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Mad Marv

Stitch by Stitch

His Madness discovers parallels between his chosen profession and Mrs. Marv’s new hobby. His realization leads him to an old proverb that speaks to a major challenge facing the industry.

February 6, 2014

Mrs. Marv spent much of 2013 crocheting Afghan-style comforters to give as Christmas gifts to family. It was quite a task considering how many grandchildren we have. And these heirlooms were handmade with love, each one sporting its own unique pattern and color scheme. And by the gasps from those who received one, it was clear her work was breathtaking.

Crocheting is a slow and tedious process that demands close attention. That’s because every change in color or pattern requires a new stitch, and one false step in the process will unveil itself when the work is completed. That’s what happened when Mrs. Marv laid out one of her lovely pieces she’d been working on for days. To her trained eye, the pattern had an obvious flaw. That meant she had to figure out where things went wrong before she could unwind the stitch and correct the error.

What did your year look like when you laid out your 2013 numbers? Did you see any improvements? If you did, then give yourself a pat on the back. Did you spot any flaws? If you did, let’s figure out the cause.

See, when you’re reviewing last year’s performance, it is critical that you look beyond your per-copy average. Yes, our profit-per-vehicle-retailed (PVR) number is how we’re judged: it’s good for our pay plans and our psyche. But you need to delve into the components of that number. I’m talking about your product-per-unit count and your distribution of income. Those two metrics are what define a true F&I professional.

If you see flaws in those two areas, then you need to identify the cause. Was it product penetration on cash deals? Was it credit union or outside lien conversions? Maybe you need to improve your lender relationships. Whatever it was, you need to decide today if you’re going to settle for matching last year’s output, or if you’re going to do something that will take you to the next level.

Mrs. Marv’s new hobby also got me thinking about an old English proverb: A stitch in time saves nine. It simply means that a timely effort will prevent more work later. I thought the saying was appropriate given what our industry could face in 2014.

As we saw, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finally delivered on its warning regarding rate markups, ordering Ally to shell out $98 million for violating the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by charging more than 235,000 minority borrowers higher dealer markups than “similarly-situated” non-Hispanic borrowers. The news reminds us that we could lose dealer reserve and with it a significant portion of our portfolio. And there are some in our industry who believe the bureau has a few more arrows in its quiver, so you can bet finance sources are scrambling behind the scenes.

So what do I think? Well, I still maintain that rate participation isn’t going away. However, I do believe that indirect finance sources have a sharp eye on what is yet to come. So what does it all mean? Well, as I’ve written before, living on rate is like a stitch waiting to be unraveled. The focus of your F&I department should be on providing a world-class experience to customers. And to do that, you need a trove of value-added programs designed to enhance and protect their investment.

But the bureau’s targeting of rate markups isn’t the only reason you should want to break away from rate. With the credit market continuing to stabilize and advances returning to prerecession levels, it’s vital we put ourselves in position to take advantage. That means improving our skills through training and practice.

My expectation is that 2014 will be another banner year, and I expect to see the larger dealer groups getting smarter about capturing market share from their competitors. So if you’re at a small or medium-sized operation, you better be working on improving your skills. Hey, one missed opportunity to learn a new closing technique today could translate into tens of thousands of dollars in missed commission by the time December rolls around.

It’s clear Mrs. Marv’s new hobby had a big effect on me. I guess it’s the fact that one false move on her part could mean starting over again. It’s kind of like the razor-thin line we walk every day as we navigate the maze of legal compliance while trying to keep customers happy and deals profitable. With that said, let’s get to work on 2014. Good luck and keep closing.

Marv Eleazer is a finance manager at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].

Comments

  1. 1. Randy [ February 13, 2014 @ 02:37PM ]

    Great article Marv..............Been doing this as long as you have and still looking for new closing technique's.......any suggestions?.......I'm new car and lease about 80-85%..........when I read these articles in Automotive news where these auto groups are averaging 1300-1400 PVR.......I wonder what they are doing thats so different.........still willing to learn.....any ideas.............Buick GMC store...........75-100 units per mo

  2. 2. Mad Marv [ February 14, 2014 @ 03:31AM ]

    Smart lease protect/xcess wear depending on leasing provider,tire and wheel and appearance package.

  3. 3. Mad Marv [ February 14, 2014 @ 03:39AM ]

    Good Morning Randy and thanks for following along.
    You can bet groups with those numbers probably don't have the lease penetration your store does. It's been 15 years since I worked in a Buick store and a lot has changed so I asked some colleagues for their input.

    Gail-Smart Lease Protect...tire and wheel...DuPont Appearance Protect...Extended Maintenance (wrap the 24/24 out to match the lease term and miles)...etch...key

    Julie-Present a proper lease menu...maintenance, tire & wheel, key fob. All are well worth their cost, especially with leasing.

    Mick-GM is doing the cirst two years of maintenance, a 3 year maintenance wrap should be a cheap way to get penetration.

    Bob-Resistall (Enviro package) about 75% of my leases.

    Tony-When it comes to leases Buick you need to focus on ancillary products around the Buick customer. These customers typically are more conservative and they also believe in insurance, show how the ancillary products are essentially ensuring against possible losses in the future.

    Jeff-Smart lease protect/excess wear depending on leasing provider,tire and wheel and appearance package.

  4. 4. Mad Marv [ February 14, 2014 @ 06:23AM ]

    One more comment from another pro.

    Dina says-We have Buick-GMC Store and we are great with selling Paint/Fab, Tire/Wheel, and Key Replacement on the leases. If they purchase more miles, of course we push the wrap for the full term they plan on driving the vehicle. Our Tire and Wheel also includes Dent/Ding and Windshield Protection - called a 3 For 1.

  5. 5. Randy [ February 14, 2014 @ 09:31AM ]

    Good Morning Marv

    Thank you so much for the input. Would like some info on the maintence wrap from your colleagues as far as what's included and what they charge, and what kind of profit you can expect from this wrap. Also is a 400-600 PVR realistic for lease or no?

    Thanks again

    Randy

  6. 6. Mad Marv [ February 14, 2014 @ 12:07PM ]

    The maintenance wrap is basic. Oil changes and Tire rotation which is probably what the manufacturer is providing free so a time upgrade to match the lease term would work well. $100-150 profit on this item. This blog is public and we're drifting off into delicate matters so email me at [email protected] and we can chat in more detail about PVR.

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Author Bio

Marv Eleazer

Finance Director

Marv is no insider. He’s an actual F&I manager with more than 20 years of experience. Get his from-the-trenches take on the industry every month at fi-magazine.com.

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