The Industry's Leading Source For F&I, Sales And Technology

Special Finance®

Clicking Into a New Reality

November 2010, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Gregory Arroyo - Also by this author

The incoming chairman for the national dealer group reflected on the last 20 or so months for the industry and the still bumpy road ahead. The F&I provider urged the industry to address changing consumer shopping habits, while the dealer group executive talked about how his organization is trying to do just that.

The three keynote speakers at this year’s F&I Conference and Expo — Stephen Wade, incoming chairman of the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA), Forrest Heathcott, president of JM&A Group, and Kevin Westfall, senior vice president of operations for AutoNation — took different angles, but ended their addresses on the same note.

“You think it’s time for a change, or at least time to sell in a more progressive fashion?” Heathcott asked. “So, how do we adapt to this new economy and the generational changes ahead of us? Well, it’s quite obvious to me that the next step is ours.”

Joining the Online Frenzy

The change Heathcott was referring to is driven by sites such as eBay, Amazon, Zappos and iTunes. What each company has in common, he said, is they all have learned how to take the money.

“If you’ve ever made an Apple purchase, you know for a fact, these folks know how to take the money, both online and in the stores,” he said, noting how all in-store sales associates can take credit card payments on the spot. “Our customer service and online user experience is really moving forward and will continue to [do so] at breakneck speeds, but we’re still way behind in taking money.”

Heathcott listed out three principles he believes will move the industry forward: First, the industry needs to break down the barrier between itself and the 82 million members making up Generation Y. He also thinks dealers need to make buying — not just shopping — a fun, social, online experience. Lastly, he said, the industry needs to expand its marketing efforts beyond traditional advertising mediums to reach the 77 percent of new-car buyers who have turned to the Internet to do their shopping.

“If we’re planning on fishing where the fish are, we’re going to have to expand the number of fishing poles,” Heathcott said.

A major hurdle is the fact that the industry has regulated itself into a “big dinosaur” in the minds of consumers. “We put ourselves in a legislative quagmire that inhibits us from delivering our products the way the customer desires to buy them,” Heathcott said.

Your Comment

Please note that comments may be moderated. 
Leave this field empty:
Your Name:  
Your Email: