AutoNation plans service contract push
AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest dealership group, will push even harder to sell extended-service contracts and prepaid maintenance in 2012, on top of record F&I revenues per vehicle in 2011.
"There's going to be a continued or an even stronger focus on [F&I] products, and we've done a good job on products in the past," said COO Mike Maroone.
AutoNation averaged $1,223 per vehicle in F&I revenues in the fourth quarter, up about 5 percent from a year ago. The figure represents profits from F&I product sales as well as from finance reserves -- the dealer's share of interest-rate profits.
For the full year, AutoNation averaged $1,201 per vehicle in F&I revenues. That was the first time the group topped $1,200 for a full year, Maroone said in a conference call last week.
Based on results through the first three quarters of 2011, that probably makes AutoNation No. 1 in per-vehicle F&I for the year among the six largest publicly traded new-car retailers. AutoNation is the only one so far to report fourth-quarter earnings.
AutoNation isn't stopping there, Maroone said. "Specifically, on vehicle service contracts and prepaid maintenance, we'll do more on [incentivizing] our whole organization to do a better job of linking that customer, bringing him back into our Customer Care [parts and service] business," he said.
AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said last week that better credit availability will help U.S. auto sales improve this year. Jackson said AutoNation expects 2012 light-vehicle sales of 14 million, about 10 percent ahead of 2011.
Maroone said AutoNation added subprime and nonprime lenders in the fourth quarter. That's an encouraging sign, since the recovery in subprime has lagged the recovery in prime-risk financing.
"The lender environment is very favorable for both customers and retailers," Maroone said. "There is certainly some aggressive buying going on."
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