R.L. Polk & Company

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R.L. Polk & Company
Acquired by IHS Inc.
FoundedDetroit, MI {1870}
FounderRalph Lane Polk
Area served
Key people
Stephen R. Polk
  • Chairman, President and CEO

Tim Rogers

  • President, Polk

Richard Raines

  • President, CARFAX

Michelle Goff

  • Senior Vice President/Chief Financial Officer

R. L. Polk & Company is a provider of automotive information and marketing solutions to the automotive industry, insurance companies, and related businesses.[1]

Polk was acquired by IHS Inc. on July 15, 2013 [2] and is based in Southfield, Michigan with operations in several countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Japan, China and Australia.[1]

Company history[edit]

Polk's Illinois State Gazetteer, 1880

R. L. Polk & Company was founded by Ralph Lane Polk in 1870 in Detroit, MI as a publisher of business directories. In 1872, the company first published a City Directory, for Evansville, Indiana, plus a listing of post offices in nine states. Additional directories followed in the ensuing years as the business grew.[3] claiming 1000 directories by 1960.[4] Affiliates included the Polk-Husted Directory Co. of Oakland, California.[5] In addition to city directories, the company published bank directories.

In 1907, R.L. Polk & Co. was publishing a "Gazetteer" Business directory for the State of Michigan and Windsor and Walkerville Ontario, as well as gazetteers for Alaska, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Illinois, Oklahoma, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Washington State, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.[6]

In 1921, a conversation between Ralph Lane Polk II and Alfred P. Sloan (who later became president of General Motors) helped fuel R. L. Polk & Company's entry into the automotive industry. During the conversation, Sloan asked Polk to impartially tabulate and publish statistical information on cars and trucks in operation. R.L. Polk & Company launched its motor vehicle statistical operations in 1922, when the first car registration reports were published.[7] In 1922, R.L. Polk & Co. published its first Passenger Car Registration Report, covering 58 makes and accounting for 9.2 million passenger automobiles on America's highways.

From 1951 to 1958, the company pioneered the use of electronic punch card tabulating equipment. In 1956, Polk's reporting services included monthly statistics on boats, business aircraft, motorcycles, commercial trailers, and recreational vehicles. In 1976, the National Vehicle Population Profile (NVPP) was introduced.


In 1993, Polk combined their Canadian activities with Blackburn Marketing Services to form Blackburn / Polk Marketing Services Inc. (BPMSI). Polk also acquired a 35% interest in CARFAX from Blackburn Marketing Services. In 1995, Polk entered an alliance with Marketing Systems GmBH and acquired a substantial minority interest in The Ultimate Perspective (T.U.P).

In 1996, Polk completed acquisition of the Blackburn / Polk operations and renamed it Polk Canada Marketing Services Inc. (PCMSI). This acquisition unified and strengthened their North American operations in Polk's strategy to be a global information services provider. They also announced their first Automotive Loyalty Award winners.

In 1997, Polk acquired the MSS division of Automatic Data Processing's European Operations.

In 1999, Polk completed acquisition of CARFAX and sold Advertising Unlimited, Inc. to Norwood Promotional Products.

2000 and Beyond[edit]

In 2000, Polk sells its Consumer Information Solutions (CIS) business units Direct Marketing, Data Information Services / Polk Verity, City Directory, and the Compusearch and Prospects Unlimited units of Polk Canada to Equifax.

Polk launches Garage Predictors and Polk Canada, Inc. announces Polk Canada Net. Polk also completes its acquisition of Marketing Systems Group.

Ralph Lane Polk II is inducted into the prestigious Automotive Hall of Fame (AHF) located in Dearborn, Michigan in 2001. Stephen R. Polk is also a part of the AHF as a director[8] and R. L. Polk & Co. is also considered a Sapphire Level Supporter.[9]

In 2002, Polk launches the Polk Vehicle Lifecycle System and the Polk Cross Sell is introduced.

Also in 2002, Ralph Lane Polk II is inducted into The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Hall of Fame, the highest professional honor in direct and interactive marketing. DMA inducts into "The Hall of Fame" as many as four individuals each year for the significant impact these leaders have had on the growth of the direct and interactive process.[10]

In 2003, PolkInsight is launched. Polk Total Market Predictor (Polk TMP) is also introduced.

In 2004, R. L. Polk & Company launches Polk Cross Sell Report and RLPTechnologies, a new wholly owned subsidiary, is established. Also, The Software Engineering Institute (SEI) awards R. L. Polk & Company with a Level II Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI) rating.

In 2005, R. L. Polk & Company introduces the Polk Inventory Efficiency Award. The Polk Inventory Efficiency Award recognizes and rewards outstanding aftermarket companies for process improvements relative to inventory efficiency.[11]

In 2007, R. L. Polk & Co. acquire a majority interest in ROADTODATA, a rapidly growing supplier of automotive price and specifications data.[12]

In 2010, R. L. Polk & Company partners with Citytwist.[13]

In 2013, IHS, Inc announced a $1.4B purchase of R.L. Polk.[14]

The company's business-to-business marketing services include PolkInsight, the National Vehicle Population Profile (NVPP), Blackburn / Polk Marketing Services Inc. (BPMSI), Polk Dealer Marketing Manager,[15] The Ultimate Perspective (T.U.P), Polk Canada Net, Polk Vehicle Lifecycle System, Polk CrossSell Reports,[16] and Polk Total Market Predictor (Polk TMP).[citation needed]


The Polk Company announced on August 2, 1999 that it had completed acquisition of Carfax. Polk had previously owned 35 percent of Carfax, in partnership with the Blackburn Group, Inc., of London, Ontario, Canada, and has now acquired the remaining 65 percent.[17] Carfax compiles vehicle histories from various sources, with about 75 percent of the information coming from Polk data. Using the vehicle identification number (VIN), each history provides potential buyers with all available facts about a used car being considered for purchase. This may include original use of the vehicle odometer records, number of owners, and other items that might affect a purchase decision.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b R. L. Polk & Company :: Our Company :: Who We Are :: Index Retrieved on 10/31/08 Archived July 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ http://press.ihs.com/press-release/corporate-financial/ihs-completes-acquisition-rl-polk-co
  3. ^ R.L. Polk : Heritage Archived December 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Polk's Abilene (Taylor County, Texas) City Directory, 1960. R. L. Polk & Co. 1960. p. 7. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  5. ^ Polk's San Jose City and Santa Clara County Directory. 1907.
  6. ^ Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory (1907-1908 ed.). Detroit: R.L. Polk & Co. 1907. p. 2. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  7. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20071116145915/http://www.salesforce.com/customers/business-services/case-studies/rlpolk.jsp Retrieved on 11/4/08
  8. ^ http://ias.net/ahof/v1n3/ Retrieved on 11/5/08
  9. ^ http://ias.net/ahof/v1n3/ Retrieved 11/5/08
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-14. Retrieved 2008-11-04. Retrieved on 11/4/08
  11. ^ https://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS147801+21-May-2008+PRN20080521 Retrieved 11/14/08
  12. ^ http://japan.polk.com/News/LatestNews/R.+L.+Polk+and+ROADTODATA+Merge.htm Retrieved 12/26/08
  13. ^ https://www.ihs.com/Customer/citytwist-auto-excellence-award.html
  14. ^ http://www.mlive.com/auto/index.ssf/2013/06/information_company_ihs_to_pur.html
  15. ^ http://google.com/search?q=cache:2uEMeAtCgckJ:findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6674/is_/ai_n26650183+polk+and+Marketing+Systems+GmBH&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=us Retrieved on 11/4/08
  16. ^ http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/01-27-2004/0002097303&EDATE= Retrieved on 11/4/08
  17. ^ a b http://www.theautochannel.com/articles/press/date/19990802/press027618.html Retrieved 11/7/08

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]