LAS VEGAS — Attendees of the magazine’s F&I Conference and Expo selected an F&I producer from Cumberland, Md., as F&I and Showroom’s 2013 F&Idol winner, while an Ohio-based Chevrolet store was named as this year’s F&I Dealer of the Year.
In its third year, the IAS-sponsored F&Idol award went to Stephanie Cooper, F&I manager for Timbrook Automotive. Named as F&I and Showroom’s 2013 F&I Dealer of the Year was Serpentini Chevrolet of Strongsville, Ohio. The awards were handed out on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the magazine’s annual conference.
This is the second year in a row an F&I producer from Timbrook Automotive was named the overall winner of the F&Idol contest, with Cooper following in the footsteps of 2012 winner Dina Wilson, the group’s F&I director. Accepting The Warranty Group-sponsored F&I Dealer of the Year award was Nate Gault, F&I director of Serpentini Chrevrolet of Strongsville.
“Timbrook obviously has a great development program for its F&I producers, and Nate and his F&I team at Serpentini Chevrolet really impressed our panel of judges,” said Gregory Arroyo, editorial director for F&I and Showroom magazine. “It was a great afternoon and it was an honor to recognize the industry’s brightest talent.”In July, readers of F&I and Showroom magazine were asked to submit their best on-camera pitch in five 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.
For the first time, two participants from the same dealer group, Troy, Mich.-based The Suburban Collection, won four out of the five categories. Candy Serra, an F&I producer for Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights, Mich., won the Products for Lease and Key Replacement categories, as well as tied with Jeremy Johnston, F&I producer for the same dealership, in the Tire & Wheel category.
Johnston, a returning category winner, also took the open category with his prepaid maintenance entry — the same category he won last year. Cooper was the winner of the Vehicle Service Contract category.
In a surprise twist, the magazine asked each category winner to arrive on Monday to reshoot their winning submissions. Those videos were then shown during the magazine’s lunchtime ceremony, during which attendees were asked to view and cast their vote for the winning video — Cooper being the eventual winner.
“I have to give it to Stephanie, Candy and Jeremy. We threw them a curveball, informing each of them six days before the ceremony that they would have to reshoot their winning submissions,” Arroyo said. “And they did spectacularly. They really made it difficult to select just one winner.”
Serpentini Chevrolet of Strongsville is the magazine’s 13th F&I Dealer of the Year, and was one of six finalists, or F&I Pacesetters, vying for the top award. This year’s field included Missouri-based Cable Dahmer Automotive Group; Austin, Texas-based First Texas Honda; Salt Lake City’s Ken Garff Automotive Group; Cincinnati -based Kings Toyota; and Abilene, Texas-based Star Dodge Chrysler Jeep/Hyundai.
Serpentini Chevrolet of Strongsville is one of three stores operated by Serpentini Auto Group. The group was founded in 1980 by a then 22-year-old Bob Serpentini, the youngest first-generation dealer to ever open a Chevrolet franchise. The Strongsville store was purchased in 1998, but was moved from its original Berea, Ohio, location in 2003.
Under Gault, the dealership’s F&I operation averages 2.5 products per deal on 300 to 350 units sold per month. F&I product sales account for two-thirds of store’s profit-per-vehicle-retailed average, with GAP leading the way with a 61 percent acceptance rate. Service contracts follow close behind with a 45 percent acceptance rate. Additionally, the group’s charge-back rate sits well below 7 percent.
This year’s F&Idol and F&I Dealer of the Year winners will be featured in an upcoming issue of F&I and Showroom magazine.