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F&I Dealer of the Year

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Setting the Pace for 2008

January 2008, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Editorial Staff

There were several themes resonating with this year’s six Pacesetters. The growing number of nonprime customers was one, and the need to counsel these customers through the tough times was another.

For Jay Carley, Jr., whose Phoenix-based ABC Nissan was named a 2007 Pacesetter, being a customer-centric dealership is just the right way to do business. It’s also the reason why his dealership is one of the top 100 Nissan dealerships in customer satisfaction.

Also coming out of Arizona is Michael Crawford. His Peoria Kia dealership’s motto is: “Treat every customer like it’s the last customer of the day, no matter what their FICO score is.” It’s one of the reasons why his store is the top Kia dealership in Arizona.

In Oklahoma City, Mark Moore’s Bob Moore Auto Group is seeing growth in both sales and income. A big part of that is training, he says. Another reason is the dealership’s community involvement, which included collecting 9,473 lbs. of food for a food drive to help needy families.

For Greg Paul Anderson, finance manager for the Park Rapids, Minn.-based Thielen Motor Inc., today’s financially distressed consumer forced him to take action. Now local schools, women’s groups and other community organizations turn to him for credit counseling.

John Schenden’s process-driven dealership means F&I managers must greet customers on the show floor. It’s one of the reasons why he expects an 18- to 20-percent increase in revenue despite lower floor traffic at his Thornton, Colo.-based Pro Chrysler Jeep dealership.

In Pasadena, Texas, Carroll Smith says he doesn’t want any surprises when it comes to his Monument Chevrolet. This is one of the reasons for his hands-on approach to the dealership’s F&I operation.

As diverse as their stories are, all of this year’s Pacesetters have one thing in common: The commitment and resolve to do it the right way. Each will admit their imperfections, but all say they continually strive to raise the bar for regulatory compliance and ethical practices within their respective communities.

Come February at the National Automobile Dealers Association’s annual show, one will be chosen as the 2008 Dealer of the Year — not for the profits they generate, but for the work done to improve the image of the automotive financing industry.

ABC Nissan

JAY CARLEY, JR., PHOENIX, ARIZONA

NOMINATED BY DEALERTRACK

At ABC Nissan, Executive Manager Jay Carley, Jr. makes sure that the customer comes first, especially when it comes to his F&I operation. It’s one of the reasons why the Phoenix, Ariz.-based dealership is one of the top 100 Nissan dealerships when it comes to customer satisfaction.

“This is something we are extremely proud of,” said Carley, whose dealership was chosen as a 2007 Pacesetter. “For our volume that’s phenomenal.”

Despite the focus placed on customer satisfaction, the dealership still maintains a 71-percent acceptance rate for vehicle service contracts. One move Carley made was with respect to pay plans, which reward F&I managers for customer satisfaction rather than penetration rates.

“We pay less on aftermarket products and more on warranties,” Carley explained. “This is better for the customers, because they get more use out of warranties. I’d rather a customer have a warranty than a paint sealant.”

Carley views e-contracting as another way to improve the customer experience, which his dealership began adopting in the summer of 2006. The dealership’s motto ever since is: “eContracting — it’s a way of life.” Currently, about 70 percent of the dealership’s new-car business is handled through e-contracting. Carley said it comes down to dedication.

Carley’s dedication to customer satisfaction is matched only by his commitment to community service. His dealership’s involvement includes fundraisers for the Child Crisis Center, and an adopt-a-family program he does every Christmas season.

Peoria Kia

MICHAEL CRAWFORD, PEORIA, ARIZONA

NOMINATED BY AUTOMOTIVE DEALERSHIP INSTITUTE

At Peoria Kia, the company motto is simple: “Treat every customer like it’s the last customer of the day, no matter what their FICO score is.”

With more consumers slipping into higher-risk credit categories, finding ways to get subprime contracts bought is a top priority for the Peoria, Ariz.-based dealership. Michael Crawford, general manager and 20-percent owner of the dealership, said the key is training employees to understand a customer’s situation, as well as his or her needs.

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