A national deal involving Springfield-based CellARide LLC has given the automotive technology firm an extra reason to celebrate 2020.
Company CEO and founder Josh Holstein said CellARide reached a partnership Jan. 3 with Itasca, Illinois-based nonprofit National Safety Council and its North American coalition partners – comprising several major automakers – for a vehicle recall concierge platform. CellARide’s proprietary platform, MyCarRecall, will be integrated into the national Check to Protect campaign, which encourages drivers to check the recall status of their vehicles and have open safety recalls repaired immediately.
Holstein declined to disclose terms of the deal, citing a nondisclosure agreement.
“Check to Protect does a good job to try and get the word out that you have a recall,” he said. “But there’s a missing link there with getting people to go and get them fixed. The integration of the MyCarRecall platform is that concierge approach to helping those people get to the dealership to get it repaired for free.”
Integration with the national program will be ongoing until an expected early spring launch, said Tom Musick, senior program manager with NSC.
“We’re excited about it,” Musick said, noting General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) joined the coalition this month for the safety campaign.
Other coalition partners are Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE: FCAU), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Toyota Motor North America Inc., Nissan North America Inc. and Volvo Car USA.
Discussions between CellARide, NSC and the coalition have been ongoing for nearly two years, Holstein said.
“These national discussions take awhile,” he said.
Holstein, a former officer with the Springfield Police Department, started CellARide in 2010 to provide car buyers more detailed information from sellers.
MyCarRecall, launched by CellARide in late 2017, engages vehicle owners to complete current and future recall repairs. It was initially called SnapVIN, Holstein said, but had a name change to MyCarRecall to incorporate license plate information into the platform. Originally, it only utilized vehicle identification numbers.
Utilizing their cellphone, users can photograph and text license plate or VIN data to a five-digit code number and instantly will receive a message of the vehicle’s recall information. Holstein said the system also notifies users of the nearest dealership to get repairs. The Check to Protect campaign will market MyCarRecall on a national level.
“The technology they have makes it a lot easier to check recall status on vehicles,” Musick said of the attraction of connecting with CellARide. “It’s a great opportunity to promote safety all over the country.”
Safety advocacy, including recall repairs, is the focus of the 1913-founded NSC. Musick said the Check to Protect campaign started in June 2017 as a response to the high level of recalls nationwide, with faulty airbags manufactured by Japanese auto parts company Takata Corp. drawing extensive attention.
“Sadly, safety recalls are par for the course these days,” Holstein said. “It’s not going away. Vehicle technology is just constantly evolving, and that’s going to keep these recalls front and center.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 53 million vehicles – one in four cars on the road – have unresolved safety recalls nationally. Missouri and Springfield are both below the national average at 18%, according to CarFax Inc. data.
Musick is hopeful the deal with CellARide will expand the number of recalls completed nationwide.
“People are starting to pay more attention to recalls. We did see an 8% year-over-year drop from 2018 to 2019,” Musick said of unresolved safety recalls. “That was cause for celebration.”
The NSC deal isn’t CellARide’s first national connection.
In 2017, the firm was approved for undisclosed terms as a national supplier for Toyota to implement its CarInfoToGo texting technology platform at Toyota events, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. CarInfoToGo texts information to potential buyers and sends demographic data to dealers. CellARide also had a pilot program in 2014 with GM, which ended a year later. The company remains a supplier for Toyota.
The firm employs three in Springfield, with six others working around the country.
“We’re a small team, which is good, because it allows us to be very agile in a world that is probably not as agile,” Holstein said. “It really benefits our client, the National Safety Council, to partner with a company like ours because we can kind of move with the trends and use technology to keep it relevant and moving forward.”
A year ago, CellARide had another reason to celebrate, as it reached the $1 million mark in investments secured. Holstein said the firm has attracted 29 investors since beginning nearly a decade ago.
“It was a big milestone,” he said of surpassing the investment threshold, adding capital was first raised in 2012. It now sits at $1.01 million.
Among its capital investors are public-private partnership Missouri Technology Corp., which invested $175,000, Jim Carr of Springfield-based Mayhem Development LLC, who’s invested $125,000 and St. Louis-based technology startup accelerator Capital Investors, which provided $50,000, according to SBJ archives.
Holstein said future possibilities for the company – an acquisition, going public or determining if the company is viable to stand on its own as a private venture – are all on the table at this time.
“If there was an opportunity that made sense to our investment team and the company as a whole to be acquired, we would without a doubt explore that,” he said, noting there are no active discussions. “This recall product, MyCarRecall, is what we see as the main future product of the company that will take us to that next level we’ve been looking for.”
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