Megadealer Bert Boeckmann has long produced respectable finance and insurance revenue at his five California stores. But in 2009, at the urging of Ford Credit trainers, Boeckmann added a new trick -- and had his F&I income surge.
It all comes down to getting finance managers out of the box -- their closed-off offices -- and into the showroom, Boeckmann says. A short interview on the showroom floor with a customer who has decided to buy a car can work wonders once that customer enters the F&I office, he says.
"The key is always to get customers relaxed," says Boeckmann, who runs Galpin Ford just outside Los Angeles, the country's top-volume Ford dealership. "The relationship with the F&I person is much more positive. They're not coming in defensive and going over the payment."
Since the showroom interviews started in 2009, per-vehicle F&I revenue at Galpin has increased $100, to $1,473. The increase is more significant than it initially appears considering that leases, which typically carry lower F&I income, have doubled at the flagship Ford store, said Michael Schwartz, Galpin's finance director.
Product sales are up, and customer time in the F&I office has dropped by at least 10 minutes.
Proponents of showroom interviews say that Boeckmann's results are the typical benefits of training finance managers to breach the showroom doors. F&I giants JM&A and Zurich have touted interviews to their clients for a decade or more. Other product vendors and captive finance companies such as Ford Motor Credit Co. also urge dealers to adopt the practice.
And dealers are listening.
In an unscientific online survey of dealers and dealership managers by Automotive News, almost one-third of respondents said they've recently changed their approach to finance manager introductions.