JIM HENRY

Lenders must be locally flexible

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive NewsJim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News
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Centralization has its limits.

Several large dealership groups and lenders have centralized functions at headquarters or set standard nationwide procedures. But sometimes consumers and their incomes don’t fit the usual profile.

Consider:

• Some Las Vegas auto dealers have told me that lenders don’t allow for the fact that hotel workers earn cash tips that don’t show up on their pay stubs.

• A family member in Portland, Maine, told me that a bank initially turned down a merchant sailor who couldn’t produce a paycheck less than six months old. He had made plenty of money in the previous 12 months, but he works six months on and six months off. He had to produce a tax return as proof of income.

• Becky Friel, business manager for Country Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in Oxford, Pa., topped all the local-color stories during an interview at the store. I had seen a couple of Amish farmers in a horse and buggy in the center of Oxford, so I asked her jokingly if she has ever helped an Amish farmer finance a vehicle. I had heard that the Amish don’t drive cars, so I expected her to say no.

“They buy a lot of trucks,” she said. “Besides farming, a lot of them own construction companies.” Surprised, I asked: “Who does the driving?” “Englishmen,” she said. That made me even more confused. She explained: “That what they call us -- anybody who’s not Amish.”

The moral of these stories? Bosses at headquarters need to listen to their local F&I managers if they want to know what’s necessary to succeed locally. And F&I managers need to educate their lenders about what’s what in their market.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com.

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