The door is open for more scrutiny of product sales, the NCM experts say. Some states already have caps on prices that dealers are allowed to charge for products such as service contracts. "It begs the question: Will more states follow suit," Faletti says.
Sonic's Dyke, for one, is not concerned that increased scrutiny or customer backlash will become a problem on the product-sale side of the F&I office.
Neither is dealer Brown. Reinventing product sales is a must to make up for lower finance reserve income, which he predicts eventually will be reduced to flat fees.
Atlantic Automotive Group cracks down on compliance, training staffers and getting them certified with the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals. The association audits transactions, including frequent spot checks.
"We want to sleep at night," Atlantic's Brown says. "There are still just too many people out there selling air to customers. It's terrible, and it gives us a bad name."
Audits are a great way to head off problems, lawyer Whann says. Documentation also is key. He recommends that dealers have customers sign product purchase confirmations.
"Most of the time, it's done in the right fashion," says Whann, a former Ohio assistant attorney general. The days of packing payments with undisclosed products are in the past -- and products are more reasonably priced today, he says.
Back at Ganley, a new F&I supplier and its associated training have helped. Service contract sales are up. Since April, the group's F&I income per vehicle sold at retail has jumped from below $600 to $825. The product side has gone from contributing about 40 percent of that income to slightly better than 50 percent.
It all goes back to getting to know your customer, Fornal says.
"They have needs -- listen and market to them," he says. "We're starting to recognize that."