fatal collisions with innocent bystanders. A California dealership recently settled a lawsuit for almost $1 million after a vehicle stolen from its lot was involved in a fatal accident.

As thieves get bolder and the stakes become higher, take the time to re-evaluate your existing security measures to ensure they're enough to keep crafty thieves from stealing and damaging your dealership's assets. Padlocked gates can be cut, offices can be breached, and keys can be accessed when they're not secured in a tamper-proof cabinet. What are you doing to limit your liability and keep your cars secure?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Does Your Dealership Need to Improve Its Sales Process?

One of the top frustrations among car buyers is how long the sales process takes. In fact, overall satisfaction with the length of the car-buying process is only 56 percent.

Clock on top of calendarIn today’s automotive industry, customers want to get in and out of the dealership in two hours or less. And even though 85 percent of dealers want to get their car sales process down to that time frame, the majority of dealerships’ transactions still take 3-5 hours. Why is that? Because dealers can’t pinpoint the inefficiencies in their sales processes.

If you have trouble identifying areas of improvement in your dealership, consider these questions:

  • Do your sales reps walk the lot pressing the panic button to find a specific vehicle? 
  • Are your test drives held up due to empty fuel tanks or dead batteries?
  • If a customer suddenly wants to test drive another vehicle, would your sales rep have to scour the lot to find it?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you’ve just pinpointed some inefficiencies in your sales process. Once you know where the process can improve, you can work on making the sales process a quicker and better experience for your customers. After all, 55 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience.

Improving your sales process enhances the customer experience and in turn brings you more sales. What are you doing to serve your customers well? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fresno Dealership Settles Lawsuit After Stolen Vehicle Results in Fatal Crash

When a vehicle is stolen from a dealership, the dealer is left to deal with police reports, profit losses and insurance claims. Not only are these consequences a hassle, they’re also a blow to the bottom line.

But what happens if crimes are committed in the stolen vehicle? The dealership risks a lawsuit and a potential costly settlement or judgment — not to mention the reverberating effect on the dealership’s public image. That’s what happened to Fresno My Auto Maxx, which was sued for negligence after the dealership’s lax key security measures allowed a lone thief to repeatedly steal vehicles.

Wrecked carsWhile driving a stolen Infiniti, the thief ran a stop sign and slammed into a 55-year-old man’s vehicle, killing him. After the incident, the dealership paid a $950,000 settlement to the victim’s widow.

My Auto Maxx’s situation is a perfect example of why your dealership can’t neglect the following key and asset control best practices to limit liability.

Enforce Key Security

If your dealership doesn’t enforce key security, you’re vulnerable to key theft. In the case against My Auto Maxx, the widow’s lawyer pointed out that the dealership’s lack of theft prevention was the reason a single thief was able to steal a total of three cars on different occasions. Two of the vehicles were stolen using the vehicles’ keys — one left in the ignition, and the other left unsecure in the sales office — which the thief stole when he pretended to apply for credit approval.

Your dealership can reduce the threat of theft and therefore limit liability by implementing strict key control processes. Whether you choose to implement a pegboard, key cabinet or electronic key control system, install your key storage solution in a secure location and keep keys well organized. If you do experience a theft, having your keys well organized in a central location will allow you to notice more quickly when a key goes missing. 

Hold Employees Accountable

Your employees are entrusted with vehicle keys on a daily basis, so holding them accountable is crucial for reducing your risk of key loss and theft. The first car stolen by the Fresno thief still had the keys in the ignition, presumably left there after a test drive. This disregard for key security provided an easy opportunity for theft.To prevent mistakes like this from happening, strictly enforce employee accountability within your dealership.

You can promote accountability by having employees update a key log so there is a written record of all key transactions. Require employees to check out keys by writing down their name, the time, the date and the key they checked out. If you choose to implement an electronic key control process, these credentials will be recorded automatically. Having a written record of all key activity helps expedite investigations of lost keys by allowing managers to quickly identify and speak to the employee who last checked out the key to get more information.

 Keep Track of Your Inventory

Another factor contributing to the Fresno dealership’s alleged negligence was the fact that despite knowing the Infiniti had been stolen, the dealership took four days to report the missing vehicle. Since the thief was driving the stolen car at the time of the fatal accident, the dealership found itself involved in a litigation nightmare.

This case demonstrates why it’s important for your dealership to not only account for its keys but also have a daily process for tracking inventory. This process could entail walking the lot scanning barcodes on each vehicle or simply updating a spreadsheet when each vehicle’s location is verified. There is also GPS-based lot management technology that displays the location of cars on the lot and triggers an email or text alert if a vehicle is off the lot after business hours.

The moment a vehicle goes missing, you should be able to rely on your key logs to identify the employee who last had the keys, request information about the vehicle’s location and, if necessary, promptly report a theft.

When you don’t implement security measures that help prevent theft, you're putting your inventory, business and community at risk.

To learn more about how to reduce your dealership’s liability, read our post “Five Benefits of Implementing Electronic Key Control.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Maximize Your Dealership’s Efficiency This Fourth of July Weekend

American flags on dealership carsFourth of July weekend is one of the busiest times of the year for both car dealers and car buyers. Hefty discounts on current-model vehicles attract customers across the nation during the holiday weekend, increasing dealership traffic significantly.

“Manufacturers heavily promote new car deals before holidays in part because consumers have more time to dedicate to shopping,” said Mike Stanton, vice president and COO of NADA Used Car Guide, in a post regarding the abundance of Fourth of July savings.

With the influx of customers looking to take advantage of the significant price reductions, dealerships must operate with maximum efficiency when conducting test drives and throughout the whole sales process.

Industry-specific electronic key control systems provide the resources dealerships need to streamline the car-buying process for customers, increasing the probability of a sale.

When customers decide to test drive a vehicle, your staff can’t afford to waste valuable time searching for the vehicle’s keys. With key control systems, you can access keys from a computerized locking steel drawer that lights up each key as it’s requested so you can locate it quickly. As each key is removed, a log is automatically generated, so other employees know which keys have been checked out of the system.

To make the sales and test-drive process even more efficient, you can use a lot management system to search the lot for vehicles based on specific characteristics like make, model, year, color, mileage and VIN. You'll also be able to see the GPS location of each vehicle on the lot so you spend less time searching for cars and more time completing test drives (and therefore making sales).

To learn more benefits of electronic key control, check out this post.

Best Practices for Discouraging Internal Theft

Handing keys to employee.
Last month, a 38 year-old California man strolled into a San Bernardino-area dealership, pocketed a pair of keys and drove off in another person’s vehicle — all during business hours. It turned out the man had previously been employed at the dealership, so he knew exactly where keys were kept. 

This incident is one of many that happen across the nation every year. In fact, research indicates that the number one source of shrinkage for retailers in 2015 was employee theft. 

Although not every theft is preventable, you can follow a few best practices to reduce the likelihood of internal theft. 

Promote Accountability

It's unclear how the San Bernardino man gained access to customer keys without turning heads. However, if you’re concerned about a similar security breach, updating manual key control processes to electronic key control could help deter theft. 

By requiring users to log in via password, key fob and/or fingerprint scan, the system creates an audit trail so you can review exactly who’s accessing which keys and when. Additionally, with an electronic key control system in place, dishonest associates won’t be able to argue against the validity of key control logs. This reality will resonate with your employees, discouraging potential theft. 

Separate Employee Responsibilities

In some businesses, it’s not uncommon for the employee handling alarm codes to also be the keeper of the keys. In the event an alarm goes off, however, this arrangement can easily become a conflict of interest. If you designate a single employee to handle both responsibilities, that employee could 1) commit theft nearly unnoticed, or 2) leave keys unmanned long enough for another employee to commit theft.

To limit this liability, consider designating multiple system administrators, so that no employee has unchecked access to security measures. Designating several system administrators distributes accountability, which is beneficial for several reasons: 
  1. If one administrator isn’t present you’ll still have access to the system.
  2. You eliminate the risk of a conflict of interest.
  3. Each administrator can still complete daily tasks without compromising key security.

Disable User Accounts

When an employee leaves, it's important to ensure they don't still have access to company systems and assets. The same electronic key control system that allows you to set up multiple users also allows you to remove terminated employees from the system. In doing so, you can protect your company against potential credential abuse. Whether it’s an employee trying to clock in for a coworker, or an ex-employee looking to steal from their former boss, password security is not to be taken lightly. 

For more information on how to maintain asset security, read our post “Vehicles Stolen From Milwaukee County Dealerships.”