Allstate Dealer Services, a large insurer and F&I supplier, is expanding its program that lets dealerships sell auto insurance as licensed Allstate agents.
Allstate is opening the program -- which began as a pilot in October 2010 at 11 dealerships -- to all U.S. dealerships. Initially, it will pursue established and larger dealership groups with multiple stores.
"It's a great opportunity for dealers to supplement their revenue stream and provide a service to their customers and employees," Mark LaNeve, Allstate senior executive vice president of sales and marketing, said in an interview.
Allstate Dealer Services is a business unit of Allstate Insurance.
The program, led by Allstate Dealer Services President Doug Herberger, enables Allstate to expand its insurance agency network.
Herberger and LaNeve are former General Motors executives.
LaNeve said the program also will give dealers access to customer leads and will help promote customer loyalty.
"The more products you own, the more loyal you are as a customer," LaNeve said. "Our auto policies renew every six months so you have to contact the customer frequently. It keeps the dealer in contact with the customer."
And then there's the added income to the dealership.
The dealer gets a 10 percent commission on new business generated and on renewal business, LaNeve said.
"If you've got a $1 million book of business, which is actually very small, and it's renewing at 90 percent, which is about average for the industry, that means you have $90,000 a year coming in on renewal commissions," LaNeve said.
Here's how the program works. The dealer or a selected employee becomes a licensed Allstate agent. That means in addition to traditional aftermarket products such as service contracts and GAP that are sold in the F&I department, dealerships with an Allstate agency can sell liability, collision and comprehensive coverage. The dealership also can sell Allstate benefits to dealership employees.
The Allstate agency will be inside the dealership, typically on the showroom floor, and operate during regular dealership hours. But it's not part of the sales process or the F&I process. Customers visit it after that process is complete.
It's a "fairly minimal investment" to establish the agency at a dealership because there's an existing facility, LaNeve said.
The startup cost, which includes training and reassigning some employees to sell Allstate products, is between $100,000 to $200,000. If a dealer decides to join the program, it takes about two months to get trained and licensed, LaNeve said.
In 2010, Allstate Dealer Services tested the pilot at stores in Florida, New York, Illinois and Texas, LaNeve said. Its success prompted Allstate Dealer Services to expand it nationwide.
Dealers interested in learning more about Allstate's insurance program may visit Allstate Dealer Services at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention Feb. 3-6 in Las Vegas.