It all began with a question from a customer.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, the phone rang at the office of a company called PassTime, maker of automobile anti-theft devices in Littleton, Colo. On the other end was a local car dealer who used PassTime’s devices to cut down on losses. He had financed a loan for a customer who had stopped making payments and wanted to know if PassTime’s device could be used to disable that car.
From this simple request, PassTime created its Automated Collection Technology (ACT) system and developed a new line of business in the process.
“For us, this turned into the idea of using technology to enforce payments and payment schedules,” said Chris Macheca, PassTime executive vice president of operations.
Today, PassTime’s ACT system is installed in the cars of credit-challenged consumers as a condition of the loan. The systems are used by thousands of “Buy Here Pay Here” automobile dealers as well as by many sub-prime lending institutions.
“Our product used to be considered a novelty. But today, it is a necessity in a sub-prime loan,” said Macheca. “You have to have something to protect yourself.”
PassTime’s ACT system alerts the consumer when a loan payment is due. If the consumer does not pay, the system can be used to disable the car, which is considered a last resort.
“Most of the consumers with our device are people who just need basic transportation to go to and from work,” said Stan Schwarz, founder and CEO at PassTime. “They need transportation to get to a job, which allows them to make payments on their loan, and improve their credit score. Our technology hopefully moves them down a path to improving their credit and life.”
PassTime’s ACT system relies on Verizon Wireless’ network to operate its device, which has allowed the company to expand its business and provide services to customers in rural areas.
“Verizon’s coverage across the country allows us to expand our offerings into places that we were not able to do so before,” said Schwarz. “Using the Verizon network allows us to expand the footprint of our business.”
Just as the company’s reach is increasing, PassTime hopes its offerings will continue to grow too as they find even more uses for its technology.
“Based on how people drive and where they go in their cars, there is so much more we can do,” said Macheca.