The third installment of the  Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS)-sponsored F&Idol contest touted several firsts. For the first time, two participants won multiple product categories — both whom work for the same dealer group. And for the first time, female producers outnumbered their male counterparts as category winners.

In July, readers of F&I and Showroom magazine were asked to submit their best on-camera pitch in the following categories: Vehicle Service Contract, Tire & Wheel, Key Replacement, F&I Product for Lease Customers and an open category. Entries had to be less than five minutes in length, and contestants were required to address at least two customer objections on camera. 

Submissions were reviewed by a panel of seven judges, including Bob Corbin of IAS, F&I and Showroom’s Gregory Arroyo and Mad Marv Eleazer, F&I trainer Rick McCormick of Reahard & Associates, Great Lakes Companies’ Steve Veldkamp, Reynolds and Reynolds Co.’s Terry O’Loughlin, and United Development Systems’ Randy Crisorio. 

In a surprise outcome, a single contestant from Michigan claimed two out of the five product categories and tied in a third, resulting in $2,500 in cash winnings. A second category, hailing form the same Michigan-based dealer group, won one category outright and tied for another, bringing his total winnings to $1,500. The third category winner makes her home in Maryland. She received $1,000 for winning the Vehicle Service Contract category. Here’s a look at this year’s finalists, one of whom will be selected by attendees of Industry Summit 2013 as the winner of the 2013 F&Idol title and $2,500.

Stephanie Cooper, F&I producer for Cumberland, Md.-based Timbrook Automotive, won the Vehicle Service Contract category and a $1,000 cash prize.

Stephanie Cooper, F&I producer for Cumberland, Md.-based Timbrook Automotive, won the Vehicle Service Contract category and a $1,000 cash prize.

Stephanie Cooper

Store: Timbrook Automotive, Cumberland, Md.

Years in Business: 4.5

Years at Current Dealership: 4.5

Claim to Fame: She averages 1.3 products per deal and claims a 51 percent acceptance rate on service contracts. 

Keys to Success: I attribute a great deal of my success to Owner Fred Timbrook, who believed in me and presented me with such an amazing opportunity to work for his family of dealerships. At Timbrook Automotive, we take an honest and up-front approach to dealing with our customers. We treat everyone with the same high standards. I’ve also received a great deal of support from Colvill Omanwa at Resource Automotive, Finance Director Dina Wilson, Sales Manager Dave Lindsey and a strong sales team. Lastly, consistency is important, and my product presentation is the same on every deal. We follow a process and the process works.

Vehicle Service Contracts

Customer Objection: The payment is too high.

Cooper: I understand. You are probably on a budget, correct? Can I share something with you? Are you familiar with affixed versus variable payment? Your variable payment is going to represent your payment without the platinum plan coverage at $450 a month. Four years from now, let’s say your air conditioner breaks. It’s July and it’s hot; how much do you think that air conditioner will cost you? [Customer responds, “$3,000.”] Yes, probably $3,000. That month you’re going to pay for your air conditioner, which is $3,000, and your $450 car payment. So you’re actually going to spend $3,450 that month.

Let’s compare that to a fixed payment plan. Your fixed will represent your payment with the platinum plan at $480 a month. The difference in this situation is that we’re going to pay that $3,000 for you. Do you see it will be easier to come up with the $480 that month than $3,450? Would you like to take advantage of Option A or Option B?

Customer Objection: Well, the warranty is enough.   

Cooper: I can understand that. Kia does have the leading industry warranty as far as manufacturers. Let me ask you a question: Let’s say you’re leaving today and your vehicle had no warranty. How much of a discount would you want off the price? [Customer responds, “$5,000.”] If you’re willing to spend $5,000 for the 10-year, 100,000 mile limited, powertrain coverage, doesn’t it make sense to pay $2,699 for seamless coverage the entire time you own your vehicle?

Jeremy Johnston’s prepaid maintenance pitch won in the “Other” category for the second year in a row. The F&I producer from The Suburban Collection also tied in the Tire & Wheel category.

Jeremy Johnston’s prepaid maintenance pitch won in the “Other” category for the second year in a row. The F&I producer from The Suburban Collection also tied in the Tire & Wheel category.

Jeremy Johnston

Store: Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights, Mich.

Years in Business: 11

Years at Current Dealership: 3

Claim to Fame: He averages just short of two products per deal and claims a 35 percent acceptance rate on prepaid maintenance. His PVR is just north of a thousand.

Keys to Success: Johnston said he is always in direct contact with the service department and with the CRM system. He considers it a great tool because he can see how much customers save when they opt for the protections he offers. Additionally, Johnston is a big fan of Grant Cardone and listens to his closing CDs four times a week.

In addition, working at several dealerships has inspired Johnston to mold himself into a combined total of everyone he has learned from. At his dealer now, he believes he has the best staff available, with top-notch managers and great resources. When discussing tire-and-wheel protection, Johnston says it basically sells itself if you can relate it to the customer’s experience.

Other (Prepaid Maintenance)

Customer Objection: That sounds expensive to me.

Johnston: That is a lot of money, Sarah. Let me justify $899 if I could, please. Sarah, every time you bring your car in for an oil change, this means that over the next eight visits, you’re going to spend about $360. For safety inspections, the first one runs $80, the second one runs $100, the third one runs $80 and the last is $100. Right there, we are at $360. This means you’ll spend $720 on oil, lube, filters, tire rotations and safety inspections.

And if you need to replace a wiper blade, that’s $160. Belts and hoses will cost $100. If you need a brake replacement on your vehicle, that could be over $200. Your clutch is another big one at $400. Sarah, you’re looking at spending about $1,600 over the course of five years. Sarah, $899, doesn’t that make sense just to take care of it today?

Tire and Wheel

Customer Objection: I think that’s pricey.

Johnston: I can see where you’re coming from. Sarah, do me a favor. Sit back and relax for a second. Have you ever traveled on Hall Road? OK, then close your eyes. You’re driving into work and it’s a nice 62 degree day out. You’ve got your radio up listening to house music, sunroof down, windows cracked a little. You look over and you see a nice looking guy checking out your car. You look back at him, give him a little nod. Then you look back and notice the car in front swerve a little bit.

That lady just swerved out of the way of a pothole. You had your eyes off the road for a second. You just damaged your nice rims on the vehicle. Take a look at this, what’s that number? That’s [referring to spreadsheet on the desk] $1,031.27. That’s what your rim is going to cost you — and that’s one rim. Now remember, you can use this as many times as you want. It’s $699 the way you have your loan set up, or $9 a month. That’s less than a couple gallons of gas a week to protect your $1,000-plus item on your vehicle. What do you think about $9 a month to cover your rims and tires?  

Candy Serra became the first F&Idol contestant to win two categories and tie for a third. She serves as an F&I manager for Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights, Mich., which is operated by The Suburban Collection.

Candy Serra became the first F&Idol contestant to win two categories and tie for a third. She serves as an F&I manager for Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights, Mich., which is operated by The Suburban Collection. 

Candy Serra

Store: Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights, Michigan

Years in Business: 18

Years at Current Dealership: 3

Keys to Success: Serra gives credit to The Suburban Collections F&I Director Gary Allgeier. When she first started in finance, she remembers Allgeier talking to the team about the 300 Percent Rule: “Present 100 percent of the products to 100 percent of the customers 100 percent of the time, period!” It’s a rule she’s followed ever since.

Serra says she tries to be as thorough as possible when working with customers. That’s what she’d want if she was on the other side of the desk, she adds.


Tire and Wheel

Customer Objection: I’ve been driving around for a long time and I’ve never had a problem. I think I’ll take my chances.

Serra: I hear you. I’m going to go out on a limb for a moment. The Saturn you’re trading in most likely has steel rims with hubcaps. Well, the new vehicle you’re buying has full aluminum rims, which are great because they are lightweight and we get better gas mileage out of our cars. But on the flip side, they’re not as durable as steel rims and far more costly to replace because you can’t repair them. Worst case scenario, if you hit a pothole in your other vehicle, the hubcap would go one way but you’d still be driving straight.

Aluminum rims have to be replaced and they can’t be repaired, so think about this. The City of Detroit just filed bankruptcy, meaning they can’t afford to maintain the roads and infrastructure like it is today. Just imagine the condition the roads will be in five years from now.

Just a personal story here: My father-in-law was driving downtown to the Tigers game last week on the I-94, and he hit a pothole. The tire and rim had to be replaced. Luckily he had our policy, which does include roadside assistance, so they put a spare on and he made it to the Tiger game in time. He came the next day and had it replaced without paying any out-of-pocket expenses and he was home by lunchtime. So, wouldn’t it be worth the extra $10 a month to know that you’re going to have the same coverage for the next five years? A lot can happen in the next five years.

Products on Leases

Customer Objection: This is my fifth lease and I’ve never had a problem before. I’ll just take my chances.

Candy: I hear you Justin. I used to sell cars and believe me, if you were my customer coming back for your fifth vehicle, then I would definitely take care of a scratch on your rear bumper. But what people don’t understand is we now have a third-party inspection company which completely takes us out of the turn-in process and we have no control in the end.

You said earlier your children would start driving the car in about six months. Let me tell you a quick story: My husband leased a car a year ago. It was a new Escape for his daughter; she was 16 years old and a first time driver. He purchased the Wear Care because he was concerned about her eating inside the car and leaving stains. She ended up backing up into a pole, cracking the rear bumper. Luckily, he had the Wear Care, so he’s not going to have to pay anything at the end of his lease. But think about this, when they added her to the insurance policy, premiums probably went up. Imagine how much it would skyrocket if he had made the insurance claim. 

Key Replacement

Customer Objection: I can’t remember the last time I lost a key, to be honest.

Candy: I think we can all relate to this story: It’s Monday afternoon and you’re running late to the birthday party. Your kids are running out to the car, your wife grabs the potluck dish, and you’ve got the presents. Now you’re in the car, but who has the keys? Nobody, because they’re in the house on the kitchen table.

With our plan, we offer — besides car lockout assistance — home lockout assistance. We offer roadside assistance, towing and emergency travel expense reimbursements with our policy as well. With all those other benefits combined, it relieves an already stressful situation. Isn’t it worth the extra couple dollars a month to have peace of mind to know that you’re covered anytime during the next five years?