There are few things worse than seeing a car’s “Check Engine” light come on. At best, one has not screwed a gas cap on tightly enough. At worst, something is slowly fusing all the pistons in your engine into a twisted metal mess. Until black smoke starts pouring from the hood the driver really has no way to be certain – and no one wants to be the person who called the auto club to have them tighten a gas cap.
Connect car start-up Zubie can help motorists with that problem – using a dongle-esque device that plugs into a car’s diagnostic port and connecting to the web, it can track all kinds of information about the car, including diagnostics, average speed and even where the vehicle has been (making it a blessing for both nervous parents of teenagers and equally nervous owners of operating fleets).
“We’re bringing a tremendous amount of transparency to the service side of vehicle ownership,” said Zubie Chief Executive Gary Tucker. “We’re demystifying that process for them and giving them the confidence to understand what’s going on inside their car.”
And Zubie would like to bring that transparency to the next level for the owners of vehicles and fleets of vehicles, making it possible for owners to not only know what’s wrong with their car but also how much they should expect to pay to fix it. To bring that into reality, the Minneapolis-based firm is inking a deal with RepairPal.
RepairPal generates quotes for common services and links motorists to nearby auto shops to get those services performed.
The deal, Tucker says, will do more than merely expand the capacity of the Zubie device: It will also give the firm a wider opportunity at scale by giving its technology wider exposure to car dealers and repair shops. Zubie does sell its devices directly to consumers, but its main distribution channel is B2B2C – businesses like insurance companies to buy them, giving them to clients in exchange for data about their driving habits.
Zubie’s value for car dealerships, Tucker notes, is that it gives service departments a chance to see what’s wrong with vehicles remotely — and call owners preemptively to arrange an appointment.
Zubie is not alone in the telematics market, and it is increasingly crowded with players big and small. Verizon is strongly pushing its Hum device and bought connected-car companies Fleetmatics and Telogis last year. Start-up competitor AtomicLabs was purchased for $115 million by SiriusXM.
“It’s starting to mature,” Tucker said. “By connecting your car to the Internet, you create access to all kinds of services that you’ve never had before, and many of those services are beginning to emerge now.”