Twenty years ago a F&I manager was one of the most respected and sometimes feared person at the dealership. They could make or break your deal often within a few seconds of running the credit report. If the sales manager gave up all his front end profit, the F&I manager had to save the back-end by holding a high rate and jamming all the product they could into the deal.  They usually made 6-figures and always had the nicest demo.

And yes, many may not have had the highest ethical standards.

Times have changed – buyers are more educated than ever and regulatory compliance has eliminated many of the shadier F&I practices (payment packing anyone?). Car buyers can handle much of the transaction on their smartphones now and some may even apply for their financing through mobile apps. All things unheard of just a few years ago.

Some industry experts have predicted the demise of the F&I manager due to more technology being used in the sales process but there are plenty of signs that they are not going away…just evolving and adapting.

What Today’s Car Buyer Really Wants (and Why)

Boomers and Gen X-ers grew up accepting the F&I process as about as enjoyable as a root canal. Long waits, high-pressure sales presentations, and a finance process shrouded in mystery.  According to TD Finance, 82% of today’s Gen Y car buyers don’t even want to walk into the F&I office at all. It’s too time consuming and viewed as just another dealer profit center they don’t want to be a part of.

Today’s buyer wants a tech-friendly process when they DO walk into the F&I office and most dealerships have implemented tools like eMenu and DocuPad to help provide a more visual and interactive way to sell product and explain financing options.

Buyers want the transparency that comes with these workflow solutions and it shows. eMenu programs can increase PVR lift average to $538 and 52% product penetration. These high tech presentation tools can also reduce time in the F&I office from 45 minutes down to 20 minutes or less on average. Higher profits, greater efficiency.

Is the F&I Manager Really Needed?

The F&I department is still an important and profitable part of the dealership. The F&I manager’s role has evolved and become more consultative. Many top producers are willing to engage more out on the sales floor, email buyers with product information or offer to Skype with an online buyer to answer questions and help influence them to come into the store. The old ways are gone…now it’s all about establishing trust and fostering a non-threatening selling experience.

A well trained and professional F&I manager will embrace new technology, not run from it. They will be more customer-focused, not pay plan focused. That will result in higher PVR, higher product penetration, and most importantly, higher CSI.

F&I managers shepherd the customer through so many crucial parts of the car buying experience and as such they can actually increase sales long term by increasing customer loyalty. They protect the dealership through executing the proper disclosures to buyers, they increase cash flow by getting deals bought quickly, and can even jump in and help make a sale when needed.

No software program or flashy touchscreen can replace all that.

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Kristine Cain is a freelance writer who loves the car business, hiking long trails, and the Steelers (not necessarily in that order). After finishing a degree in psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, she got her first taste of the dealer world working in the service department of a high volume Honda store. Warned early on that the car business would ‘get in her blood’, it did and Kristine made the leap into F&I departments at several stores around the Washington DC area and later to an automotive information company in dealer sales. A veteran of over 20 years in B2B sales to dealers, she leverages that knowledge to help write within the dealer market. Kristine lives in Holly Springs, NC with her husband and family.


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