Interview with Mary Bartlett, VP of Business Development at Montway

June 14, 2024| Zach Klempf

In this episode of the Used Car Dealer Podcast, Zach interviews Mary Bartlett, Vice President of Business Development at Montway Auto Transport. They discuss Mary’s journey into the transportation space from automotive retail, the current state of automotive transport and logistics, and what makes Montway Auto Transport a leader in the industry. They also cover Montway's M.A.P. system and its impact on inventory and transportation management for dealerships.


Zach: Hello, Zach here and we have a great guest on the podcast today, Mary Bartlett, who is the Vice President of Business Development at Montway Auto Transport. Thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today.

Mary: Thanks, Zach. I'm excited to be here.

Zach: So, as an icebreaker for the audience, could you share your journey into the automotive industry?

Mary: Yeah. So, I started in the automotive industry almost 20 years ago. My entire career, I always joke that, you know, my parents probably thought we didn't send you to college to sell cars, but that's what I did. So it was kind of an accident, like a lot of people who end up in the industry. I got out of college and couldn't find a job. And so back then, Zach, we looked at the newspaper for a job. That's how old I am. And, you know, I'm looking at the newspaper and I'm seeing all of these dealers that are spending all of this money and, you know, putting their name in the newspaper.

Mary: So I went to a number of them and said I have a marketing background, a marketing degree. Give me your marketing budget, put together a media mix and if we sell cars, then you'll pay me a commission. And so, you know, back then marketing manager, marketing director wasn't a role that was really heard of in a dealership. Usually the GSM or the GM was doing all of that. So eventually one of them offered me a job full time to do their marketing. And we were having this big off-site sale, brought all the group's inventory together and I took it up. So all the sales people were busy and I sold my first car and I made more money in that car sale than I was making in a week doing marketing. And so from there, I was pretty hooked and have been in the industry since.
Mary: I was on the dealer side, the retail side for years and then in about 2010, switched to the vendor side, went to go work for Carfax, worked with individual dealerships, new cars and used car dealerships. Eventually went to go work with automotive dealer groups at our headquarters location. And then when I left, I was supporting a team that was calling on about 3800 automotive dealerships across the central United States. And I've been with Montway about 18 months.

Zach: Wow, really impressive background. From your vantage point since you've worked in retail, what are some of the most significant changes you've seen in the auto industry after leaving the retail side of the business as a GM and anything you miss about the retail side?
Mary: So much has changed since I've been out of the retail side. I would say the most recent since the pandemic, right? Is in inventory. Everyone talks about the inventory issues and we'll talk a little bit about how we can help there as far as sourcing, but how hard it is to go out and buy truckloads of used cars. It's just very hard anymore. But one of the things that I would say if I had to look back and learn what I would have done differently, I would say, when I was in retail is since, obviously I've been out of it, I've bought a number of new and used cars and serviced them and I did not do a great job of putting on my customer hat when I was running a store. You know, I never went to the customer facing websites. I would go to the dealer back-end websites and look at inventory and I really think that I would have put myself in the customer's shoes more.

Mary: You know, when you look at the top companies in the US and the world, right? I mean, they sell to customers the way that they want to be sold to, they make it convenient and easy. I mean, think of, look at Amazon, for example. And I think that, since the pandemic and today's customers are more educated than ever. And, you know, we, as vendors and I believe as dealers need to be really mindful of that and provide an experience that they want to buy. You know, I was at a conference a few weeks ago and I heard someone speaking say, customers don't buy cars, they buy experiences and that's just not true in the car business, that's in everything, right? Customers buy experiences.

Zach: Definitely agreed and, you know, digital retail and the pandemic definitely pushed that a little forward as well as like other brands, you know, outside the industry like Amazon and that, you know, consumer-focused experience. So I wanna talk a little bit about Montway, what makes them best in class for auto transport and what's really unique about them.
Mary: So I would say when I talked about sourcing inventory a little bit ago, Montway was built backwards, as I like to say. We were really built for like snowbirds, right? Moving your car from New Jersey to Florida. So one car at a time. And so when the pandemic hit, we were really in a unique situation because we had that carrier base and that network to move one car at a time. Two cars, three cars, right. I mean, we love truckloads and all day long, we'd love to move truckloads, but we are uniquely positioned. And I would say above anyone else in our industry for even the dealer. Now, that's having to go out and source cars across the country, you know, one, two, three cars at a time. The second thing I would say would be our people. So I was brought to Montway, like I said, 18 months ago to build a field sales team. And I have people across the country that are seasoned car people. They understand our dealers' pain points, they understand what it means to, you know, if that car takes one more day or, you know what that costs them in holding costs, you know, if it could cost them a sale. So they truly understand their pain points and I think are able to deliver a partnership and an experience for those dealer partners that's different than what they've had in the past.

Mary: And then the third thing would be our technology, which we, I'm sure we'll talk about in a little bit. But, you know, we provide some, it's the reason I came to Montway, a solution that I did not feel was out there. For dealers and dealer groups and that's our Montway Automated Portal.
Zach: So what are some of the biggest misconceptions about shipping cars or transportation companies in general from the auto industry kind of dealer view?
Mary: Well, it's a tough, it's tough. It's a tough business, right? But I think that probably some misconception could be around that, the self-serve model, you know, posting the vehicles yourself on a load board versus what we call a managed service, a broker experience, which is what Montway is, that that's much less expensive when it's really not. You know, when you take into account, with our portal, with our pricing, you're gonna get an on-demand real-time price, it's not gonna change based on the market condition today. When you look at that vehicle at the auction or yesterday and you buy it today or two days later, let's say that the load board increases 5000 loads, whatever. That price stays the same. So, you know, if you locked in real-time pricing, free technology to be able to track your shipments, the protection that we provide and constantly vetting our carriers and, you know, just in case something slips through the cracks, you know, Montway covers a $4 million umbrella policy that protects our dealerships and our dealer groups. Just in case something does happen, I mean, that's, you know, that's expensive. Claims management, we have an awesome claims team that turns around those claims quickly. You have a damaged vehicle sitting in the back of your lot. It's costing you $30 to $40 a day in holding cost.

So we wanna get that check cut to you quickly. We're very good at that versus one of your employees having to manage it because you posted it on the load board and tracked down that carrier. I would say, you know, I had a meeting with the dealer group a few months ago and the used car director was like, I wrote 155 checks. I signed 155 checks in the last three weeks for transportation. What? This guy is like a seasoned industry leader and you're spending time signing 155 checks. You just rob me one, you know, just give me one a month and we'd be happy. So it is a huge time savings. You know, our account management team working being in the background where, you know, your people that should be selling cars, desking deals are not on the phone with transporters and carriers all day long.

Zach: So, let's talk a little bit about technology. In Q1 2024, Montway issued a press release about new features for the dealership in its MAP system. What is the MAP system and how does it distinguish itself from other inventory transportation management systems?

Mary: So, MAP stands for Montway Automated Portal. And again, it's what got me excited to come even to talk to Montway. I had two previous colleagues that I'd worked with for over a decade at Carfax that had come to work here. And when one of them first showed me this portal, like I said, it is a solution that is needed for dealerships and dealer groups in a world where people don't have time to pick up the phone, they want a real-time quote. So the Montway Automated Portal is a solution for a single store all the way up to multi-store groups, right? So you're able to go in and, like I said, get a real-time quote that doesn't change. From there, you can book your transportation, you can upload your gate pass. So all of your documents are there when the vehicle is picked up, a pickup BOL is generated. All right there in that order, photo of the vehicle at pick up, delivery BOL when it's delivered, photos there within the portal. And then after that happens, an invoice is generated. So your office people can associate the cost of that transport to that unit, you know, in case you happen to sell the vehicle the same day it comes in, you pay the right commission. We don't expect you to send us a payment. Of course, it's just a convenience that you have the invoice right there and that stays in that invoice in that order even after it's archived. So if you have to go back and reference anything, it's not a stack of paper sitting on your desk or spreadsheets trying to figure out where this car is or what's happening with this car or did I even call and place this order? Did I even call and get someone going on this? You can copy and paste VINs and it auto-populates the information about the vehicle, all kinds of reporting that you can think of in regards to what you're paying for which lanes. But I think, well, I know for a decision maker at a headquarters location or platform location or even just a GM over two stores, they're quickly able to go in and see a roll-up report and dashboard in regards to all of their transportation and inventory and what's happening. So that sets us apart, you know, really having that roll-up experience for a decision maker. And, but really, you know, we're on a mission here to bring some transparency around transportation, something that I think has definitely been missing in the industry.

Zach: And then the MAP system, if you could go into more detail on how it helps dealer groups manage and reduce transportation costs across multi-rooftops, you know, maybe that's in the same city or different states, whatever the case may be.

Mary: Sure. So with a lot of our larger automotive dealer groups that we work with, we will pre-negotiate lanes. So, you know, what I mean by that is, you have a store that buys quite a bit of inventory in Michigan, right? Maybe it's Michigan to Dallas or Riverside to Denver. And we talk about that price ahead of time and we will preload that price in that portal. So they know they're gonna get that price every time they buy a vehicle from those particular lanes. And again, currently, you know, we're seeing record levels of loads on the load board right now. I mean, it's still snowbird season. It's been hanging around. I thought it'd be gone by now, but the way Easter fell, it's really kind of stuck around. So, you know, costs go up and they go down in this industry. And we don't, you know, we don't just consistently raise our dealers' price. We work with them as partners so it can give them more consistency on what they're paying overall.

Zach: And how do you see the future of automotive logistics and inventory management evolving and what role will Montway play in this new landscape?

Mary: So, I would love to see inventory management systems merge with brokers and not even there. You know, here's the thing, there are so many vehicles moving across the country. So many. Do I think Montway is the best broker out there? Of course, I work here, right? But a dealer inventory platform or solution that could and that will incorporate multi-vendor options, right? We do. We have a sister company, Ship.Cars, that actually hosts our technology and they do have a multi-vendor platform. It's called Load Mate Pro. And so if you're a dealer group that wants to use more than one broker, you can, you can put Montway and two other brokers or, you know, one of the biggest objections that we hear is, hey, I got a guy, I'm a Dallas dealer. I've got a guy that's been moving cars for me from Houston to Dallas for 20 years and they do a great job. That's great. Don't take that from him or her if they're doing a great job for you, there's more business for me out there. You know, let me look at getting your vehicles from, like I said, Michigan, Riverside, PA, wherever. But by using that multi-vendor solution that, you know, you could have Montway on there and the guy you've been using for 20 years. So, I see technology in this space already here. It's just getting dealers to implement it, you know, and use it at their stores and their groups.

Zach: So, kind of a comedic question, but what's one or two of your favorite stories of how Montway went above and beyond to help a dealer in a transportation ride or some sort of situation?

Mary: So, I had a couple, but one that stands out is, I have a rep in Houston, and we had just brought on this pretty big group and we were really excited. And it was our third move, I believe. And the third move happened to be moving a vehicle, actually a personal vehicle for one of the general managers that he had sold. And it was going a couple of thousand miles away. And our first carrier didn't show up when he was supposed to, supposed to be there at noon, didn't show up, didn't show up. It's six o'clock that evening and he tells us he's gonna be there. And so my rep and I decided we'd stay on that side of town, we wouldn't go on the other side of Houston until that vehicle was picked up. So we went to grab some dinner and while we are in there, the GM of the store calls us and says, hey, they picked up the vehicle. However, your driver hit one of my new cars pulling in. And so we're late and now we've damaged a new car, right? So, the vehicle gets loaded, he goes on his way. We let him know, hey, we will be in touch with you tomorrow because this GM wanted to go home. So we go get in our vehicle to drive to the other side of Houston.

And our vehicle that we were driving had been broken into. So it was just an all-around bad day. So we get in the car, we drive all the way across Houston—45 minutes in a broken-in vehicle—stole all of our stuff. So we had no computer or anything. But the next day, when that dealership opened at 8:00, at 8:30, 8:45, we were in the front doors. You gotta go back, right? You've got to go back and handle the problem with the dealer. And we did, and we made it right. And that's one thing about Montway is that we stand with our dealer partners. If we make a promise or something goes wrong, we're gonna figure it out, we're gonna make it right. And we did, and he sold his business with us today. Great partner.

So another one is, Thanksgiving this last year. It's the day before Thanksgiving. I have a dealer group we work with in South Texas, another South Texas dealer group, that had sold a truck to an influencer in California. And the carrier gets there and he can't fit the truck on his vehicle. So, I don't know if that was the reason why or not or he just wanted to go home and eat turkey. Either way, I had to get this vehicle to California. I'm on the phone with this dealer and, you know, my family is outside my office, and long and short of it, we hired a very expensive transport company to get it there. It was delivered on time, and the influencer was happy. Nobody was being talked about or blogged about or whatever happens these days. And again, that dealer is still a great partner of ours. But, you know, the key is you gotta go back, right? You gotta help your partner.

Zach: So to kind of close out the podcast, I wanted to ask you what's coming down the pipeline in 2024 for Montway as well as yourself.

Mary: Yeah, so I would say, I mean, we're gonna keep growing. Montway has been growing and growing and growing, especially over the last 5 to 6 years. And that's our plan, to keep growing, keep growing market share, you know, utilize the team that they've invested in, in myself and the team that I have across the country to use the partnerships and the knowledge that we have with automotive groups and dealers and used car dealers. Just to help Montway grow overall.

Zach: That's awesome. And Mary, really enjoyed having you on the podcast, especially hearing those stories about Montway. So, thanks so much for joining us.
Mary: Yeah, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it.ving us.

Tags: used car dealers automotive industry auto industry jeff martin auto industry trends used car market independent dealership

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