How hot is the competition getting in the F&I product space?
So hot that “the future of finance is in consulting,” said Damien Bullard, co-founder of IDDS Group.
That’s a bold statement given that part of IDDS’ business comes from selling finance and insurance products from other providers. The New York company also consults and trains in dealerships’ F&I, vehicle sales and service departments.
“Moving forward, we want to be more on the consulting side,” Bullard said.
The reason? The F&I product space has become too crowded, with several manufacturers offering branded F&I products, dealers selling their own reinsured products and even auto insurance companies, such as Allstate and Geico, getting in on the game, he said.
‘Plenty of market’
But others in the industry argue there is still a lot of F&I product business to go around, even in light of increased consolidation.
AmTrust Financial Services Inc. said last week it plans to buy F&I product provider Warranty Solutions, owned by Wells Fargo.
The two F&I product companies’ offerings “overlap considerably,” said Larry Dorfman, CEO of EasyCare, a rival F&I product provider and training firm in Atlanta.
Still, he insisted, there is “plenty of market out there for everyone to compete.”
Dave Duncan, president of Safe-Guard International, agrees. There are more F&I products being sold now “than any time in history,” he said in an email to Automotive News.
“There is new competition. But the pie is much bigger,” Duncan said. “Agents, direct-sales companies (like JM&A, Resource Automotive and Zurich North America) and manufacturers each offer the dealer and his or her customers a unique value proposition. I believe this competitive landscape will far outlast either of us.”
Duncan said Safe-Guard has many “strong agent partners who are experiencing record sales and margins.”
EasyCare’s Dorfman added there are plenty of opportunities to form alliances, too. Over the years, EasyCare has teamed up with six automakers to provide F&I products at various times, he says.
So while Bullard sees the future of finance in consulting, Dorfman stands firm that dealers want a supplier to deliver both product and consulting.
“The way to succeed in this industry,” Dorfman said, “is by having a holistic approach.”