This past May, top producers and thought leaders took part in a no-holds-barred debate over how the industry must change to meet the needs and expectations of today’s car buyers.
What began as a discussion on the merits of the push to digitize F&I quickly morphed into a back-and-forth exchange on what’s really driving the calls for change. When it was over, the more than 60 F&I professionals, trainers, agents, and F&I industry execs in the room seemed willing to entertain a move online — at least partially.
This was the scene inside Tampa, Fla.’s Sheraton Riverwalk Hotel for Think Tank, the ninth and final session of F&I and Showroom’s F&I Think Tank.
“Any of the products that we offer in F&I, if customers don’t buy them, they disappear,” said panelist Eric Judson, a 14-year F&I pro from Buffalo, N.Y. “So there’s a market for every product we offer. The thing is, how we present those products, [consumers] are looking at us — the bad guys, the F&I managers — as the people who are hiding the ball on them.”
Joining Judson on the panel were F&I and Showroom contributor “Mad” Marv Eleazer and Avid Insurance Services’ Luis Garcia. Audience members were also active, with moderator Bob Harkins of American Guardian Warranty Services guiding the room through the lively discussion.
“There’s a lot of studies out there right now that have consumers saying, ‘If I can learn about these products beforehand, I’d be more willing to buy them,’” said F&I and Showroom’s Gregory Arroyo to steer the conversation to the online F&I push. “Obviously, they’re talking about introducing these products online, while customers are shopping for a vehicle. What does the room think?
Eleazer, the longtime finance director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga., was the first to speak up in support. “I think it is a wise idea, and I think it will help drive product sales in the future,” he said. “At the very least, it will help familiarize the customer with what’s available.”
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F&I and Showroom