She said in a panel discussion at the F&I Industry Summit here this month that the hybrid approach is working OK for the Fiat store at startup volumes of about 30 new-car sales a month. But as volume grows, she believes the sales and F&I responsibilities need to be split. She estimated she will "hit a wall" at 40 to 50 new-car sales a month.
"I'm already training someone so she can handle finance and I can handle sales," Wadlinger said.
Using the hybrid approach was apparently Faulkner Fiat's decision. Chrysler Group spokesman Ralph Kisiel says Fiat has no policy to encourage hybrid F&I managers.
At the panel discussion, Kyle Risenhoover, regional vice president for F&I product administrator RoadVantage, agreed with Wadlinger that separating the F&I and sales functions "comes down to volume."
"In practicality, it sounds like a great idea to have one guy do multiple things," he said. "But how long are people going to have to wait because there's not a salesperson available, because he's busy doing the F&I thing?"
Ash Bauer, executive vice president of the Warranty Group in Chicago, said maybe a hybrid set-up doesn't have to be all one way or all the other.
For instance, he said, a specially trained salesperson could fill in for an F&I manager when the manager is off or help out at the end of a month when everyone is swamped.
Michael Burgholzer, senior vice president of extended-service contract administrator Warrantech, said he is a partner in a used-car dealership in Rochester, N.Y. He said his store has done things both ways, with a hybrid setup when volume was low and a conventional setup when volume was high.
A separate panel at the conference discussed mobile devices in dealerships. Some panelists and audience members said there's a perception that electronic menus and other portable devices are enabling dealers who want to save money by combining sales and F&I.
Some of the companies that design those devices denied that helping dealers replace the traditional F&I manager is on their agenda. "I would tell them not to do it," said Shawn McCool, the founder of iTapMenu in Carmel, Ind., a company that makes an electronic menu that works on an iPad.
Mark Thorpe, president of the Impact Group Inc., which provides F&I presentation software, said: "We're all trying to evaluate this technology. I'm really not sure from a menu producer point of view where we're going with this.
"The thing I'm most worried about is: I know a lot of dealers are itching to get rid of dedicated F&I departments. I question whether tablet technology gives them more incentive to try a hybrid approach."
Thorpe said that in one dealership he knows that tried hybrid managers, "They were very successful -- at reducing their F&I income by two-thirds."