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Time to Change the Message

The editor wonders what marketers hope to accomplish by bashing F&I and warns them not to bite the hand that pushes the buttons.

January 10, 2017

Did I miss the memo that said the best way to market your solution is to take shots at the people it is designed to help? Some use surveys to show dealers how much consumers hate a particular department. Others issue predictions about how much happier consumers will be once their solution is adopted.

Folks, this type of marketing is not helping. Yes, we journalists eat those studies up. They drive clicks to our websites, which makes us look great when our monthly web reports come in, and they fill our letters to the editor sections. But are they really driving up adoption?

My New Year’s resolution for marketers is this: Stop bashing the people who are going to be pushing the buttons on your solutions.

Take Drive Motors, whose founder, Aaron Krane, was on the cover of our December 2016 issue. The guy said all the right things when he spoke to my assistant editor, Eric Gandarilla. Then, 20 days after the issue hit the streets, Krane’s media rep sent me his 2017 predictions.

“Consumers who don’t like being ‘desked’ will spend less time inside the F&I manager’s office, especially as auto dealers sell more F&I products online — and fewer offline,” read one of Krane’s three predictions. “With more transparency and digital transactions, everyone wins. In a hassle-free environment, consumers will be more likely to self-upgrade.”

Was that really necessary?

Then there was eLEND Solutions’ 2016 Dealer Survey, which was issued in late November. The study concluded that transaction times at dealerships are improving, with only 25% (40% in 2014) of dealer respondents indicating that their transaction times exceeded three hours. And of the 79% of respondents who indicated that an ideal transaction takes less than two hours, 42% indicated they actually achieved those below two-hour transaction times.

“The culprits?” the study’s press release asks. “Dealers cited transition time from sales to F&I as the biggest slowdown and agreed that the time it takes to complete the F&I portion of the car-buying process is the biggest obstacle to CSI success.”

Conveniently, the study also offered the cure. “We believe that pulling credit sooner is a critical — and simple — step to streamlining the process and achieving better CSI and higher closing ratios,” company CEO Pete MacInnis states in the press release.

Prequalifying car buyers before they land on a vehicle is definitely a hot topic these days, so Pete does have a point. But saying that time spent waiting to get into F&I and time spent in the F&I office is the culprit is a tough pill to swallow for any F&I pro who has ever dealt with incomplete paperwork, misspelled names, and buyers who aren’t completely closed on the vehicle.

eLEND, by the way, offers a tool called ID Drive, which the study was designed to promote. It scans the customer’s driver’s license before the test drive, extracts their information, and loads it into the dealership’s CRM. It also automatically converts that scan into a consumer consented prequalification application so the dealer can put the buyer in the right vehicle and deal structure.

I’ve met Pete at our conferences, and I know he gets it. And I do believe his solution solves the main complaint F&I managers have about the sales and desk managers. Unfortunately, too many vendors have used studies like his to push their products. And, unfortunately, many of these studies identify problems that are really the result of bad sales management.

Lest we forget, the digital push has nothing to do with F&I and everything to do with the transition from what consumers do online to the dealer’s showroom process. But when vendors discovered that the best way to turn those leads into buyers was to tell them what their monthly payment will be, the F&I process became part of that solution. So, this isn’t about improving F&I product sales; it’s about capturing buyers.

And, no, I don’t believe I wield enough influence to get marketers to stop bashing F&I in order to sell their wares. But we may be able to get them to think about what they’re proposing. In other words, if you want dealers to buy into your vision of the future, you better start cozying up to the people who will be pushing the buttons. In the F&I department, that means showing some appreciation for the efforts of the most critical profit center in the dealership. 


  1. 1. Steven Jennings [ January 12, 2017 @ 07:01AM ]

    Masterfully written by someone who really gets it.

  2. 2. GP Anderson [ January 12, 2017 @ 08:40AM ]

    It's what we have been saying all along Greg. Thanks for always having our backs and fronts! I wonder if the Russia's hacked the percentages on the studies. Excellent piece.

  3. 3. Mad Marv [ January 13, 2017 @ 02:18PM ]

    It's refreshing and rare that an editor takes the time to TRULY understand the publication he oversees and you continue proving you understand what we're all about. By and large, most FIM's aren't resistant to progressive change that would make the job easier and improve CSI but we ARE resistant to any vendor trying to tamper with a proven and crucial process that we've already refined. Your spot on remark "the F&I office is the culprit is a tough pill to swallow for any F&I pro who has ever dealt with incomplete paperwork, misspelled names, and buyers who aren’t completely closed on the vehicle" is the definition of frustration in our world.

  4. 4. Dina Wilson [ January 24, 2017 @ 01:42PM ]

    Greg, thank you so much for the well-written article and for understanding who we are and what we do. I have heard the saying more than once that "no one likes change" but I believe as FIM's we embrace change as long as it is to help us improve in what we do and what we have done for many years. But we don't like it when someone wants to "change" a process that is tried and true. I am an F&I Director and have always taught my FIM's that if you are lacking in an area, go back and see what you were doing that made you successful. It is usually where they have tried to shortcut a process. We have a process that works and it works! Don't try and fix something or someone (FIM) that isn't broke.

  5. 5. Royce Townson [ January 26, 2017 @ 06:02AM ]

    Great Article !! I have said all along, that many of the tools we use that are passed down to us, are thought up by people who have never done what we do ! Thanks for understanding in this article, that we fight lots of odds over and over everyday to put , and keep, deals together ! Keep up the good work!

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