Finance manager shows heart for a Purple Heart

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News

Consumer advocates taking aim at dealership finance profits usually publicize a few flagrant examples of consumers claiming to be ripped off. The most recent focus has been on young, vulnerable veterans.

Here's a tale demonstrating just the opposite: a finance manager who put compassion ahead of profits in dealing with a veteran who'd fallen on hard times after serving our country.

Eric Judson, business manager at David Chevrolet-Buick in Niagara Falls, N.Y., called it a "feel-good Friday." A young customer in a wheelchair asked Judson whether he remembered his father, who had bought a vehicle a few months before. Judson politely told him yes, and the customer said he wanted the same service plan and environmental products that his father had purchased.

"During our conversation, I noticed the Purple Heart on his ball cap, and I told him I would be happy to make him a deal on anything he wanted to buy," said Judson, sharing his story of the transaction with the Facebook Ethical F&I Managers discussion group.

But Judson said his "heart sank" when the salesperson wrote up a deal on a late-model Cadillac and Judson had a chance to check the veteran's credit. His credit score was in the low 500s, with slow payments on his auto and mortgage, medical bills and revolver collections, Judson said.

The veteran explained that after coming home from serving in Afghanistan he was struck by a drunk driver and paralyzed, spending months in a coma. "It's hard to pay bills while you are in a coma," he told Judson.

Judson wasted no time. "Don't you worry," he assured the young man. "You're picking up this car today."

Other finance managers may high-five each other over the healthy profits they make. Not Judson. He was pleased to tell his peers that he made the minimum profit on this deal: a $200 flat fee for the financing, a $1 gross on the service contract, and a $1 gross on the appearance protection package.

So much attention is paid to the bad apples. It's time to shine a spotlight on an ethical example in the F&I office.

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