It’s that time again. Leases are making their way back into the finance mix, and F&I managers are diving for cover. Fear not, intrepid finance professionals. Just because it’s a lease doesn’t mean it’s time to roll over and watch your per-copy sink like the proverbial stone.
Here are a few pointers and products to help you avoid the lease blues. There’s still profit out there to be had; you just have to change channels and realize the motivation of your customers. Once you dial in on their needs and wants, the rest, as they say, is history.
Get a Feel for the Deal
Start with a walk-around on the vehicle your customer wants to trade in. What condition is it in? How does the paint look? Are there any dented panels? Are there a lot of stains inside, windshield chips, etc.? If the customer is a returning lessee, will he or she get billed for excess wear and tear?
A lessee wants the same conveniences and benefits that a buyer does. Yes, the lessee is in a short-term contract, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make money on the deal. If your lessee is in a short-term cycle and anticipates driving around 12,000 miles a year, maybe offering the service contract isn’t the way to go.
On the other side of the coin, if the customer is driving for a term longer than 36 months or anticipates higher miles, then, by all means, offer the end-to-end service contract protection. After all, paying to fix a bank-owned car is like knocking on your neighbor’s door and offering to pay for the repairs on his truck. It just doesn’t make sense.
Offer Products That Work
So what should you look for that makes sense to the customer and earns profit for you? Two words: value and convenience. Here are some product suggestions that add a lot of both but won’t break the bank:
1. Appearance Packages: Stories about acid rain, environmental fallout and harsh climate conditions abound. Read any warranty manual and look at all the exclusions to the factory paint warranty. At Riverside Auto Group, we pair a Teflon-based paint sealant with a resin-based interior protectant to keep the car looking good inside and out. The customers love it. The treatment makes cleaning a breeze and virtually eliminates the chance they’ll get dinged for excessive wear at the end of the lease.
2. Windshield Treatments: Space-age technology has made its way to auto retail. Companies such as Crystal Fusion and Diamon-Fusion have produced superior glass treatments that are perfect for leased vehicles. The chemical bonding properties of the treatments not only protect the glass from chips and nicks, but also provide superior water shedding and enhanced visibility. After all, who wants to see a bill for a new windshield at lease turn-in?
3. Road Hazard and Key Fob Protection: AAA recently released figures showing that tires are the second largest expense on a car, right after fuel. Add to that the fact that many municipalities are on a tight budget and have reduced the amount of money they spend on road resurfacing. That’s a recipe for some very costly repairs.
Point out to your lessee that the No. 1 exclusion on their tire warranty is road hazard. Without a cost effective tire-and-wheel warranty standing guard over their wallet, the lessee is looking at a huge bill if he or she hits a pothole or debris, blows a tire or bends a rim. Many policies also offer an upgrade to cover lost keys and fobs. Think those aren’t expensive? Check with service to see what a remote fob costs, especially for a push-button ignition.
4. GAP: Some leases, such as one offered by Toyota Financial Services, don’t include GAP in their contracts. Make sure you point out to your lease customers that a lease is not designed to build equity. In the event of a total loss, they could be exposed to several thousands of dollars of risk. The leasing company will cheerfully accept the check from the insurance company and stick their hand out for the rest. With GAP, they’re safe. Without GAP, they’re in trouble.
5. Maintenance Plans: What a great way to drive a vehicle! Keep the gas tank full, and the rest of your maintenance is covered. Lessees looking for a convenient way to pre-budget their auto expenses will enjoy the features of a “gas-and-go” lease. Some manufacturers already cover maintenance for a specified period, but for those that don’t, the maintenance plan is a great add-on. It puts profit in F&I and retains a customer through service.
6. Dent, Ding and Excess Wear: There are many vendors and leasing companies that offer excess wear-and-tear waivers or policies. These are a great add-on, especially for a car that will be driven in an urban setting. The lessee’s car will be exposed to a variety of hazards in various parking lots and city streets. Even the neighborhood Little Leaguers can inflict some damage while the car is sitting right at home in the driveway. Excess wear policies go a long way in easing the minds of the lessees and removing the stress and worry about getting a bill at the end of their lease.
So, you have a variety of products that lend themselves to creating a great driving experience for your lessees and profit for F&I. You’ll feel better about writing a lease with these products at your fingertips. Your customers will love you for taking the time to customize a worry-free lease experience for them. And you can bet they’ll be back again, looking for that same experience on their next car.
Remember, when you’re looking for profit in your department, a little plus a little plus a little equals a lot. Customize your menu offerings by using value-added products along with some rate markup, where applicable, and you’ll be smiling after every lease and looking for more.
Tom Wilson is the F&I director for Riverside Auto Group in Escanaba, Mich., and the magazine’s 2010 F&I Dealer of the Year. Contact him at [email protected].