LAS VEGAS – A top prize for dealer innovation goes to a Texas dealership for developing mobile technology that highlights vehicle inventory for after-hours lot browsers.

Marc McGurren, general manager of Durant Toyota in Weatherford, collects the $3,000 prize for the first-annual Dealer/Vendor Innovation Cup here at the Driving Sales Executive Summit, presented with WardsAuto.

In separate contests, five dealership and six vendor representatives presented their innovations to a panel of judges.

McGurren developed jerrysdirect.net with his store’s website provider. The system allows consumers to use their mobile devices to shop for specific cars they see on the dealership’s lot.

Affixed to vehicles is a sign saying, “Find out more about this car at jerrysdirect.net,” followed by an individual code number. Mobile users can punch in the code and get specific information about vehicles of interest.

“What we have always known is that once the lights to our dealership are turned off and the doors locked, customers come out of the woodwork to shop for a vehicle without being hassled by sales people,” McGurren says.

He sought a way to engage them on the spot. “I wanted the customer to get where they wanted with one click. No searching, no hunting. Just immediate results.”

The Cobalt Group put up the contest prize money. The four runners-up in the Dealer Innovation category each won $1,000. They are:

  • Marlboro Nissan, Marlboro, MA, for incorporating a marketing strategy using Facebook. The site is now one of the most visited for dealerships.
  • Gary Crossley Ford, Kansas City, MO, for developing a mobile-compatible customer-relationship management system, featuring targeted emails to sales and service customers.
  • Suburban Auto Collection, Troy, MI, for enhancing its search-results rankings by posting press releases for individual cars. “We asked, ‘Is there a better way to get on Google’s page one?’” says Internet Director Dan Boismier.
  • airdon Auto Group, Kirkland, WA, for landing a Fiat franchise from Chrysler Group LLC by creating a website touting the U.S.-bound Italian brand. “We wanted to make it very hard for them not to give us a franchise,” says Jon Sherrell, Rairdon’s e-commerce director.

Winner of the Innovation Cup in the vendor category is eCarList for its mobile-based True Inventory Management system.

Runners-up are Goso for a “dashboard” gauging a dealership’s social-media efforts; VinSolutions for both its VinLens customer-tracking system and website performance dashboard; Cobalt Group for a digital-advertising package; and ResponseLogix for developing content-rich email replies to car-shoppers’ inquiries.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com