Are the times really changing at dealerships?

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

Sure, there are innovative dealerships out there. But maybe not as many as you might think.

Reading about the latest trends in F&I, you could get the idea that lots of salespeople handle F&I, that dealerships hand iPads to their customers to watch prerecorded F&I product presentations, and that most dealerships sell service contracts in the service lane.

But that’s not really what’s happening, according to F&I practitioners at a recent conference.

Hand-held devices did have some defenders. For instance, Nick Sennett, sales manager at OptionSoft Technologies, said using iPads gets customers engaged.

“I can excite your car buyer just by the medium by which you’re delivering it,” he said in a panel discussion.

An audience member, though, wasn’t convinced: “That’s only temporary,” he said. Once the novelty wears off, he said, “You might as well pull out a cellphone and show it to people” and expect them to be impressed.

Said one F&I veteran after the conference, “Dealers don’t like change -- not even good change.”