More finance managers are willing to mix and match their F&I menu packages as well as sell a la carte products tailored to a customer's needs and budget.
Dealers say F&I customization is driven by potential regulatory scrutiny as well as building long-term customer loyalty and boosting F&I profits.
"It's the spotlight on our industry of people being taken advantage of -- so you're keeping yourself out of a position of liability by offering everything," says Mitchell Dale, owner of McRee Ford in Dickinson, Texas.
"That's driving some of that. Plus, it's about building a loyal relationship with the customer."
And in Dale's case, it has kept his F&I per-vehicle revenue at about $1,180. That's flat versus a year ago. Dale, who sells about 1,500 new and used vehicles a year, sees that as a good result given increasing competition from outside of dealerships for F&I product business as well as rising customer savvy.
"There's so much information out there and ... there is so much awareness by consumers that it's making customization the trend," Dale says. "So you're trying to keep that relationship and build loyalty."
In a recent informal survey by Automotive News, 81 percent of dealership respondents said they are tailoring F&I product presentations to individual customers more now than they did five years ago. And about 70 percent of respondents said F&I sales are up as a result.
At one time, aftermarket products were sold mainly through the practice of step selling, that is, pitching one product at a time. Some stores still rely on that method.
But in the past decade or so, many dealerships have switched to a menu selling process, in which all F&I products are presented to customers bundled in variously priced packages, as a way to boost product sales and F&I profits.
Some finance managers now are willing to unbundle those packages and re-package them to better accommodate a customer.
For example, if a customer has a dog, that customer might want fabric protection but not need paint protection, Texas dealer Dale says. And it's OK with him to sell only fabric protection.
"In a baseball tournament, sometimes you have to just be happy with some singles and doubles. You can't always hit a home run," he says.
Dimmitt in Florida started using a menu to sell F&I products about five years ago. He says he quickly began tailoring sales to accommodate customers. His F&I annual per-vehicle revenue has increased steadily, he says, though he declined to give specific figures.
"This is a complicated, service-focused experience, so customers want to feel like they're in a unique position and being treated unique," says Dimmitt, who sells about 2,000 new and used vehicles annually.