Why dealers need to address the length of closing times

In the space of about six weeks this winter, my wife and I bought two new cars. The reason for this splurge was exactly what industry-watchers have predicted: Old, wheezing cars eventually need to be replaced.

In our case, two vehicles in our household fleet of three (self, wife, daughter) reached the end of the road. The shopping process was pretty painless. We narrowed down our choices online, both in terms of vehicle and price, and wrapped up the deal at the store.

But there was one problem at both dealerships: It takes an inordinate amount of time to close a car deal. I didn’t run a stopwatch, but it seemed to me that it literally takes less time to close on a home than a new car.

In both cases, finance was the pinch point -- both in hearing about the loan rates the dealership can offer and, later on, getting the F&I sales pitch.

You had a single F&I person to whom several salespeople were funneling customers, and so at both places we heard some variation of, “This looks good, you’ll just have to wait a few minutes to talk to our finance person.”

And then we would sit for a half-hour, feeling precious Saturday afternoon time drain away. We wandered around and looked at cars we had no interest in buying, drummed our fingers, looked at stuff on our phones, and so on. When we finally got to the F&I office, we were significantly less enthusiastic -- and less receptive -- than we might have been.

Again, these were basically good buying experiences. We dealt with intelligent, low-pressure folks. The stores were modern in both their facilities and their business practices.

But there’s an opportunity here. You don’t want to cheese your customers off, however slightly. Dealers who can streamline the closing process will gain an advantage.

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