Key Throwers Darling

The smartphone as a car key is common practice in carsharing. The advantage: the key can be handed over digitally. With the flinkey-Box, garages can offer their customers a similar service - without expensive conversions.

You are in a hurry, avoid personal contact or simply have working hours that do not match the opening hours of the garage: The clientele of the notorious and spontaneous key throwers has always existed, and if you believe the voices from the industry, their number increases. If the customers come back on their own, the case is closed. But what if someone wants a replacement vehicle and none of the staff is there?

One way to ensure mobility despite locked workshop doors is offered by the independent workshop Restemeier from Osnabrück. They have been using the flinkey-Box for a good three months now to make their replacement cars accessible at any time. In combination with the app the box makes the car key digital. For this purpose, the radio key is placed in a black box that remains in the car. No complex installation work is necessary - it is simply placed in the car. The trigger for unlocking and locking is the customer's smartphone connected via bluetooth. A mechanical button then presses the corresponding button on the key. It is important to note that one box is required for each type of car key, as the mechanics inside are designed exactly for this type. Boxes are available for many of the most common key types.

For locking and unlocking to work, the workshop must first set the time period during which the box can be opened by the customer. Afterwards, the link to the app and to activate access is simply sent to the customer. The Restemeier employees carry out the configuration conveniently via the company iPad. If the integrated battery of the box - which according to the flinkey supplier WITTE Digital should last about three weeks - is empty, it can be connected to the cigarette lighter. If the vehicle also has a keyless go system, the key can also remain in the box and does not have to be removed to start it. "Our opening hours are not suitable for every customer," says Managing Director Maximilian Stein. Especially for the "key throwers", the box offers real added value, which is readily accepted. In addition, this free service distinguishes the company from its competitors. "The customer notices that we can respond flexibly to his wishes," Stein emphasizes. He was particularly impressed by the simple commissioning and the low purchase costs for the box, which his workshop purchased at end user prices.

Weller Group piloted

The Weller Group would also like to try out the box in one of its plants in the near future. Shannon Hellmann, head of digital development at the retail group, is the person in charge of the project. Initially, he wants to equip the workshop replacement vehicles with the system. "Before the introduction, there were a number of scenarios to be clarified with our legal and insurance departments," says Hellmann. For example, the insurance company had to agree that the key could remain in the car and that this was not done negligently. "Since the box counts as a key safe, however, this was done relatively quickly," he says.

We are still discussing with the insurance company what should happen in the event of a hacked box. A spokesman for WITTE Digital assures that the system meets the current security standards and that an attack would be very costly. Also regarding the contract of use for the replacement vehicle, it had to be clarified in advance how the customer would agree to the contract, as he would not come by to sign it. "In future, he will give his consent via the usage agreement for the app," explains Hellmann. If the system survives the pilot phase, it will be rolled out in the companies.

When that time comes, the group wants to offer a Weller-branded app for the system. This should be possible without problems via interfaces provided by the flinkey operators. 

Get creative

Hellman has also already thought about the use beyond the management of replacement cars. He could imagine using the system to manage his own vehicle fleet - for example, for a trainee car - or for certain marketing campaigns. "You can be very creative here," says Hellmann. He is also considering using the system for the hollow and delivery service, but still has reservations about whether it would be possible to use it for personal customer contact.


Source: Jakob Schreiner, kfz-betrieb 29-30/2019