DETROIT -- Bob Wheat, general manager at Village Ford in suburban Detroit, refuses to rest on his laurels.
The finance and insurance office at the dealership, in the shadow of Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich., always has been profitable. But when Ford offered dealers free training on F&I sales techniques and products in 2010, Wheat jumped on it.
"I like to work with these guys to stay current, know the current offerings, how to address compliance issues and benchmark against others," Wheat says. "I don't care who you are, there is always opportunity out there that you may be missing."
Village Ford sells about 3,200 new and used vehicles annually. In 2010, the dealership's per-vehicle F&I revenue on a lease was about $200. It is now around $400, Wheat says. The F&I per-vehicle revenue on new- and used-vehicle sales was about $400 in 2010 and now is about $500 to $600, he says.
Ford hired outside firm MarketSource to train dealers. MarketSource declined to comment for this article.
Wheat says a MarketSource trainer visits Village Ford about once a month. The visit forces Wheat to review his numbers and his processes, he says. That keeps Wheat vigilant and focused on constant improvement, he says.
"They really are valuable in providing benchmarks," Wheat says. "That's one of the key things in F&I that's hard to get a grip on."
States have different laws, and some prohibit the sale of certain F&I products, Wheat says. As a result, it is hard to find an accurate benchmark comparison with other dealerships nationally.
"These guys really help us with that to know if you're above or below average in your market," Wheat says.
The trainers also alerted Village Ford to a missed opportunity: A chance to sell more guaranteed asset protection, or GAP, which covers customers for negative equity if their vehicles are totaled or stolen.
Wheat says because of the complex purchase process combined with so many legal and financing issues, the presentation of GAP to customers fell through the cracks.
"You have to keep that presentation up all the time and not be complacent," Wheat says.
"They helped me realize we weren't doing that enough and we needed to do so."
In two years, the dealership's GAP penetration sales rate on new and used cars rose by 15 percent, he says.
"We do a really good job with F&I, so some of these trainers said, 'I'm only going to call on you once a month, you've got great numbers,'" Wheat says. "That's a great story for complacency, and I don't like that. So I ask these guys to push us."