“I went through the process of going through a car deal with them where I was the customer,” recalls Fish, general manager and part owner of Kuhn Honda-Volkswagen in Tampa. He was blown away.
By Feb. 1, Kuhn had launched the equipment, called the docuPAD, in its Honda-VW store and a second VW store in Tampa.
A number of information technology providers offer systems that allow F&I staffers to sell from a menu of products, aiming to boost profits and quicken one of the least customer-friendly experiences at a dealership. Fish says several things about the docuPAD were appealing:
-- Speed. The AutoNation store reported shaving several minutes from each F&I session with a customer -- and improving customer satisfaction.
Kuhn trimmed 10 to 15 minutes off the typical customer session time, reducing the average to 51 minutes. Fish aims to improve that further, ideally to 30 minutes.
-- Thoroughness. The device ensures that all F&I products are presented to the customer. A finance employee cannot skip products. The system can be set to play video explainers for products such as maintenance contracts or the LoJack security system.
Kuhn's F&I product sales have jumped by $250 per vehicle, Fish says. Profits are up $100 per car.
-- Record-keeping. The docuPAD, made by Coindata, is not an electronic contracting system, its developers say. But the system's protocols, plus the ease of storing electronic records, will help dealerships comply with ever-more-complex regulations governing F&I practices, Fish says.
"You have to be able to offer the same programs to everybody," Fish says. "Unfortunately, sometimes someone might shortcut here or there, and docuPAD does not allow that."
How it worksAfter the AutoNation visit, Fish and majority owner Jason Kuhn decided to install three docuPAD units at Kuhn Honda-Volkswagen and one at Brandon Volkswagen, also in Tampa.
The units are built into the finance managers' desktops. A 19-inch flat screen presents videos and displays contract and disclosure forms.
Forms resemble traditional paper contracts. The customer signs on the glass screen, and signatures are captured digitally. Forms are then printed on paper, and an electronic record is stored.
Coindata, of Norcross, Ga., launched the docuPAD in 2007. AutoNation started its rollout late 2007 and now has 250 units in 88 dealerships covering all AutoNation stores in Georgia and Florida and most in Texas.
DocuPAD has helped F&I results in those stores, says AutoNation COO Michael Maroone. Transaction time has dipped from 55 minutes to below 40 minutes, he says.
"The positives are 98 to 99 percent of the customers love the process," Maroone says. "They love the technology, the transparency. They love the fact you can get an audiovisual presentation of the product."
The nation's largest dealership group has slowed its rollout for now, Maroone says, while executives make sure AutoNation is getting a reasonable return on its investment. The docuPADs are "extremely expensive," he says. Maroone declined to say how much AutoNation has spent.
Gerald White, senior vice president of sales, marketing and national accounts for Coindata, says pricing is based on the requirements of dealerships, including the number of roof-tops and the dealer management sys-tem being used.
Fish says Kuhn paid a bit over $80,000 for its four units.
ExpandingDocuPAD is available in Georgia, Florida and Texas, White says. Six states will be added during the third quarter: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and Maryland. Coindata has completed legal work for more.
Within three years, Coindata intends to be in the top 25 states based on vehicle sales volume, White says.
The AutoNation installations represent the vast majority of the docuPADs in the market so far. In total, Coindata has 288 docuPADs in 102 dealerships, White says. Current clients use either the Reynolds and Reynolds or ADP dealership management system.
It is still early for the Kuhn stores to assess docuPAD, but Fish says they're realizing the potential.
"Less of our income is relying on the finance reserve, and more of it is relying on product sales now -- which is a great thing," he says.
The biggest gain has been in service contracts, which are now purchased in 43 percent of all deals, up from 31 percent. LoJack sales jumped from four a month to 38 in March.
Kuhn Finance Director Eric Allen says he won't turn back. Says Allen: "I love the system. I wouldn't go to a store that didn't have it -- period."
-- Trimmed the average F&I session by 10 to 15 minutes, to an average of 51 minutes
-- Increased product sales by about $250 per vehicle
-- Increased F&I profits by $100 per vehicle
-- Increased penetration of service contracts by 12 percentage points
-- Increased LoJack sales from 4 per month to 38 in March