How to Optimize Your Auto Dealership Operations with a Cloud-Connected Key Management System

It's essential for automotive dealerships and rental fleets to track car key activity, reduce unauthorized access, and cut down on the misplacement of keys. One of the most secure options to address all these needs is a Keycafe key management system. Keycafe is designed to control access to keys in a vehicle lot, servicing bay, or inspection shop.

Each key is secured in a Keycafe SmartBox IoT connected key locker system, and the key is attached to an anonymous NFC tracking chip. Dealership keys are accessed and returned only by pre-authorized individuals using a PIN code or other identification methods through a mobile app.

What Are Key Management Systems, and How Do They Work?

Key management systems track automotive keys' location, connecting it back to the person that last used or had access to them. This way, a dealership can identify when an automotive key is missing or misplaced, eliminating confusion and providing a clear picture of the key’s chain of custody.

Not only will this advanced car key control system save your staff time, but it also reduces your operating costs.

Keycafe already provides car key management for automotive dealerships around the world. Let's take a closer look at what dealership key control systems can do for you.

Different Types of Key Management Systems

It's essential for automotive dealerships and rental fleets to track key activity, reduce unauthorized access, cut down on the misplacement of keys, and improve customer satisfaction.

You know by now the importance of a salesperson's access to keys. The challenges of missing the excitement of a customer wanting to drive a car are long ranging. The proper organization, control, and management of keys are critical to the smooth operation of your auto dealership's sales and service departments. And wasting time searching for lost keys affects the entire dealership. So, what key management options do you have?

Keyboards and Cabinets

Particle board key storage boards may be the least expensive solution with regards to short-term costs. Keyboards have been around forever, and, at some time, they may have been a good solution to a need and can still be found by the welcome desk at many dealerships. However, today's consumers are unforgiving with their time and the potential to increase sales should be enough motivation to find a better solution. In addition, there is a lack of consistent control of the keys, and even with best efforts, users will break processes and misplace keys. The short-term cost quickly becomes an expensive problem with lost keys, missed test drives, lost sales, and poor customer experiences.

Car Lockboxes

This more expensive solution has been a staple for most dealerships. The vehicle keys are stored in relatively secure boxes on each vehicle. Access to the box requires a master key.

Recently, lockboxes have been the target of car thieves who easily open the boxes. Once opened, the cars are gone since there's no question of which car the key belongs to. Lockboxes also have no central location or administration control. If a key doesn't make it back to the box, there's no recorded history of who has the key and how long it's been gone. Costs can quickly add up.


Each key is secured in a Keycafe SmartBox IoT-connected key locker system, and the key is attached to an anonymous NFC tracking chip. Dealership keys are accessed and returned only by pre-authorized individuals using a PIN code or other identification methods through a secure mobile app.

What Are Keycafe’s Main Benefits?


With Keycafe's dealership key control, a dealership can track the location of keys, monitor activity, and reduce unauthorized access. Not only does this cut down costs, as referenced above, but it also shortens wait times. So, you can control and give access from any location.


Since the number of vehicle inventory varies, the number of keys used can also vary. Keycafe's modular design can accommodate different needs and grow as your inventory or service traffic grows.

There are two main categories of SmartBoxes: base stations and expansion units.

  • The base station includes an NFC scanner, touch screen, a fob bin, key bins, and a one-touch button. Every location has only one base station which communicates with the server.
  • As your inventory grows, you can add expansion units for extra capacity. Each expansion unit includes all the listed components but lacks the scanner and fob bin.
Custom Permissions

With Keycafe, you can set up key access permission by the department. For example, service departments will need access to cars that salespeople will never need. The same can be said for collision repair and detailing.

In addition, you may need to share a group of different keys with some people and a different group of keys with others. The Keycafe Groups feature allows you to create a subset of keys in your account and share it as if it were one key.

By default, all the keys you create are in the main group called All Keys. This group allows you to share all your keys with users you choose easily and on the fly.

API Automation

Leverage our extensive API to integrate Keycafe directly into your systems for DMS applications.

Accountability and Access History

There are times when someone may misplace the vehicle keys; at worst, the vehicle was damaged during service or on a test drive. But, unfortunately, no one knows who had the car at the time.

With Keycafe, the administrator can view the history of the key's pickups and drop-offs. Events are listed in chronological order with dates, times, and the type of event that occurred.

Keycafe Can Save Sales

Reputation (formerly says over half of prospective car buyers search online for reviews that help them select a dealership. They want to know that they will work with a trustworthy place that helps them with the second-largest purchase they'll make.

When they visit, the last thing a salesperson wants to do is come back to a customer and say they'll have to choose another car because they can't find the key to their dream car. Your sales process broke down, and the prospective customer may walk out, never to return. All because you couldn't locate a key. You'll probably find a negative review from them on Facebook or Yelp.

Now, you might say, "So what? Its one bad review." However, it only takes one negative review to lose sales from others who see the review. The truth is that youll need over 40 positive reviews to undo the damage of one negative review.

For example, one reviewer in a dealership one-star review said: "No effort was made to show the vehicle off, he knew nothing about the car, he didn't know how many he had in stock, he took us up to the second floor to show us the other car, and when we got there he realized that the car way downstairs, he never asked if we wanted to test drive it. But the kicker was when we asked to drive it, it took him 20 minutes to find the keys [while] my friend and I were left standing in the rain."

In a 2020 J.D. Power study, time spent at the dealership plays a considerable role in the overall customer experience. If you want to rate highly with your customers, you cant allow them to stand around while you search for the keys they need. Keycafe can effectively track dealership car key activity.

Keycafe Can Prevent Poor Customer Experiences

Of course, five-star customer service doesn't stop after the sale, and service departments also receive grades on the customer experience.

However, maybe you've had comments like the following:

"I arrived at the dealership at 6 p.m. to pick up my vehicle just to see that it was still parked out on the street where I had left it, and my keys in the drop box that was also unlocked! Very, very disappointed in this dealership!"

Preventing bad customer experiences like this from happening is essential. A Keycafe expansion unit can provide an excellent experience for your after-hours customer.

Keycafe Can Help With Everyday Problems

Customer complaints may be rare, but problems will come up in everyday activities with any dealership. Here are some common occurrences that lead to unnecessary expenses:

  • Lost keys
  • Monitoring countless vehicles
  • Unexplained damage
  • Unidentified mileage

Keycafe's car key management software's ability to track the keys always allows you to know where they are now and where they've been, so there are no more mysteries. Plus, with the IoT-connected key lockers, the tracking occurs in real-time as keys are accessed. You gain a positive ROI within a few months, while observing the time saving benefits instantly.

A typical car key replacement costs $50, and a remote transponder replacement will run you $200. So, preventing the loss of even one set of keys per month with Keycafe can save a dealership thousands of dollars a year.

When you factor in the cost of damaged vehicles, the expenses rise even further. Thankfully, Keycafe's car key control system allows you to minimize or eliminate these concerns. Our complete audit trail shows you who took out the keys for better accountability.

When integrated with Keycafe's technology, our key management system can even help reduce paperwork and offer a mobile solution that allows dealership employees to process physical key requests from their own mobile devices.

Why Keycafe?

We know you have many options for choosing dealer key management solutions, but our products offer unique qualities.

Key Audit Trail

Quickly track the history of all your keys coming in and out of the system.

24/7 Key Access

Your staff can access the keys 24/7 without the help of management.

Seamless Mobile App

Manage access to the keys from anywhere at any time of the day.

24/7 Customer Support

If you run into a problem, our systems are supported by global 24/7 customer support through a quick phone call or chat platform.

Modular Design

Our dealership key control systems can be expanded to hold hundreds of keys at once.

Constantly Connected

The MS3 series of SmartBoxes is enabled with WiFi and ethernet out of the box. For remote locations, a cellular conversion kit is available.

Battery Backup

If the power goes out, you can still access the keys.

Full API Automation

Use our app or yours to automate all key accesses.

Individual Compartments

Each set of keys is sealed individually to prevent unauthorized use.

How Our Car Key Management System Works

It's simple to get started with our car key control system.

  1. First, you will install the Keycafe SmartBox IoT-connected key locker system. Only 4 inches deep and wall-mounted, our equipment is compact and easy to adjust to your space.
  2. Each key gets assigned an anonymous NFC tracking chip. It's stored in an individual compartment of the steel IoT key locker.
  3. For contactless test drives or service pickup, assign the customer with one-time access. The customer receives a unique eight-digit code that allows them to retrieve the keys.
  4. For staff access, you can assign permissions for associated vehicles. Then, we provide an entire audit history to see who has accessed the keys and when.

Transparent Pricing

Keycafe doesn't require an appointment or personal information for you to know the initial and monthly costs. You can configure your system in minutes to your exact requirements and see how little you need to invest for a very tangible and fast return.

Request Your Free Demo Today

Stop losing keys, time, and customers and speed up your profits with the Keycafe key management system. Our team is ready to show you what makes Keycafe the best key management system in the market!

Sign up for an online demo today!

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Keycafe system protect against external security threats, like hacking or physical tampering?

Keycafe's latest MS5 Series SmartBoxes are built in Canada and designed with robust security measures in mind, both physical and digital. See Security for more details.

What kind of training or support does Keycafe offer to auto dealerships to ensure smooth integration and usage of the system?

Keycafe has a dedicated Customer Success team that offers comprehensive onboarding sessions for auto dealerships to ensure management and staff are well-equipped to take advantage of the system. In addition, an extensive Help Centre is regularly updated with the latest software features and instructions.

Are there any scalability options for dealerships that experience rapid growth or seasonal fluctuations in inventory?

The SmartBox key management system uses a modular design that allows key storage capacity to be added as needed. See SmartBox Specifications for details on models, capacities, and features.

Ready for smart key management?

Configure and purchase your smart key deployment in minutes. Our 24/7 support team will work with you to setup your solution and ensure its a success. If Keycafe is not the right fit for you business, you may return it for a fully refund for up to 45 days!

Customize your solution now

Ready for Smarter Key Management?
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