September was a busy month for Justin Gasman. While attending F&I and Showroom’s 2014 F&I Conference and Expo in Las Vegas as a first-time F&Idol contestant, the finance director from McCaddon Cadillac Buick GMC was in the midst of delivering a record-breaking month for his Boulder, Colo., store.
In the end, Gasman put more than $126,000 on the books with a $1,850 per-copy average. He also walked away with the IAS-sponsored F&Idol award and $3,500 in prize money.
“The only shot you’re missing is the one you don’t take,” says Gasman. “If you don’t enter the contest, I can absolutely guarantee you’re not going to win.”
Gasman and four other finalists, including previous F&Idol winners Stephanie Cooper and Dina Wilson from Cumberland, Md.-based Timbrook Automotive, three-time finalist Jeremy Johnston of The Suburban Collection, and first-time contestant Rodger Martin of Stan McNabb Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, reshot videos of their objection-handling techniques onsite at the magazine’s conference. In October, readers of the magazine selected Gasman as the overall winner in an online poll at fi-magazine.com.
“I’m glad they let us [reshoot the video],” Gasman says. “It really gave me a chance to say, ‘Here’s some of the things I did in my first video, and I liked it, but I think I could have done a better job, so let me tweak a few things.’ And we got to practice. It was a lot of fun.”
Gasman, an 11-year industry veteran, joined McCaddon in January as the dealership’s only F&I pro. Since then, he has more than doubled the group’s per-copy average by staying active in the showroom and implementing a consistent process. He credits the dealership’s F&I product provider, Woodlands, Texas-based American Financial & Automotive Services (AFAS), with providing a roadmap to success.
“They were running somewhere in the $600 to $800 per-copy range, which they were fine with,” Gasman says. “I showed them it was possible to make $1,200 without having high chargebacks.”
Thanks to the efforts of Gasman and Salesman Steve Purcell, who pitches in on F&I when necessary, the group’s profit per vehicle retailed (PVR) sits just north of $1,500 on new and about $1,400 for used — and those figures have been steadily rising while the store’s chargeback rate has fallen below 5%.
“I am the driving force behind the focused intensity of F&I in the store, but it is a team effort which I am leading. We are really starting to pick up momentum,” Gasman says. “It’s my process. It’s my enthusiasm. It’s my adherence to the same process on every deal, every time, and no exceptions. And it’s the value I build in the product.”
AFAS Dealership Development Manager Trent White also credits Gasman’s enthusiasm for the uptick in McCaddon’s F&I performance numbers. “Justin is a very unique individual who has the ability to see beyond how things appear,” he says.
The pair shares a long history. White got Gasman’s father into the car business years ago and has known Gasman since he was nine. White also joined AFAS around the same time Gasman came onboard at McCaddon, and the two meet about twice a month to role-play customer objections. “When I went to AFAS, I was given a platform to work with that made perfect sense. I took what Justin was trying to accomplish and a proven system and put them together.
“Their numbers have skyrocketed,” White adds. “[Owner] Mark McCaddon’s desire was to have the dealership’s profit be based on … repeat and referral business. Justin was able to maximize that source of profitability and success by taking the time to share the benefits [of the F&I products] with the customer instead of following the old philosophy of pushing a customer through the system.”
Gasman entered every category in this year’s F&Idol contest. But it would be his Products for Leases pitch that got him into the competition’s final round. In the video, Gasman overcomes a customer’s objection to the dealership’s Ally SmartLease Protect, a product that consistently penetrates at a 50% clip on 10 leases per month for the F&I director. But in September, when Gasman increased the store’s F&I performance numbers by 382% from a year ago, the product’s acceptance rate jumped to 75%.
“We have a very strong lease portfolio, and that’s essentially what retains a lot of our customers,” Gasman says. “We pencil every deal with a lease.”
Viewing himself more as a consultant than product pusher, Gasman says he makes sure his customers understand the value of every product on his menu — even if one of them doesn’t make sense for the customer. So when working with lease customers, for instance, he’ll present his service contract and explain why it may not be the best choice. The strategy eliminates any hint of “commission breath,” he notes.
“I explain to them that there is a benefit [to having the VSC], but it might not make the most sense for them,” he explains. “Then I go right into the SmartLease Protect, because it builds value and the customer’s opinion of you and the dealership when they see that you’re trying to offer them products that fill a need.”
The dealership’s top-selling product is etch, which the dealership sources from Portfolio. Labeled “Security Coding” on the menu, the product penetrates at a rate of 80%, and is one of the main reasons the department now averages 3.5 products per deal. GAP follows with a 63% acceptance rate, while service contracts penetrate at a 52% clip.
Gasman’s performance this year also had the dealership in the running for the magazine’s F&I Dealer of the Year award. One of the main reasons is his multilayered compliance program, as well as his dedication to his craft.
In October, the F&I director earned master-level certification with the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals. Gasman also employs the AFIP’s rate modification form. He’s not big on discounting product pricing or finance reserve, but he’ll include the form and his explanation for discounting rate in the deal jacket if a competing finance source or factory restrictions force his hand.
The dealership also recently installed AFAS’ online compliance management system, which distributes legal compliance content developed by Tampa, Fla.-based Mosaic Compliance Services to every employee in the dealership. The F&I policy section alone is 96 pages long.
Gasman also participates in deal audits at the end of each month alongside McCaddon’s sales manager and Purcell. “All three of us review the deals and we basically just use the checklist,” he says. “[We] review the deals to make sure that every deal has everything that is required. And if it’s somehow missing something, we go back and get that. But there are very few deals where things are missing because we do the process right from start to finish — and we work as a team.”
Gasman also continues to attend AFAS training sessions in Houston, including those taught by Tony Dupaquier, the magazine’s Stump the Pro columnist and AFAS’ director of F&I training. He credits Dupaquier with helping him to drastically increase the dealership’s F&I numbers.
“The proof is in the pudding, because we’re running great numbers,” he says. “And we’re doing it ethically.”
Setting the Mood
The location of Gasman’s office, which sits in the middle of the showroom, is another reason for his success. He admits he likes having control over every deal, but he rewards his sales team by delivering a smooth F&I process to his customers.
“I’m right in the middle, so they can’t get a deal past me,” he jokes. “I listen to what’s going on, and I’ll walk right over and crash a deal and take control of it. I make sure the front-end gross is protected, but I also ensure we’re going to make our back end. But we really have a great team of salespeople who believe in the value of the F&I products we sell.”
Once Gasman has presented the menu, and the customer has settled on a payment, the finance director uses a quick and easy tactic to make his customers feel comfortable — he asks them what music they like. “I’ll go to YouTube and I’ll punch in the name of the artist. Then we’ll go through the paperwork and do our disclosures with some light music in the background. I’m just trying to have some fun with these people, because a lot of customers … get very excited about the deal they are doing, but they get nervous at the same time.
“It just gives them an overall better experience, and when they leave, they want to write a great Google review, send you referrals and come in and buy cars again,” he adds, noting the dealership boasts a 4.7 out of five stars on the search engine.
It’s a method that AFAS’ White has never seen tried in any of the F&I offices he’s visited around the country. “That’s why Justin is as successful as he is — because he’s willing to go that extra mile,” he explains. “He’s willing to take an idea, when we sit down and game-plan. But I’ll be honest — they’re his ideas.”