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Speaking Millennial

The head of Ally Insurance offers a few thoughts on how the industry can drive a better connection with the ‘connected generation.

July 2013, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Tom Callahan

The largest age group ever seen in the U.S. is now emerging as a significant market presence. Millennials, or “Gen Y,” are 105 million people strong, and they bring with them a respectable buying power of nearly $900 billion annually.

This group will account for 25 percent of vehicle sales in 2013, and that number will increase to 40 percent in just 10 years.

This is also the most ethnically diverse age group in American history, but the challenges we will face with speaking their “language” will center on technology rather than dialect.

Here’s why: The Millennial generation is part of an “always on” culture, and they’re comfortable having overwhelming amounts of information at their fingertips because they’re fluent with the tools needed to sort through it.

Millennials don’t just like technology in their purchase process, they expect it. Companies that can adapt tools like a tablet to the F&I process will be able to speak the language of this audience. But before you rush to introduce new tools, take care to give some thought to how you execute your technology strategy. A paper menu simply scanned and thrown onto a smartphone or tablet won’t impress this generation. A well-executed experience makes a world of difference.

Ally is developing its own mobile solution for dealers that enhances the F&I experience while helping you to have a conversation in a language that is familiar to this group. Of course, streamlining the F&I sales presentation to speed up the process will please any generation of customer sitting across from you. Here are a few tips to consider as you look for an F&I provider to help you introduce a mobile tool into the F&I sales process:

  • Keep it fresh: As we all know, technology evolves at blinding speeds. Look for a provider that is committed to updating your F&I application regularly with new features.
  • Let the technology work for you: Make sure your technology provider has developed a package that works with your dealer management system. A fully integrated tablet app will contribute to reporting mechanisms and provide you with a comprehensive look at what’s going on in the F&I office.
  • Explore new approaches to the F&I transaction: Using tablet technology in the F&I transaction gives you the freedom to rethink how this part of the sale is traditionally approached. With a tablet, the finance manager no longer needs to sit across from the customer behind a desk. Instead, consider a round table where the finance manager sits next to the customer.

Remember, the more you can offer your customers a sense of empowerment and control over the sale, the higher their satisfaction will be. Your goal is to make the environment as friendly and open as possible. Breaking down the traditional barriers at the close of a sale is an important step in that direction.

Let’s be clear, speaking the same language through technology is certainly not a replacement for the time-proven expertise of a good finance manager. Technology in the hands of a skilled F&I salesperson will help empower the customer and create an immersive experience that helps illustrate the benefit of the products you’re selling, ultimately improving your CSI scores while building lasting relationships.

Given that Millennials have famously grown up surrounded by Internet-connected gadgets and technology, it’s no surprise that they rely heavily on the Internet to inform their decisions. But what you might not have guessed is that what we’re calling the “Millennial Advisory Board” is just as important.

This informal board is composed of partners or spouses; family members; friends; co-workers; and professional specialists, like realtors. When Millennials were asked what sources they consult before making big decisions on everything from buying a home or car to starting a career, research shows that the Millennial Advisory Board looms large. Getting a seat at this table means offering Millennials insights and perspective from your experience.

Look for ways to give Millennials face time with people who can guide their most important decisions. Receptions, live online chats with auto finance experts and exclusive events at retail locations are all tactics that can give Millennials the insights they want.

Wrapping our heads around the Millennial challenge can be intimidating to say the least, but with a comprehensive plan and the right support, I believe the industry can transform the vehicle purchase experience.  

Tom Callahan is the president of Ally Insurance. E-mail him at

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