MerCorp is a small, independent agency that markets F&I products in seven Western states -- Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona -- plus Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Special Correspondent Jim Henry spoke with Mercurio last week.
What products are hot lately?
Times have changed a little bit, obviously. People are looking for a brand they can trust. A brand like Allstate helps a lot. It gives dealers some peace of mind. It gives customers some peace of mind, as opposed to some company they never heard of.
Don't get me wrong. I think everybody in the industry today is pretty solid. There are some really good companies out there, and we deal with several of them. But it's understandable if people simply want that peace of mind. It's helped us grow, definitely.
Are dealerships pushing second-tier products to make up for money they're not making on loans?
Smaller ancillary-type products, like roadside (assistance), interior and exterior products, you can gain confidence that way, by presenting those first and then getting into some of the more expensive items like the vehicle service contract.
Some F&I trainers are telling people to do that. It's a new approach, to get a better acceptance rate.
Does your company do training?
We don't do generalized F&I training, but we do specific training on our products, on the products that we sell.
Are you moving into new territories, or are you growing by doing more in the markets where you're already established?
If the right opportunity came up with a big dealer group in another state, we could go into other states, but that's really hard to do. In the downturn, we kind of shrank down, mainly to be more efficient. We adapted a bit through the slow times, but since things have started to come back we've been able to build our dealer base.
Do you do business in California?
We were in California, but not any more. California is expensive to do business. It's competitive. It's a different arena. We don't like being part of the price-grinding machine. That doesn't allow for good service. We just weren't comfortable in that atmosphere.