But AutoNation is concerned about generating enough income to pay talented sales professionals. “One way to pay people properly is to reduce our head count,” said Westfall. Margins, he said, “keep getting smaller and smaller.”
The company has pilots under way at four locations, Westfall said later in an interview. The stores are testing these configurations:
• Combining F&I with sales at the director level. A director who reports to the general manager oversees sales associates and F&I managers. The store eliminates the F&I director.
• Combining F&I with sales at the manager level. A manager who reports to the general manager is responsible for sales and F&I and oversees sales associates. There is no separate F&I manager.
AutoNation also is introducing more technology to the process to make it faster, more convenient and more transparent to customers, Westfall said. Currently, AutoNation's 251 dealerships offer customers touch-screen F&I electronic menus describing aftermarket products. The menus cut about 30 minutes out of the F&I process.
“How do we hire high-quality associates where we as a dealer still make money and create a great customer experience?” asked Westfall. “That's the biggest challenge we have.”