Motorheads flock to CarJam site as start-up takes off

Vehicle information site has two million page views in first six months

Motorheads as well as those with a professional interest in cars are flocking to CarJam, the spare-time brainchild of two security software specialists.

The online vehicle information search engine is the work of the general manager and the development manager of an Auckland-based, US-owned security software company who decided to use their spare time to start a new company. They declined to name the company.

Launched in May, CarJam has had 20-30% growth every month and now has around 50,000 unique visitors a month, says chief executive Paul Osborne. The site has had two million page views in just six months. “We were stunned by the interest in the site,” he says.

Anton Koukine, now CTO of CarJam and the main developer of the site, had been working on the idea for around a year before Osborne came on-board.

“There was an obvious gap in the market for this kind of operation compared with the business models of our competitors,” says Osborne.

Interest from the car community has been “massive”, he says.

CarJam serves dealers, car clubs and people who are buying and selling cars, as well as “motorheads” who are interested in the history of their own cars, says Osborne.

By entering a registration number, users get access to free vehicle information, such as licence, registration and warrant of fitness information and odometer history, as well as fuel efficiency and fuel costs for the particular car, based on historical fuel cost, efficiency and average daily kilometres, says Osborne.

Computerworld tested the site and, interestingly, found out that a friend’s car had had its odometer wound back a few years before he bought it.

For a fee, users can access a more detailed report, which includes ownership information, financial statements and any debts registered on the vehicle.

The information that makes up the CarJam reports comes from Land Transport New Zealand and the Ministry of Economic Development. LTNZ supplies the registration information, odometer readings, fuel efficiency and pollutant information for vehicles manufactured on or after 2000, and the MED provides fuel price figures, says Osborne.

The service has some privacy issues, but the company is aware of this, says Osborne. The Motor Vehicle Register (MVR) is a public register and, as such, LTNZ is obliged, under section 19 of the Transport (Vehicle and Driver Registration and Licensing) Act 1986, to provide access to the name and address of the current and previous owners of a vehicle, he says. However, as a policy, CarJam will only publish names of vehicle owners and the suburbs they live in, not their street addresses.

Another issue is incorrectly recorded vehicle details. If details are incorrect on the MVR, they can be corrected by sending an application to Land Transport New Zealand, says Osborne.

The site has been designed so it can also be accessed from mobile phone browsers, using XHTML/CSS. Osborne and Koukine would be interested in feedback on mobile browsing as they have found this to be a very “variable” experience depending on phone type, he says.

The pair plan to create a more specialised and personalised section for mobiles, with ease-of-use features for registered users.

The site also offers an XML feed to third-party developers wanting to integrate information from CarJam into their own site. There has already been “lots” of interest from developers, says Osborne.

“We are taking on board everyone’s requirements and [are] in the process of finalising the API [Application Programming Interface],” he says.

Osborne and Koukine work on the site at night — “when the children have gone to bed”, says Osborne. They aim to make the site self-sustaining, he says.

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