Workforce triples to 70
PETALUMA — A year and a half after doubling the size of its Petaluma facility, a 5-year-old company that is helping the California automobile industry roll toward fast, onsite issuance of valid Department of Motor Vehicles documents again is doubling in size at its Petaluma hub of operations and a new Southern California facility.
The expansion comes as revenues for AVRS (707-981-8604, avrs.com), or Automated Vehicle Registration Services, have doubled in the past 18 months, and the workforce nearly tripled. Driving this is a mid-2012 statewide mandate to cut paperwork and streamline processing for registration cards and stickers as well as plates.
AVRS in the next two months plans to move into 19,883 square feet of office and warehouse space at 1125 N. McDowell Blvd., adding to the 16,300 square feet the company already occupies at 1137 N. McDowell. And by the middle of this month, the company intends to open an office in the southeast Los Angeles suburb of Tustin.
“We already have a good-sized team in Southern California working remotely, mostly in our customers’ offices daily,” said Mark Kithcart, vice president. “Having a centralized location for administrative activities and a training center is the reason for having a physical location.
AVRS has had a hands-on training center in Petaluma since expanding to 1137 N. McDowell early last year. This allows the company to train employees from hundreds of vehicle dealerships and other customers on the software.
The new Petaluma location adds warehouse space for license plate-fulfillment services and a new technical support call center.
The workforce has grown from 24 early last year to 45 just two months ago and about 70 now, Mr. Kithcart said. More than three-quarters of the new jobs have been in Petaluma, which also handles the inventorying of license plates and any paper DMV documents.
Warehouse staff match registration cards and stickers to plates before putting them in the mail to vehicle owners within 24 hours of receiving the information from customers. But as AVRS expands to more dealerships and prepares for a future launch in other states, that plate-matching system is getting automated with a patent-pending and DMV-approved machinery, Mr. Kithcart said.
Also getting help as AVRS grows is the document-audit team, who check for errors before data from customers is sent to the DMV. The company is developing patent-pending software to automate much of that error-checking, he said.
The company has more than a dozen open positions now, and those opportunities may be an ongoing as the company grows, Mr. Kithcart said.
AVRS started and first released its software in 2010 to help qualified automobile dealerships and other companies join the DMV’s Business Partner Automation, or BPA, program. The following year, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1215. It mandated use of electronic vehicle lien and title, or ELT, documents starting July 2012, and it became illegal to sell vehicles otherwise that October. Part of that requirement is a report from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, established by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009.
In the estimated $100 million California market for DMV digital registrations, AVRS is one of five “first-line service providers” the department has approved to handle DMV data from “second-line service providers” in the program, such as vehicle sales, rental or leasing companies. The DMV requires BPA participants to have an error rate in submissions of less than 3 percent.
Of AVRS’ three top competitors, two operate in other states and all three are at least a decade older. AVRS said it became the BPA first-line provider with the most customers as of June. Customers include new- and used-car franchises and dealerships, credit unions, insurance agencies and financial institutions that need electronic vehicle registration.
California is the largest market nationwide for vehicle sales and registration renewals and has the most complex rules for vehicle documentation, Mr. Kithcart said. Though AVRS in early 2013 said it planned to expand into other states this year, that timetable is less rigid now as the company scales up its infrastructure.
“If you can make it in California, the chances you can make it elsewhere are OK,” Mr. Kithcart said.
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