Credit score estimates are in a 50-point range, based on the customer's answers to a dozen questions about the customer's credit history. One example: In the last 12 months, how many times have you applied for a loan or credit card? Customers do have to provide an e-mail address to get the credit score estimate.
Some in the F&I community say consumers could be turned off if the estimate is too far below their actual credit scores, which typically are available for as little as $12.95.
FICO's fee for a one-time credit score at www.myfico.com is $19.95.
McFall says a pilot program with 18 dealerships, which ran about 1,000 consumers through the credit-score product, yielded increased lead volumes with closing rates that stayed about the same.
Now Black Book Online wants to roll out what it calls its new "Activator Complete" system to the 7,500 or so dealerships that already use Black Book's core online product. That core product is a "Value Your Trade" link on dealership Web pages that enables consumers to get an estimate of their trade-in value. Getting an estimated trade-in value automatically triggers a lead for the dealership.
The new credit score feature shows up on a dealership's Web site under the link: "Get Your Credit Score Estimate."
Black Book says about 40 percent of people who get a trade-in estimate buy a car within two months.
Dave Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals in Colleyville, Texas, questions the value of the Black Book estimates. Robertson says customers could be unhappy if the "quickie" credit estimate is too far from the customer's actual score.
"Why would anyone do this when one can pay a small fee to secure the actual score?" Robertson said in an e-mail response to a question on Monday.
Kelley Blue Book, a competitor, said through a spokesperson: "We wish Black Book much luck, as we have no plans to predict people's credit situations, especially in today's economy."
McFall says no system is perfect. "We're going to miss once in a while," he says. "If you miss on low side, it's good news for customers" when they find out they're more highly qualified. "It's those misses on the high side you have to worry about."