DALLAS — EFG Companies today announced the launch of Driver’s Advocate, a mobile app developed out of the F&I product provider’s 2015 and 2016 Northwood University Innovator of the Year contests.

Driver’s Advocate is designed to foster greater consumer loyalty through service drive retention, while also providing theft protection and inventory management. Features include a service scheduler; direct, mileage-based messaging with service and maintenance reminders; a service loyalty program tracker; a theft tracker that alerts consumers to vehicle movement; and an easy-to-use fuel finder.

The mobile app also provides click-to-call roadside assistance; centralized, easy access to consumer protection plans; recall notifications; a service center locator; full vehicle information repository; and transparent dealer pricing.

“Dealers offering Driver’s Advocate benefit from a significant customer-retention tool through the app’s service scheduler, couponing feature, and maintenance notifications based on individual consumer mileage,” said Greg Grimes, vice president of operations for Rohrich Auto Group. Grimes served as a mentor during the 2016 Northwood Innovator of the Year contest, and the dealer group is the first to pilot Driver’s Advocate.

“In addition, dealers have the ability to use the loyalty point tracker as a way to encourage customers to return for their next vehicle purchase if they choose to apply the loyalty points towards a cash value for a down payment,” Grimes added.

According to nationwide consumer research conducted by EFG Companies, more than 65% of consumers desire reminders about their car maintenance, and the majority would also like to receive service reminders and specials from their dealership. Additionally, 63.5% of respondents said the availability of a dealership loyalty program would impact their decision to service at a dealership. 

“In today’s retail automotive market, the finance and insurance office of a dealership has the unique opportunity to take on a different role in addressing two significant dealer priorities,” said John Pappanastos, president and CEO of EFG Companies. “Through products like Driver’s Advocate, dealers can create those one-on-one consumer relationships to address individual needs rather than taking the mass approach. In addition, these products have the potential to increase service drive volume and traffic, translating directly to repeat and referral business, which, as we all know, make up the lowest cost sales for the average dealer.”

Of the top mobile app features that EFG’s own research showed consumers find most valuable, eight are available in the Driver’s Advocate app: recall warnings; regular maintenance reminders; repair history; tire and wheel reminders; service interval reminders; contact information for warranties and roadside assistance; vehicle warranty or service contract details; and a service center locator.

“Using the app, a customer can pull relevant product and vehicle information for the service manager to put into their system, increasing the efficiency of initiating and processing claims,” said John Stephens, executive vice president of EFG Companies. “By streamlining claims processing in this way, dealers will be able to initiate work on the vehicle much faster, and get consumers back on the road, leading to a more satisfied consumer base.”

Officials said that the app’s theft tracking feature doubles as inventory management tool dealers can use to track inventory in real time, view test-drive history, and monitor inventory for theft.

The Driver’s Advocate mobile app is based on the winning products for the 2015 and 2016 F&I Innovator of the Year competitions at Northwood University. The winning concept from 2015 was originally designed by three Northwood undergraduate students to provide consumers with a convenient way to stay current on vehicle maintenance and prevent theft. The 2016 winning concept was designed to address millennial and Generation Z concerns about financial security and delivers on dealership goals around customer retention.

EFG and Northwood developed the contest to spur a greater level of innovation in the F&I space. Every other year, during Northwood’s fall semester, six teams of Northwood undergraduate automotive marketing and management students compete to conceptualize and build a new F&I product while earning course credit. The winning product is selected by a panel of judges based on its business merit and potential to be successfully developed for the retail automotive market.

“This marks the first competition product rolled out to the market,” said Keith Pretty, president of Northwood University. “We expect great things from this product roll-out as it serves as a reflection of our philosophy of hands-on learning. This will give our current students enrolled at Northwood the unique opportunity to see the impact their entrepreneurism and leadership can have on the industry.”

A percentage of the revenues generated from Driver’s Advocate will also be returned to Northwood University.