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F&I Dealer of the Year

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Staying in Control

March 2009, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Kristen Force - Also by this author

The more one talks to the people behind the 14th largest dealer group in the nation and this year’s F&I Dealer of the Year, the more one understands why The Suburban Collection celebrated 60 years in business last year. It’s all about the X’s and O’s.

While recognizing the challenges ahead, Gary Allgeier, finance director for the Troy, Mich.-based dealer group, said the only thing the group is focused on is controlling what it can control.

“I sat through several dealer meetings with manufacturers at the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) convention and my takeaway was no one is going to plow the field for us,” he said. “We need to figure out our own destiny. And instead of relaxing the bar this year, we’re actually raising the standards so our processes get better.”

It’s that type of mindset that allowed the dealer group to celebrate its 60-year anniversary in November with the best year for sales, financial services, body shop, service, and parts. “There isn’t a department that didn’t hit a record,” said Allgeier.

Branding F&I the Suburban Way

The Suburban Collection started out as a single Oldsmobile dealership in Birmingham, Mich. Today, it has 30 brands and 43 locations throughout Michigan and south Florida, and touts the No. 1 Saturn and Volvo stores in the world.

And while the economic environment last year claimed dealers at an unprecedented pace, The Suburban Collection achieved same-store sales for all of 2008. Amazingly, it did this when leasing, which represented 70 percent of the dealership’s deals, fell out of favor.

The key was the dealer group’s ability to develop a cross-selling approach to accommodate all needs. If a new lease can’t be supported by the customer’s current brand, the dealer group is able to offer comparable vehicles from its other stores. According to Allgeier, it was the first time stores across the dealer group worked so closely to put deals together.

“We really work hard at branding the finance and lease contracts we originate to the point where lenders understand the customer and collateral are properly represented,” Allgeier said. “In fact, our relationships have gotten even stronger in the current economy. And we continue to ask for additional programs to differentiate ourselves in the market, and they’ve responded.”

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