JAMIE LaREAU

Selling accessories before F&I -- and profiting on both

Automotive News | June 27, 2012 - 12:01 am EST

Is it possible to sell customers vehicle accessories before they enter the finance and insurance office and still see strong F&I product sales?

Yes.

In fact, pushing accessories before F&I can boost F&I sales, some dealers say. They say it gets customers excited about their vehicle purchases before they sit down with a finance manager. So customers are often more relaxed and ready to spend money on products to protect their purchase, two dealers recently told me.

Take the Ben Mynatt Family of Dealerships, for example.

Initially, managers at Mynatt feared that promoting accessories first would cause buyers to blow their budgets on add-ons and have nothing left to buy F&I products, says Tom Zeffiro, executive manager of Mynatt, which sells Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles in Concord, N.C.,and Nissans in Salisbury, N.C.

But Zeffiro says that has not been the case.

In January, Zeffiro tweaked his sales process to present customers with available accessory items before they enter the F&I office. Customers sit at a computer kiosk where they can use software to buy accessories in the showroom.

Accessory sales have risen to $200 per vehicle per month from $80 per vehicle per month, Zeffiro says.

And Zeffiro’s F&I sales have jumped by about $250 a vehicle from a year earlier, he says.

Fitzgerald Auto Malls have seen similar results, says Larry Branche, Fitzgerald’s corporate manager and director of accessories and aftermarket program, in Kensington, Md.

Since Fitzgerald began pitching customers accessories before F&I products five years ago, annual accessory profits have been $1.3 million to $1.4 million a year, up about 25 percent from before Branche put the process in place, he says.

Branche uses a soft-sell approach and software that lets customers use the online calculator to figure their payments if they decide to buy an accessory. Once in the F&I office, the finance manager can roll that accessory purchase into the final deal.

“We definitely did not want to do anything that would impact our F&I business in a negative way,” Branche says. “But we didn’t have this extra source of revenue from accessories. We were able to capture more of it, without losing other parts of our business.”

Jamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive NewsJamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive News

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