DALLAS — EFG Companies and Northwood University have teamed up on a new contest that will have six student teams competing to develop the F&I product provider’s next new product. On the line is $25,000, which will be awarded to one of the three-person teams.

Teams competing in the F&I Innovator of the Year competition will be made up of junior and senior undergraduates in Northwood University’s automotive marketing and management program. They will have from Sept. 7 to Nov. 13 to develop an F&I product that drives showroom traffic and differentiates a dealer in the marketplace. EFG executives, dealer principals and Northwood automotive program educators will serve as judges.

“The inspiration for the idea is that Northwood, as part of its DNA, really does teach leadership and entrepreneurialism,” said Jenny Rappaport, an EFG spokesperson. “They’re not just teaching students how to go out and get a job — they really believe in teaching students how to be leaders.”

The teams, which will also earn course credit, will have access to an F&I mentor for an hour each week to help guide them. And aside from the $25,000 prize, the winning team’s product will be produced by EFG, which will return a percentage of the product's revenues to Northwood University.

Rappaport said EFG, which will provide guidance and update the students on industry trends, was simply looking for a fresh perspective when it began working with Northwood to develop the contest. But the company isn’t solely looking for products that connect with younger car buyers.

“To say that the products they produce are going to be Gen Y specific would be very obtuse,” Rappaport said. “Just because they’re 20 years old doesn’t mean they’re going to come out with something that is purely aimed at 20- or 21-year-olds.”

Throughout the contest, teams will keep video diaries of their progress, challenges and breakthroughs. Those videos will be uploaded to YouTube each week, and the team with the most video views will be awarded an additional hour with their F&I mentor the following week.

“These kids really have a fresh perspective on what they’re interested in talking about and what they’re worried about in F&I,” said John Pappanastos, EFG’s president and CEO. “It challenged our thinking to engage with them and we’ve been impressed with it.”

Asked if he felt there was a risk that the contest wouldn’t produce a viable product, Pappanastos said he was confident that wouldn’t be the case.

“The reality is that there is innovation out there,” Pappanastos said. “I don’t know if it will be the next Walk Away or Hyundai Assurance Program, but I think there’s still a lot of opportunity and there’s a lot of innovation going on in this space.”

To follow the progress of the teams, visit the EFG Innovator of the Year Competition YouTube channel. Team progress can also be tracked on the competition’s Twitter account.