Like nearly all businesses, automobile dealers have specific hours. To accommodate the busy schedules of potential customers, many have extended those hours into early morning or late evening.
Some shoppers don’t care, because they never paid attention to closing times anyway. Instead, they follow a long-standing tradition of stalking car lots at night, when nobody else is around. Hard to believe in this era of security cameras and enthusiastic alarms, but for decades, used car lots and outdoor new-car storage spots have been havens for after-hours enthusiasts who like to see what’s available—but without interference from a pushy salesperson.
Of course, some of those car-lot stalkers weren’t likely prospects at all. Back when teenagers craved cars with barely-bridled passion, creeping through the aisles to survey the current automobiles was an urban adventure, whether done alone or with a bunch of buddies.
Dealers had to know that an open, unfenced lot was an invitation to car-crazed youngsters—and to older shoppers who simply didn’t want to endure a sales talk. As long as no damage was done, many seemed disinclined to tighten security or call in the authorities.
Like so many barely legal pastimes of the past, unauthorized late-night shopping is riskier nowadays. Still, dealers who need to bolster their sales figures might be ready to revive the practice, but in an authorized manner.
Auto Data Direct has developed a new “dealer tool” that permits after-hours shoppers not only to amble by the vehicles on display, but to glean some information about them.
For-sale cars can be fitted with a scannable sticker. Using a Quick Response Code, that sticker lets the customer with a smartphone access certain vehicle data, even after the dealership has closed for the day.
A vehicle history report visible on the smartphone’s screen includes data from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System. It’s obtained from the states, from insurance carriers, and from salvage companies. Auto Data Direct says the system is a “great icebreaker,” and can guide consumers to the dealership website for additional details, such as price.
Though it won’t be quite as stimulating as cruising the aisles without permission, dealers could attract some reticent customers. Those folks often do initial research online and would welcome on-the-spot data, coupled with an up-close, unimpeded look at a car that’s tempting.
Still, while that federal vehicle history data is useful, it’s not nearly enough to satisfy true late-night shoppers. For used cars, they want to know the asking price and ownership details. Throw in a few additional facts and figures, and more of those after-hours devotees are likely to saunter—lawfully—onto participating car lots in the dead of night.