Partner Interview

Fueling the Future: An In-Depth Interview with Car IQ

In this executive-level interview, Assured Telematics sat down with Sterling Pratz, CEO of Car IQ to discuss digital fleet fuel management technology, the value of their partnership, and the tangible benefits they provide to fleet managers striving for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.


The Interview

Thank you for your participation in today's partner interview! We're really excited to have the opportunity to speak with you to learn about how Car IQ is reshaping the landscape of fleet fuel payment management. Let's kick things off by learning more about Car IQ:

We've developed a payment network for cars that uses vehicle data to enable the car to connect directly to merchants and pay without using a credit card. More specifically, to your question, we've invented a way to scan the vehicle's data points inside the car.

Imagine there are thousands of data points inside the vehicle. We scan those, and we use those to create a unique ID, and then that unique ID enables us to communicate both with the bank for its source of funds, but also to turn on the pump or enable that vehicle to go over a tolling gantry and pay for the toll, or pay for parking or pay for service and repair. So all of those things are all aspects of how we use vehicle data to create a unique ID and then allow that vehicle to transact on its own.

This was a few months ago. It's still a new relationship, but it's a growing relationship. It's one that I personally find very important because it is very similar to how I'm thinking about payment strategies and what we can do more to support drivers and efficiencies. ATI is thinking the same way, so it's really kind of like a really nice marriage between the two of us.

You guys [Assured Telemartics] have that data that really helps us see into the vehicle, and then we take that and give contextual information about it and say - hey, not only is this vehicle driving this far, this many miles per day, we can now share what it spends when it's on the drive, here's where it stops on the drive and when it stops. Here's what the activities are when it stops. This has been, to me, a really wonderful relationship.

Frank really is the one who helped us think about this, to be honest. Frank came and said, well, I've got this problem - the finance department thinks that telematics is expensive and they want to know more than just mileage and information like that. I was on the other end saying, well, our customers in the CFO's office want to know more than just expenditures like what a credit card gives them.

So as soon as you put the two together, all of a sudden now everybody has visibility into the odometer, miles per gallon, and what was spent. It justifies both categories and our two categories coming together help the customer have far more information in real time than they've ever had before. Not only are they making better decisions about their fleet - they have more visibility into their fleet, but they also simplify the management of their fleet.

Here's a good example. Now a customer can go into the ledger. They have one ledger for all vehicle expenses, and they can say, because of the combination of ATI and Car IQ, they literally can go in now and say show me all the vehicles by make, model, and brand. Show me all the vehicles that recently spent. Show me all the vehicles that recently purchased fuel. Tell me what those expenses were. So imagine they can go in and just now by queries find all this information that they used to take days and days to find.

We had a customer who came to us and said, well, I got all that information with my credit card because when they give me the credit card, they associate it with a VIN number. I just pair those two up. Well, guess what? We got a hold of all those bills…there's tens of thousands of them. And we scanned them and figured out they aren't doing that. Typically, a credit card travels between four and maybe five vehicles over its lifetime.

When that vehicle purchases, they have no idea which vehicle is purchasing. They don't have the real Odometer rating when they purchase because the driver doesn't put in the right information. All they know is one driver purchased fuel and it went into one of their vehicles. But, because of fraud, but they're not sure, and 12-15% of the time it probably went into some other vehicle. This is the kind of impact we make in a real world situation where people are using our product.

It’s definitely an evolution in payments. So again, when you use the vehicle data, you're really getting a view inside that car. You know everything about that vehicle now. So, imagine for the fleet operators today, the way they do it with cards is a great example. So maybe let's talk about today and then talk about how we do it differently.

Today when they use a fleet card for fuel, the driver has to swipe that card. They have to put in a pin number. Sometimes they put in the odometer, and oftentimes they don't put in the right odometer and that's it. And they then fuel up.

But what's important here is in that process, the fleet operator has very little visibility into the transaction. They don't actually know if the vehicle even needs fuel. They don't know when the vehicle is fueling until they receive a receipt. Most of the time the drivers don't put an accurate odometer in, so they don't know how many miles are on the car at the time. So therefore, they don't understand the miles per gallon and the effectiveness of the vehicle, which is a huge indicator for them.

Fast forward to us. It's a much different transaction. When that vehicle drives into that same gas station, it breaks a Geo-fence and we automatically scan that vehicle. We not only scan that vehicle, we see things like how many miles are on the car. We know the last 20 times it shopped, where it shopped, how much it purchased.

We know it shares a wallet, so we know it shopped between one fuel station versus another and how much it spent. But we also do something else that’s interesting. We give the fleet operator visibility into the vehicle itself and we say, hey, this car has a ten gallon tank. It has five gallons of gas in it. So we tell the bank and we tell the merchants of the gas station that this vehicle is going to buy five gallons of fuel.

And since we're attached to the fuel pump, we know it's $6 per gallon because you might be in California. Therefore it's a $30 maximum risk of transaction. And then what? We turn the pump on and these are things you can't do with a credit card today. You have zero visibility into the maximum risk. You don't actually know what it's going to purchase. You don't even know if that fuel went into that vehicle.

And then what's different is where the fleet operators are really excited about our product is as soon as they're done filling up the vehicle, we actually check back in and say, how much fuel did you receive? And we compare it to what the vehicle needed. Then that process of pre purchase information and post purchase information allows us to eliminate all fraud, chargebacks disputes, friendly fraud, which is a huge problem for fleet operators today, and enables them to close out the transaction with full transparency.

It's actually the largest problem in the industry. The current fuel card providers will tell you fraud is somewhere between 3-8% of the time. There's some leakage. As soon as we started testing with our vehicles, because we can actually see the fuel tank level, we started to know with certainty that actually it was a bigger number. Fraud is closer to 12% to 15%most of the time. So you can see why the CFOs really like our product, right?

Fuel cards are managed by fleet operators because they're distributing them to drivers. But the CFO and the accounting departments love our product because they have full visibility into what's really happening. When there's fraud 12-15% of the time, it’s happening in a couple of ways.

One is the traditional way that you see in movies, where they drive their own car behind the work car and they put fuel into it. They swipe one card, put fuel into the wrong vehicle, or we're also seeing in the field where they use their card and they give it to someone else and take cash for it and allow them to put fuel into a completely separate vehicle. Those things are happening today and the fleet operators are highly concerned, but they don't have enough visibility into it to know when it's happening until it's too late.

We have customers today that are using our platform to understand when their vehicles are purchasing and how long they're spending at service centers, gas stations, washing centers - you name it. Here's a good example: When I first started this company, I really thought fleet drivers would be very much like myself or anyone else, which is they're going to drive a vehicle until it has ten, maybe 15% of its fuel capacity left, and then they're going to refuel. But that's not the case. What we're learning, and the fleet operators really like this, is that we now see across our entire platform, that typically fleet vehicles fill up between 40 and 51% of its fuel level, and they typically fill up between 6:30 and 8:30 in the morning. That's a huge shift in how their fleet is being activated.

Then what's also interesting is the stops they're making - so now the fleet operator not only knows what time they purchase, they also know how long they're spending at each location, and then there's stops along the way.

They're now having this almost transparent view into the day in the life of a driver. That's becoming very important to to help them run their business, and manage their expenses on a daily basis. They're also looking at saying, hey, do I want to incentivize the driver for good driving behavior or performance? Since I know they're going to be at a certain station or a certain convenience store at seven in the morning, maybe I can just send them something for a free cup of coffee to say thank you. That's actually a use case that's starting to form out of it right now.

We have a very large pool company we work with on the East Coast with about a thousand vehicles. They're a great example. When they moved over to our platform, they could now calculate actual miles per gallon because they knew exactly how much fuel was in the vehicle, how much fuel went into the vehicle every time it fueled, and it automatically surfaced the real odometer reading.

The efficiencies are no longer just based on odometer readings and fuel efficiency; they now have the ability to eliminate fraud. Here's why that's important: when you take into account fraud and you add more fuel purchasing with a lower odometer number, you think your vehicles aren't as efficient as you think they are, right? So now suddenly you think this vehicle might only get maybe 11 miles to the gallon when it's really getting 15 miles to the gallon because you're simply purchasing more fuel. Now they're getting true visibility into what the real spend is, but also what the real odometer is and what the real miles per gallon is.

That's helping them in a couple of ways. We've had fleets saying, I'm using this information now to have a more informed decision process on how my vehicles are driving. I'm also now using this information when I should replace a vehicle with some other type of vehicle.

So now they're starting to use our data to make informed purchasing decisions - I don't need a Ford F-250, I only need a Ford F-150. This is a really important use case, and we're learning more and more about it now.

I would really highlight that we're finding it to be very powerful that you can now go into the CFO's office and the CIO's office and say, look, we're combining telematics with payment information so you can see a better share of wallet. You can align your trips to what was spent on that trip very directly. No more cumbersome assumptions and reconciliation. We can actually show it on a map now too, which is pretty cool.

What we're finding is that's a powerful story with the customer because a lot of customers feel they need to add a telematics device ... .they're about $100 each, and then I need to add a platform. That's really expensive. But now they're saying - wow, I'm really getting more use out of my telematics.

This is the one that excites me the most. In fact, I remember when I talked to Frank about it, it was one of the best conversations I've had in a long time, where we realized we could work together to add payments to telematics. It's changing the discussion at the customer level. It’s no longer a discussion with just the fleet operator; now the CFO and the accounting offices are seeing the value of telematics data because when it comes up to them. All of a sudden they see value in the fact that they can correlate the data. So things like how many miles the car is driven, what it's purchasing, and they can tie the two together in real time and put it into a single ledger. That's a game changer to them. For us, it's been valuable because we've always said vehicle data is a way to truly know how a car is spending.

But what was cool working with ATI is now our customers are also seeing another value point for putting telematics into their vehicle. Without it, they can't have these payment insights. It's kind of a one plus one equals three relationship, and our customers are telling us that on a regular basis.

Car IQ is without a doubt helping pioneer a more intelligent and streamlined approach to fueling business vehicles. The entire Assured Telematics team is enthusiastic about the partnership, driven by the collective goal to empower fleet managers in elevating their operational efficiency and realizing substantial cost reductions. We’re excited to see what’s next!

Thank you so much, Sterling, for sharing these insights, and we're really excited to continue working together.


About Car IQ Inc.

Founded in 2017, Car IQ® Inc. has created the first payment platform for vehicles that eliminates the need for physical credit cards and enables them to connect directly to merchants and transact securely. Using Car IQ Pay, vehicles automatically initiate and complete payments for services ranging from fueling, toll management and paid parking, EV charging, and more. Currently Car IQ Pay is accepted at over 25,000 fuel stations nationwide including Shell, Sunoco, Kum & Go, Circle K, Sinclair and more coming soon. For more information, visit www.gocariq.com

"Car IQ is without a doubt helping pioneer a more intelligent and streamlined approach to fueling business vehicles. The entire Assured Telematics team is enthusiastic about the partnership, driven by the collective goal to empower fleet managers in elevating their operational efficiency and realizing substantial cost reductions. We’re excited to see what’s next!"