Monday, August 14, 2017

Could Your Dealership Be on the Hook for Teen Crime?

Teen Driving Speeding Car Through Tunnel
Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg compared the teenage brain to a vehicle with a good accelerator but a weak brake — a combination that is bound to lead to a crash. Steinberg meant the comparison figuratively, but a rash of juveniles stealing vehicles from dealerships made the metaphor seem like a prediction. Most of the thefts involved high-speed joyrides resulting in crashes, some of which led to fatalities.

Where Are the Crimes Happening?


In Pinellas, FL, the problem is reaching epidemic proportions. The Tampa Bay Times found that a teen crashes a stolen car every four days in the county. In 2015, police made 499 felony arrests for auto theft — that’s more than in Los Angeles. Most recently, there was a highly publicized incident in which a 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds stole an SUV from a dealership. The teens later died in a fiery crash following a police chase. A fourth teenager who was in the vehicle at the time of the crash was hospitalized.

But while Pinellas County is a hotbed for thefts, that doesn’t mean that other parts of the country are immune. Dealerships in the Chicago area, for example, have been repeatedly targeted by teens
(a problem that is made worse by dealership employees habitually leaving keys in vehicles). Young thieves have also stolen vehicles from Hemet, CA and Brooksville, FL.

Why Does a Thief’s Age Matter?


While some parents have begged for harsher penalties for juveniles who have stolen cars, that is not always the case. Some child advocates are leaning on the “immature teen brain” defense, saying that a person’s brain is not fully developed until around age 25. Before then, juveniles are likely to take more risks and are susceptible to peer pressure. It’s worth noting that in most reported cases of juvenile vehicle theft, two or more teens typically worked together, indicating that peer pressure played a role in the crimes.

According to the immature teen brain argument, juveniles shouldn’t be held fully responsible for their crimes because of their inadequate self-control and reasoning ability. In one notable case in Ontario, Canada, two teens who had been smoking marijuana and drinking stole a vehicle from a local dealership and body shop. The keys had been left in the car’s ashtray, making it an easy heist. During a joyride, the teens crashed the car, leaving the passenger with a severe brain injury.

The crash led to a trial in which the judge ruled that the dealership had a duty of care to the injured teen. The jury reasoned that the dealership should have anticipated that leaving keys in unlocked cars on the easily accessible premises might tempt minors to go joyriding in the vehicles and injure themselves — especially considering that there was evidence of theft in the area. In the end, the jury assigned 37 percent liability for the teen’s injuries to the business and 10 percent to the teen himself.

How Should You Protect Your Dealership?


In its annual report on vehicle theft, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said that “technology is working [to reduce theft], but complacency can defeat it.”

You might have cars with advanced security features or a security system at your dealership, but these precautions are all but useless when you make simple mistakes like leaving keys in unlocked vehicles. You can’t afford not to implement proper physical security measures, which includes securing keys. In addition, make sure you have an audit trail of key usage to demonstrate that you’ve taken reasonable efforts to exercise duty of care in protecting your inventory and community.

If the trend of juvenile thefts continues, we could see more dealerships being held liable for a stolen vehicle involved in a fatal crash or used to commit crimes. Don’t let poor security put the brakes on your business.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Multifamily Package Problem Is About To Get Worse

Today, 51 percent of Americans prefer to shop online. While e-commerce is helping consumers save time and money, it’s having the opposite effect for multifamily communities. The more packages leasing offices have to manage, the more they struggle with issues such as lost productivity and liability for lost or stolen packages. According to the National Apartment Association, this problem could get worse for some complexes, due to a new offer from Amazon.
stack of packages
In June, Amazon announced that customers receiving government assistance would be able to sign up for a discounted Prime membership. The subscription service includes unlimited free two-day shipping on more than 50 million items and a 20 percent discount on diapers and wipes. Customers can qualify every 12 months up to four times, so apartments with low-income tenants should prepare for a flood of Prime deliveries over the next several years.

Some communities may choose to stop accepting packages — a decision that won’t sit well with tenants. Others are implementing package tracking software that streamlines the package drop-off process and automatically notifies tenants when a package has been delivered. Not only can properties advertise this capability as an amenity, but  they can reduce liability by cutting down on lost or stolen packages.

To read more about how the increase in online shopping is affecting multifamily complexes, read this post. How will your property respond?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chicago Dealers Driving up Crime: What All Dealers Need to Know

Car key in ignition
Losing thousands of dollars in inventory is reason enough to do everything in your power to prevent auto theft, but what if your stolen vehicles end up endangering the community?

Police in Chicago are seeing an alarming number of vehicles being stolen from dealerships and rental agencies. Many of the vehicles are then used for illegal activities, including robberies and homicides. The rash of thefts is attributed to dealers leaving keys in vehicles on their lots — so frequently, in fact, that two ward aldermen are proposing an ordinance requiring dealerships to secure keys outside of business hours.

The situation in Chicago is a sobering reminder of why locking up your keys to protect your inventory is critical. Here are three reasons why.

Reckless Driving Endangers Communities


Reckless driving and severe crashes are just two of the ways stolen vehicles can threaten public safety. One recent incident in Libertyville, IL is a prime example. Late one Sunday night, thieves stole five vehicles from a local dealership and were spotted speeding and driving erratically without their lights on. One of the thieves led police on a high-speed chase that reached 115 mph before the stolen vehicle crashed into another car.

You Could Be Liable for Crimes Committed in Your Vehicles


Negligent key control could leave you liable for crimes committed in your stolen vehicles. Fresno My Auto Maxx was sued for negligence after employees repeatedly left keys in vehicles, allowing criminals to easily drive vehicles off the lot. After one of the stolen vehicles was involved in the death of a 55-year-old man, the dealership paid a $950,000 settlement to the victim’s widow. If you’re storing keys in a negligent manner, you’re leaving your dealership vulnerable to this type of lawsuit. Take steps to control your keys before you’re taken to court.

Losses Can’t Always Be Recouped


If your vehicles are stolen and/or damaged, you could be forced to take a loss on the value of the vehicle(s). It’s easy to say, “That’s why I have insurance,” but the truth is, having insurance doesn’t guarantee you’ll recoup all your losses. After paying your insurance deductible and, in some cases, coinsurance penalties, a theft could end up costing you thousands of dollars.

Even if your insurance policy were to reimburse you for 100 percent of damages, some inventory can be difficult, if not impossible, to replace. At one dealership in Missouri, two stolen cars that were totaled by reckless driving were among some of the rarest on the lot and would take months to replace. Time spent on filing claims and fees paid for lawsuits brought against you will negatively impact your bottom line as well.

Simply securing your keys protects not only your inventory but your community. How do you secure your dealership’s keys? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Is Your Dealership Prepared for a Hurricane?

As we quickly approach the peak of hurricane season, it’s important to consider how a hurricane could affect your dealership. According to a forecast prepared by the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project, there is a 40-45 percent chance that the 2017 hurricane season will be above normal.

With the end of hurricane season being November 30, your dealership has a few more months to prepare for a storm and come up with a preparedness plan. Even if your area is not prone to hurricanes, it’s essential to prepare for any type of natural disaster. Here are some steps your dealership should take in order to be prepared when a hurricane, or other natural disaster, hits:

Before Disaster Strikes 


First and foremost, your dealership should assign an emergency team that will take charge during a disaster. This group of employees will assist with disaster preparation, such as checking equipment and first aid materials. They should also create a preparedness kit containing emergency supplies for each building of your dealership.

It should contain:

  • A business recovery plan explaining the roles of employees during a disaster
  • Emergency service contacts for utilities, phones, sanitation, etc.
  • Emergency communications equipment
  • Flashlights
  • Cleaning supplies 

If your dealership is running on paper-based processes, have a secure location to store all documents and filing cabinets. Make copies of records and store them in a physically secure facility.

Store your keys in a safe location and make sure they’re organized if you have to shut your doors for a couple days. If you use a key management system, be sure to run a system backup and export or print a map of the system contents in case of a power outage.

Don’t let the unexpected keep your business from succeeding. If you have the right tools and preparation, your dealership can survive a hurricane.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Retain Your Dealership's Best Salespeople With Better Tools

Car salesman showing paperwork to a customer.
According to autonews.com, median tenure for a car dealership employee has steadily declined since 2011. Many businesses value employee retention, but it is decidedly more critical in the automotive industry. Good salespeople are the backbone of any dealership; their ability to generate leads and sales is an invaluable asset. Unfortunately, retaining top salespeople is not easy. To make sure your dealership is not a victim of this trend, follow these strategies to keep your salespeople right where you need them.

Understand That Time Is Money for Your Salespeople


A study conducted by AutoTrader found that customer satisfaction is at its highest within the first 90 minutes on the day of purchase. Customer and employee satisfaction have a correlative relationship; satisfied customers make an employee's day easier and allow them to close more deals. Salespeople want their customers to be happy and make purchases, but unfortunately, this is an uphill battle against inventory, unrealistic demands and, most notably, the clock.

For salespeople, time is money, and anything that can streamline the buying process is a welcome addition to a salesperson's routine. According to above-mentioned AutoTrader study, a good portion of a vehicle buyer's in-dealership experience is currently spent on selecting a vehicle for purchase. Electronic key control systems are one way to speed up this process. Salespeople can see if a key is currently checked out and who checked it out, which is invaluable information when trying to locate a desired vehicle. They will spend less time scrambling for keys and look much more organized and competent to the customer, allowing them to sell more vehicles and therefore make more money. Higher paychecks will give them the incentive to continue working for you.

Remain Competitive


Making sure your dealership has the latest tools and technology is one way to make you stand out as a desirable place to work. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, better alternatives are one of the top four reasons employees leave a company. Ensuring that your company is competitive on all fronts is one way to take steps toward upping your retention rates. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that satisfaction and environment together was one of the top reasons for an employee to stay with a company. Improving both of these factors results in highly motivated salespeople who want to work for your business.

Quality salespeople can make or break your dealership. What's one way you work to retain your best employees? Let us know in the comments.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Secure Your Dealership's Assets Before a Break-In

With the combined inventory on a single lot costing more than the average home, car dealerships are prime targets for theft. When your dealership becomes the victim of a heist attempt, it is crucial to already have the proper measures in place to secure your inventory and prevent losses.

man breaking window of vehicleOne dealership in Waco, TX, recently learned this lesson the hard way after a thief was caught in the act. When police responded to a suspicious vehicle call in a nearby neighborhood, they encountered the thief in a stolen Mustang parked outside the dealership. The cops apprehended the criminal after a car chase and discovered several sets of keys to cars still on the lot, as well as keys to already stolen or missing vehicles.

The thief and some of his associates had broken into the dealership's building, taken keys to several vehicles, and arranged many of them so that they could be easily driven off. Had police not arrived at the scene when they did, the dealership could have lost over $100,000 in inventory.

The more lines of defense you can put between a thief and your vehicles, the better. Securing your keys is a good first step, but simple lockboxes or back-room peg boards won't be enough to stop determined thieves. A more secure solution would be a key and inventory management system that limits access to authorized individuals and automatically provides an audit trail of key checkouts.

You can also make your lot less attractive by strategically parking cars around exits, increasing the difficulty thieves would face in removing cars. Park a string of cars in front of entrances or gates so thieves will have to work harder to drive off the lot in stolen vehicles. The more cars thieves have to move, the more time they'd spend on the lot, increasing the chances of getting caught.

What steps does your dealership take to prevent theft? Let us know in the comments.

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?