Asbury's 'boot camp' helps boost F&I revenue

Asbury Automotive Group Inc., is working to make more money per unit in profit centers other than new vehicles -- especially F&I. COO Michael Kearney said that improved consumer credit, more favorable terms from lenders and training for F&I personnel on best practices combined to raise Asbury's F&I revenue per vehicle to $990 in the first quarter of 2010, from $897 in the same period last year.

Asbury, which is based in Duluth, Ga., has 80 dealerships nationwide, with 107 franchises. Based on 2009 unit sales, Asbury was No. 6 in the latest list of Automotive News top 125 U.S. dealership groups. Staff Reporter Amy Wilson interviewed Kearney on April 29.

You were talking about sharing the best practices among the stores. What are some examples?

I can give you two. We instituted a best practice in the dealerships in Florida in June of last year. It is a Web-based training program that essentially we call a "boot camp," and every finance and insurance manager gets rated on a lot of productivity measures. And then as they are graded, they go through a series of Web-based trainings to help them improve what skills we believe they are deficient in.

Is it entirely online?

After they go through that Web-based training, there are sessions held at the dealerships and then their performance is monitored. As their performance is monitored over some defined time period, if you exceed the benchmarks, you don't go back through the training. If you are not at the benchmark, you then actually go to an intense, two- or three-day one-on-one where we videotape and do a lot of interactive type of work to bring you up to the standards. We started that in June of last year. Every finance and insurance manager in the state of Florida has been through it, and we are constantly working the program.

That's only in Florida?

We have then moved that program to one of our other concentrations of dealerships up the East Coast, and that program eventually will evolve its way quickly throughout the entire company. So that's one example.

Is that the Crown group [Crown Automotive, with dealerships in the Carolinas, Virginia and New Jersey]?

Yes, that's correct. It's just started up there.

What's the other example you mentioned?

Another example is we started selling extended service contracts and maintenance programs in the service lane up in the Carolinas, a fairly successful program about 18, 24 months, ago. We have now expanded that into the Atlanta market, and it's very successful, and again, that will be expanded out through Florida and across the United States. So there are two examples where we started something we have been successful with a pilot and now we're rolling it out throughout the United States.

Do you have any metrics, or any comparisons of where you're starting to see a higher percentage of customers returning for service work because of those contracts?

I don't have that number, and that's something we'd have to dig into to get. What I will tell you is that in the finance and insurance piece of it, we have seen nice year-over-year growth in product sales in the Carolinas and we are starting to see that in Atlanta already.
You can reach Amy Wilson at