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July 2008, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Gregory Arroyo - Also by this author

This year will be my third F&I Conference and Expo. Whenever I talk about the two previous shows, I can’t help but tell the story about how one attendee at the 2006 show raised his hand during a compliance workshop and said, “I’m afraid to go back to my dealership.”

Now, I could put together a top 10 list of reasons why you should be at this year’s conference. But I think there’s really only one reason why you should be making arrangements to attend the magazine’s fifth annual F&I Conference and Expo.

The conference is scheduled for Sept. 16 and 17 at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Those dates alone are important because we should know by then what the F&I business will be like for the rest of the year. That’s right, we’ll know whether finance companies will tighten up even further, and whether dealers will be able to move a vehicle, let alone a vehicle service contract.

So why does that make attending our show so important? Well, because you’ll have a chance to meet, hear and talk to some of the leading finance experts in the industry. Yes, we’ll have our annual captive and non-captive finance roundtables, but the discussion shouldn’t stop there. Exchange a card or two, pull our panelists and workshop presenters aside and ask them some questions. That’s why we bring them to the show every year.

The value of any industry event is the ability to network with the rest of the industry. And hey, our conference was named one of the 50 fastest growing shows last year by Tradeshow Week magazine. So I think we know how to attract the industry’s movers and shakers.

This year’s show will be a little different, too. We’re bringing together four separate conferences into one location. There’ll be a conference dedicated to the magazine’s sister publication, Special Finance. We’re also staging a special show for our new Powersports F&I publication. We are also once again staging the Vehicle Service Contract Administrators Conference (VSCAC). Basically, anyone who is anyone in the F&I business is going to be there.

Now, I know I said there was only one reason for you to attend, but I do have a couple of other reasons why you should go. For instance, we are hosting two pre-show certification programs presented by the Center for International Retail Automotive Standards (CIRAS) and the Automotive Dealership Institute. One program will offer F&I certification and the other CSI certification.

And you should see the instructor lineup for the F&I Certification workshop. It includes CIRAS’ Dr. Robert Serum, Northwood University’s Dr. David Fry, Hudson Cook LLP’s Thomas Hudson and Emily Beck, ADI’s Arzu Algan, and Connection Insight’s Marguerite Watanabe.

Sandwiched in between both workshops is a special Red Flag Rule symposium. Now I know compliance isn’t what drives people to a conference, but I promise you this symposium is something you just can’t miss. Remember, the Red Flag Rule officially goes into play on Nov. 1. That’s why we gathered some of the top compliance experts in the industry, including AFIP’s David Robertson, gvo3 & Associates Gil Van Over, PatriotDealer.com’s J.R. Wilson, Mosaic’s Jim Ganther, and NXG Strategies’ Scott Smith to discuss the effects of this new rule.

There will be other compliance experts at the show to discuss other regulations governing the F&I office. I’m sure the Red Flag Rule will be a major topic of discussion during those presentations as well.

The show will kick off Tuesday at 1 p.m. with George Borst, Toyota Financial Services’ president and CEO. I heard Borst speak at the Vehicle Finance Conference last February. He didn’t mince words about the challenges we face. But after listening to him speak, I felt pretty confident the industry will survive this current downturn.

Also confirmed for our show is David Cole, chairman and CEO of The Warranty Group and chairman of Resource Automotive. He gave a great speech last year that really hit home. He addressed F&I product sales, but also made some very strong statements about why we need to continue to invest in technology.

But like I said before, the real magic will be taking place in our exhibit hall. I’m not talking about the masseuse station or the martini lounge, although you’ll probably find me roaming around those areas. I’m talking about the discussions taking place on the show floor. You know, the ones where dealers share with each other about new strategies they’ve implemented at their store.

In fact it was last year that I heard David Robertson talking to dealers about an inexpensive way for them to dispose of their customers’ nonpublic information (see our story on page 30).

Anyway, those are a few reasons why you should attend. I’ll see you on the show floor. I’ll be the guy running around with the camera.

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