Will merging F&I and sales positions promote fraud?

Donna Harris covers retail issues for Automotive News
I'm hearing more about dealers who are turning over the sale of finance and insurance products to their salespeople and getting rid of the separate F&I department.

The goal is understandable. Some are doing it to save on labor costs. Others believe it creates a more customer-friendly process, since the customer doesn't get bounced around from salesperson to sales manager to F&I manager.

But Donald Freese, a special agent for the FBI who spoke at the recent National Automotive Finance Association conference in Fort Worth, Texas, warned that axing the F&I department could be risky.

He told me that when dealers take away the F&I manager, they put sensitive customer information in the hands of more people at the dealership. That can promote identity theft.

So, dealers, if you're thinking about merging the F&I and sales positions, consider the potential consequences.

It might be a smart move -- or not.