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Peanuts, Popcorn, Connected Cars

Imagine, you are driving your car and the “check engine” light comes on. You need to call your dealer and schedule an appointment to have your car checked out and repaired. You make that call. You cannot expect your dealer to tell you – how long it will take to fix your car or how much it will cost. Your dealer, on the other hand, cannot tell – if they have a replacement part in stock or what type of mechanic will need to work on the car. Neither party knows what is wrong with a car.

What must happen now – you need to bring your car to dealer, they will electronically diagnose it and this will provide answers to questions above. The diagnostic information about the repair became available the instant your “check engine” light came on. So, why it could not make it to service center in real-time?


To answer this question, we will have to get little technical here. Exactly 20 years ago, all cars sold in US got a standard OBDII diagnostic interface, allowing electronic access to troubleshooting. By year 2001, European Union got onboard, and made the same interface mandatory for all gasoline cars sold in Europe and in 2003 added diesel engines to it. In year 2008, cars sold in US had to additionally comply with ISO signalling standard and that is when OBDII obtained the general form that it has today.

What does OBDII do? It allows an exchange of codes (PIDs) that have to do with car diagnostics.

Standard Codes

The majority of all OBDII PIDs in use are non-standard. For most modern vehicles, there are many more functions supported on the OBDII interface than are covered by the standard PIDs, and there is almost negligible overlap between vehicle manufacturers for these non-standard PIDs.

There is very limited information available in the public domain for non-standard PIDs. The primary source of information on non-standard PIDs across different manufacturers is maintained by the US-based Equipment and Tool Institute and only available to members. The price of ETI membership for access to scan codes starts from 7500$. However, even ETI membership will not provide full documentation for non-standard PIDs.

Naturally, people are trying to help themselves on the community level, for example, here is a good resource for OBDII related information. Hence we identified the problem: lack of ability to access automotive OEM diagnostics information by third parties, system developers and integrators.

Now, you may ask, how OEM manufacturers provide this data directly to the network of its Franchised Dealers? The answer is – they don’t.

Here we come to fundamental business issue in automotive retail. OEM manufacturers and their respective Franchised Dealers rarely manage to communicate their technical needs well.

Enter DMS

There is another major layer of IT systems between OEM and dealers – Dealership Management System(DMS). DMS is at the heart of dealer operations, including all service systems and data processing. So, car diagnostics data would ultimately have to end up in repair order (RO), located in dealer DMS.

In the USA, there are three main suppliers of DMS systems – Reynolds and ReynoldsCDK Global (ADP) and Dealertrack.

In order to do business through them with their customers (dealers) – companies have to get certified. Process may cost tens of thousands of dollars initially and thousands of dollars in subsequent monthly payments to keep the status.

DMS providers in US are powerful market players with business goals of their own. Bright example of that – is the feud between Reynolds and GM, back in 2008, when Reynolds sued GM in a contractual dispute, then pulled out of the Integrated Dealer Management System.

That forced 400 GM dealers to choose between staying with Reynolds and keeping their GM Franchise, by switching to another DMS provider within GM IT program.

In Europe situation is exaggerated by the fact, that there is a garden variety of DMS providers and OEM manufacturers need to be integrated with them all to cover their entire network of dealers.

The state of things is such, that OEMs reduce dealings with DMS providers to absolute minimum: integrating financial reporting, parts and car ordering systems and rarely get involved in other things. Some OEMs apparently recognize the bottleneck and attempt to address it.


There are number of approaches to Telediagnostics, but all of them represent a far cry from unlocking even a small fraction of unrealized business potential.

What do we suggest? We will speak about that another time.