There are glitches in 60-minute deals

Preparation makes F&I smooth -- but there are exceptions

Brittany Corney completes a lease deal with retired firefighter Kevin Pierson at Ralph Thayer VW in suburban Detroit, which prides itself on 60-minute transactions. Photo credit: DAVID BARKHOLZ

DETROIT -- Brittany Corney, finance and insurance manager at Ralph Thayer Volkswagen, was prepped and ready to close Kevin Pierson on a vehicle lease in less than 10 minutes.

She had worked that quickly with two prior customers earlier in the morning. Then the best-designed plans went awry.

Pierson, a retired firefighter, believed he had negotiated 12,000 miles annually on his three-year lease of a Jetta sedan. The documents that Corney carefully reviewed with Pierson showed 10,000 miles.

"It was supposed to be 12,000," Pierson politely informed Corney.

That glitch doubled Pierson's time in F&I to about 20 minutes, though he spent minimal time going over extended warranties and ancillary products because he had no intention of buying any.

That snag illustrates what can go wrong even in stores that pride themselves in getting customers through the sales process in 60 minutes, as is the case at Ralph Thayer VW in suburban Detroit.

"It is a very rare occurrence, but it happens," Corney said of the misunderstanding after Pierson had headed outside to take delivery of the Jetta.

Being prepared

Corney prides herself on being prepared and getting customers through F&I as efficiently as possible.

She said she takes customers through the insurance menu at a pace they are comfortable with. If they are clearly not in a buying mood, she passes on the hard sell and only strongly recommends products such as tire and wheel protection on Michigan's winter-pitted roads.

Her sales numbers on ancillary products are equal to colleagues in other Thayer stores who spend more time taking customers through the process, said General Sales Manager Kevin Creech.

When the mileage conflict cropped up, Corney calmly excused herself and walked the contract over to Creech.

Creech was pragmatic: He said he made it clear when penciling the contract that the monthly lease price was for 10,000 miles annually, not 12,000.

But he reasoned that he might lose the deal over it. And it was the end of the month and Creech needed the sale to reach the top tier of the quarter's stair-step incentive program. He had no choice but rubber stamp the 12,000 miles.

"Everything I worked up was for 10,000 miles," Creech said. "But it's not worth it to jeopardize the deal for $200 [total] over three years."

$30K stair-step

Obtaining the highest stair-step, a bonus based on specific vehicle sales goals, was worth more than $30,000 to the store.

The change prompted Corney to redo some of Pierson's paperwork. In all, it cost about 10 minutes. In preparation for the close, Corney had retyped all of the closing documents for the lease except the contract and title documents.

The previous used-car buyer was in and out of her office in 10 minutes. Pierson said he was happy with his deal and the level of service, especially given the time he took to meticulously go over every detail in the paperwork.

The Jetta, which he said his 17-year-old daughter selected for her first car, was the first vehicle Pierson had ever leased. So he said he had to pick through every number and have interest rates and residual value explained in detail.

Pierson said thoroughness, not transaction time, was his main consideration.

"I wasn't worried how long it took," he said.

In the end, Pierson left a happy customer despite "a little confusion" over the miles allotment: "I just wanted to get it right." c

You can reach David Barkholz at dbarkholz@crain.com -- Follow David on Twitter: @barkholzatan



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