key management

Two decades ago, a simple lockbox in the dealership was all it took to secure keys for all your inventory. It was likely left open all day and only locked at night, and any staff that needed keys had unmitigated access. Couldn’t find a key? Rifle through the file folder for the spare. But those days are gone.

Additional key security has been necessary, and even with a vigilant watch over the key box at the podium or behind the receptionist, keys go missing. Vehicles are stolen with no damage as keys are unaccounted for, either left in a car or desk. Those losses are tough to swallow even when they’re fully insured, and most of all, the losses are entirely unnecessary.

Digital key access and tracking solutions are available. Add to the mix phone-as-a-key services, and there are two big reasons to revamp your key management strategy to prevent vehicles or parts from going missing.

Track physical keys digitally 

It’s great to have a staff you can trust, but everyone makes mistakes. When re-organizing the lot or clearing snow, it’s common for vehicles to have keys left inside for some time. Your most trustworthy lot person or sales professional can accidentally leave a key in the open without realizing it. A customer could take three or four units for a test drive back-to-back, and a salesperson might grab all the keys at once.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see what can go wrong. Someone snags keys discreetly as they walk by, drives a unit off the lot without anyone taking a second glance, or comes back at night to do it under cover of darkness. Without a way to trace possession of those keys, it becomes nearly impossible to track down where they went and how to plug the leak.  

Key management has taken a digital turn, with several suppliers offering locking cabinets that require authentication, alerts, reporting, and even digital photo capture to track keys accurately. These solutions come at a cost, but it reduces the frustration of lost keys, the cost of replacing them, and the potential for stolen vehicles due to negligence by a team member.

Phone As a Key

The advent of Phone As a Key is a game-changer for users, even though uptake has been relatively slow. A user’s smartphone can act as the key rather than the physical ignition key and fob. But with it comes a potential security issue if dealers aren’t careful.

For shoppers who intend to defraud, not to buy, options like Phone As a Key can be the opening they need to steal a car. During a walkaround or test drive, shoppers could program the feature to ‘test’ it, return later on, and take the vehicle with minimal effort. 

Some carmakers prevent this by requiring registration before using the option, but that’s not necessarily a solution for pre-owned models. In any case, salespeople should know how to wipe Phone As a Key from a vehicle’s memory after every test drive. It should be added to the process of returning a car to its place on the lot, no matter who does it.

Key management and tracking solutions are no longer simply analog. Dealerships and used car lots need to be stubborn about who has access to keys and aware of the vehicle’s features to ensure their inventory is secure. Invest in the tools and processes necessary to keep your keys physically and digitally protected.

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