Why some F&I time should be spent in the box

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

Most F&I insiders agree that customers dread the idea of spending time in the F&I office, also known as “the box.” But the F&I office has its supporters, too.

Certainly, there’s been a lot of discussion lately about keeping the customer’s time spent there to a minimum. And F&I managers shouldn’t just sit in the office all the time, waiting for customers to come to them, the experts say.

Yet there are perfectly sound reasons, even from the customer’s point of view, for doing business in an F&I office.

One is privacy. According to interviews with F&I managers, a lot of customers don’t like to discuss their personal finances where everybody can hear.

Another is the nature of F&I products. Unlike a car, a customer can’t kick the tires on an extended-service contract and look under the hood. F&I products tend to have “intangible” benefits that only come into play at some point in the future. Those bear explanation, and that can be hard to do in a showroom full of dazzling hardware.

Finally, there’s the long, long list of documents to be signed and disclosures to be acknowledged for the customer to be fully informed and for the dealership to comply with its legal obligations. That really dictates some sit-down time.

So while the experts work on “out of the box” alternatives such as mobile devices, video product presentations, an admin department that handles the paperwork and hybrid sales people who also do F&I, it seems like some form of “the box” is here to stay.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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