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Updating F&I

Connecting F&I to the digital world was the talk at the annual dealer and lender conventions last month, and opinions varied on what the F&I office of the future will look like.

March 2012, F&I and Showroom - Cover Story

by Gregory Arroyo - Also by this author

Reynolds and Reynolds Co.’s updated docuPAD boasts a crisper, 32-inch screen and now sits on top of the F&I manager’s desk. The company had piloted the reconfigured design at AutoNation stores in Florida, Georgia and Texas. The system is now available in all 50 states.
Reynolds and Reynolds Co.’s updated docuPAD boasts a crisper, 32-inch screen and now sits on top of the F&I manager’s desk. The company had piloted the reconfigured design at AutoNation stores in Florida, Georgia and Texas. The system is now available in all 50 states.
There was more optimism than caution resonating through the Las Vegas Convention Center last month, when the industry converged for its annual get-together. It was clear dealers and finance sources were ready to ditch the tired storyline of adversity and survival to focus on establishing a better connection to today’s Internet shopper and the coming-of-age generations.

Marketing and merchandising online were top of mind, but the F&I office’s place in the Internet age was a discussion point on the show floor of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA)’s annual conference, as well as inside Caesars Palace at the annual lender convention. And opinions varied from booth to booth, dealer to dealer and from lender to lender.

“There is a much greater awareness and acceptance of digital media,” said Pat McPherson, director of strategic accounts for RouteOne, which displayed mobile versions of its deal and lead management tools. “They were always reluctant to adopt and I think they’ve come to a point where they realize they can’t wait anymore, and we’re having some good discussions with our dealers on what the future will look like.”

On the Show Floor

Running on the big screen inside the DealerTrack booth was a demo of the company’s new DealerTrack Mobile, which allows users to manage deals submitted through the company’s credit application network on their iPhone or iPad. “This is just the beginning,” said Raj Sundaram, senior vice president of the company’s Solutions and Services Group. “Our position on these mobile tools is the dealer is going to decide [how it fits into their process].”

Inside the Reynolds and Reynolds booth, employees could be seen running through demonstrations of the company’s updated docuPad, which boasts a bigger screen and now sits on top of an F&I manager’s desk. Company officials believe the F&I selling system is what will connect the F&I process to techie generations.

“Our ultimate goal is to deliver products and services that help transform what happens inside the dealership and also helps change the way customers experience the dealership,” said company spokesperson Thomas Schwartz.

Walking the show floor with his iPad in hand was iTapMenu’s Shawn McCool. He believes his mobile F&I tool will breathe new life into the menu category.  “We’re here to promote a better way for F&I,” he said.

During his press conference to launch his company’s new reputation management system, SOCIALDEALER’s Phil Penton talked about how dealerships are using social media to establish a better connection between customers and the F&I office. “F&I departments need to start using social media to educate their customers on how the process works,” he said. “Right now, YouTube videos, where dealers are explaining how F&I works, are huge in social media.”

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