Being in the locksmith business is kinda like sitting on an inner tube in the middle of the ocean watching the swells roll up and down. One moment your floating along in the trough, then rising up to the crest and back down into the trough again. A roller coaster adventure of sorts with anticipation and disappointments. Some days as a locksmith it is a feast, while other days can be famine. You know the routine, up, down, up...down again with jobs, getting paid etc.
As a professional sitting in that inner tube, you try to take advantage of seeing the horizon as you reach the crest of the swells, since their presence sometimes indicate a storm off into the distance. Knowing how to navigate and to spot trends can prepare oneself for what may come next. A few years back the locksmith industry found themselves in the inner tube when it came to the serviceability of automobiles utilizing transponder technology. A big outcry could be heard from sea to sea of how stranded motorists could not be serviced "after hours" and were stranded because of the dealers grip on the service information, equipment, & keys.
So much was this concern for the "consumer" that a piece of legislation known as the Automotive Right to Repair Act was drafted, that was intended to support the vehicle owner and give them options such as choosing a local locksmith instead of a dealer for service. The impact of this potential legislation forced others to resolve the problems or face legislative compliance. The National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) Vehicle Security Committee (VSC) was born which comprised of a collection of locksmiths, organizations and automotive manufacturer reps. There was even a guy on it that was claiming to be the Executive Director of Communications for an organization that didn't even exist who was demanding that the locksmith could only use the products he represented. But that's another story!
Things eventually evolved which included the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) as being the "clearing house" or gateway for the locksmiths and others. In order for a locksmith to receive access to service information and key codes for automobile, they must be cleared by ALOA and pay some handsome fees to each manufacturers website. Please remember, the focus was supposed to be about consumer roadside assistance after hours, however, it was being intentionally molested by some who had other interests....in other words...follow the money.
I will spare you the underhanded activities surrounding what occurred during all these activities, but I can say that those who screwed with the original intent of the issue and introduced the demand for key codes spent no time looking at the horizon even when they were warned repeatedly of the oncoming storm they were floating the industry into.
Now today here comes OPENLANE, a company that runs the re-marketing programs for the OEM's, independent finance companies, regional banks and rental car companies. Their subsidiary known as Recovery Database Network are partnering with a company called KeyCode Pro to provide repossession subscribers the ability to order a key code within their software environment, providing a key code by VIN with the click of a button 24/7.
What's the big deal you ask? Well, let's consider a few things. Click the links!
OpenLane is a leading online auction company in North America for automotive dealers. Now the repo dealer will handle all phases of the vehicles recovered and essentially act as the service provider, storage facility and transportation. A sort of cradle to grave initiative - One Stop Recovery & Remarketing. Did I also mention, the repo agents act as the automotive locksmith? Recovery Industry Services Company has already established their Locksmith Training School and others also exist but now there is a coordinated agenda.
Years ago I wrote an article talking about the future of the automotive locksmiths which described the convergence of such things now occurring. The idea of the wholesale use of automotive key codes by those who meddled with it during the VSC & NASTF is about to come full circle and we will see the tsunami which others ignored and were warned about.
KeyCode Pro is also about to release a website as well which will also service the locksmiths. So with a simple Internet connection, a VIN number and a password, the user will receive a key code via email 24/7 from an interactive website at a cost far below the ALOA/NASTF gateway.
So how will this affect current independent key code services? Considering most have their own "connections", it would appear to be minimal, however the convergence and consolidation under OPENLANES software suite my draw a large volume of users away.
I don't think the local well rounded locksmiths who are truly servicing the consumer on a roadside call will suffer but the locksmiths who put their eggs in one basket with the dealers, auctions etc. and those who opened Pandora's key code box and colluded with each other during the NASTF VSC, most certainly will be affected.
For those "automotive guys" who once would obnoxiously say..."I'm NOT a Locksmith" as if it were a bad thing to really know about locksmithing.....what are ya gonna do now?
So it looks like the chickens have come home to roost with this interesting turn of events and once again the locksmiths will have to decide to "swim, sink - live or die" as they ride the waves.
Tom Lynch, CRL