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F&I Dealer of the Year

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Dealer of the Year

Go inside Tuttle-Click Automotive, the magazine's 2007 F&I Dealer of the Year.

April 2007, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Mara Lazdins - Also by this author

When told that his 12-store operation would be featured in the magazine’s April issue for being named F&I magazine’s 2007 Dealer of the Year, Jim Click responded with a question. He wanted to know if the other five finalists were getting their stories told as well. When told they were, he responded, “I’m glad to hear that. They deserve it.”

Click attracts attention the second he enters a room, matching his larger-than-life voice with an equally infectious laugh. He preaches doing it the right way. When asked why, he’ll talk about how it’s every dealer’s responsibility to do so. But he’ll also add that doing things the right way is a little self-serving.

“We’ve been here for 40 years, and I’ve built my family and built my life in this community,” says Click, CEO of Tuttle-Click Automotive Group and Jim Click Automotive Team. “I never want to walk into a place of business or any other establishment and ever have to be embarrassed in front of my family because someone was not taken care of in our dealership.”

Tuttle-Click Automotive was founded in 1946 after Click’s uncle, Holmes Tuttle, hitchhiked his way from Oklahoma City to California in 1923. It’s a story Click loves to tell. The first store his uncle opened, Click recalled, was called Holmes Tuttle Ford, which was located in Los Angeles. Today, the business has stores operating in Orange County, Calif., and Pima County, Ariz.

Jim Click’s operation is no stranger to accolades. Jim Click Ford has earned the Ford President’s Award several times, which a prestigious honor only a few have received. His business has also garnered Ford’s Blue Oval Certification, and he was once honored by former President Bill Clinton for his outstanding work in the community. Tuttle-Click Automotive also has the distinct honor of being the dealership of choice for former President Ronald Reagan.

Now Click can add F&I magazine’s Dealer of the Year award to its list — an honor that recognizes a part of the business that he’s worked diligently to perfect.

“He wants to make sure the customer has a great experience and that they receive quality protection for their money. I find that to be unique in the market,” says Will Babin, a trainer with SouthWest Dealer Services, which conducts compliance training for Tuttle-Click. “ He’s one of the dealers that will actually demand 100-percent perfect compliance while also expecting performance.”

The more you talk to Click and the people who know him, the more you realize that “doing it the right way” isn’t just some neatly prepared answer. Rather, it’s a mantra that he truly stands by, and one he made sure to emphasize during his acceptance speech at the magazine’s DealerTrack-sponsored F&I Dealer of the Year award presentation on Sunday, Feb. 4, at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show in Las Vegas.

Babin says Click seems to have what every dealer wants: good profitability, compliance, historically low turnover and minimal chargebacks. But there’s a good reason for that, Babin adds.

“Tuttle-Click had a cap on rates before California implemented a legal cap of 2.5 percent,” says Babin. “He’s always ahead of the curve, always developing and implementing policies before they become laws.”

Train at All Cost

Training is the key, as every F&I manager, sales manager and general manager at Tuttle-Click Automotive is required to obtain certification through the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals — a costly investment that demonstrates just how serious Click is about doing it the right way.

“When you present someone with a 200-question test, you’ll get a bit of resistance. But once (the AFIP Certification exam) was completed, everyone walked away saying it was a good experience,” says Babin.

In Click’s view, if you don’t have a good F&I department, you’re not going to have a very successful dealership. He demands that everything is disclosed to the customer and that they are 100-percent satisfied. Deals are audited to make sure no signature is missed, and each customer is asked to sign a pledge to ensure that he or she is aware of his or her rights.

Click admits that his business has been successful over the last 40 years, but notes that it could be twice as successful if everything was done right, every single time.

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