My cyber car buying meant no F&Iing

A funny thing happened once on my way to buy a car.

No one asked me to buy aftermarket products.

That's right.

It was 2008, and I'd found the car I wanted on a central-Ohio dealership's Web site.

The Internet sales manager and I negotiated a deal over the phone in fewer than 10 minutes. The next day, he mailed me the loan paperwork. I signed it and returned it to him with a check for a deposit. About four days later, his driver stood in my suburban-Detroit driveway with the keys to my new car.

But wait. What about wheel-and-tire protection? Or windshield protection? Or a service contract?

No one pitched any of those aftermarket do-dads to me.

Some dealers tell me my experience is common. Many Internet sales managers forgo the F&I pitch. After all, I was financing the car through a lender that the dealer found, so the dealer was getting the finance reserve.

But at Mac Haik Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep in Houston General Manager Nancy Lambert says a large portion of her new- and used-vehicle sales are done via the Internet. And when a customer buys online -- even from outside the state -- the dealership must still offer that customer the same products and follow the same transaction procedures as if the customer were in the store.

Plus, many of the aftermarket products Mac Haik offers are good nationwide. So Lambert has her F&I department call each customer to go over the products available before any paperwork is printed.

It seems like a good idea considering the potential profits missed by not doing so.

Aftermarket providers tell me a product such as paint and fabric protection can retail for $300 to $800. The dealer's profit is about half the retail price.

What if the Internet sales manager at the Ohio dealership had chatted me up more and learned I have a 90-pound Labrador-mix dog that rides shotgun with me everywhere?

Imagine his chance to pitch fabric protection.

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