These items topped dealers' financing wish lists in interviews and panel discussions at F&I conferences in the past two years.
Dealers want lenders to be available to talk over difficult deals, even at odd hours and on the weekend.
They also want lender representatives to visit the dealership -- but not too often.
"It's good if they come in and visit once every couple of months, and when they have new programs if they let us know. I don't want to have them barrage us," said Ken Hendricks, sales manager at Neuwirth Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Wilmington, N.C.
"I've got 20-some different lenders. If they all came in here every week, I'd never get anything else done."
Lender representatives shouldn't come at all if it's just to ask for more volume and hand out free pens, members of a dealer panel said during an F&I conference last year. "We have enough pens," said Terry Hoisington, general manager of Henderson (Nev.) Chevrolet.
According to DealerTrack, which routes credit applications between dealers and lenders, its network of just over 19,000 U.S. dealerships averages 9.4 lenders per store. That's up from an average of only seven in the third quarter of 2009 but still below an average of 10 per dealership in the first quarter of 2008.
Dealers worry that customers who kept up with their car payments and had good credit histories before the recession could now get turned down if they're behind on other loans, especially mortgages.
"It's crucial that we can get on the phone and talk about the value of a customer and what we see," said Don Forman, dealer principal at United Nissan in Las Vegas, in October. "Based on the issues we had in 2008, maybe the credit score doesn't match the person."
Since the recent recession, consumers are more likely to put their car payment ahead of other obligations, according to research from credit bureau TransUnion. That's a change from past economic downturns, when consumers put their mortgages first.
Dealers want loyal lenders, and vice versa. Dealers give captive finance companies higher marks on loyalty.
"Being there when times are tough, having the captive by my side ... I think it's invaluable. It saved many dealers from losing their franchises. Dealers don't forget," Forman said.
Tyler Corder, CFO of Findlay Automotive Group in Henderson, Nev., agrees. "It's a comfort, yes, to know they are going to be there whatever happens with the economy," he said.
But some dealers say they don't like it when lenders give incentives straight to dealership employees. Corder, particularly outspoken, said he thinks lenders should allow dealerships to allocate any incentives.
"We won't allow our people to take direct incentives," he said. "If I find a lender or a vendor trying to grease my guys, they will be excluded from future business with us."
Corder also doesn't like it when lenders tie incentives on retail finance contracts to floorplan or commercial loans with the same lender.
"We've had a lot of construction financing," he said. "I really don't like lenders tying retail to commercial, especially if they put penalties in there. If you're not a flooring dealer, you don't qualify for certain programs. To me, that's kind of a conflict."
Last but definitely not least, dealers are looking for the fastest possible funding. They want to get paid as soon as possible after a lender purchases a contract, ideally the same day.
Forman of United Nissan put "efficiency of funding, bar none," as his first requirement. "That efficiency in a lot of cases will determine where that loan is going to go if that other institution is slow."