The company, which launched its iPad-based menu at the beginning of 2012, is conducting pilots with two public dealership groups, McCool said. He declined to name them. Hundreds of dealerships use iTapMenu, McCool said, though he wouldn't share a precise number. Dulaney, the Chandler Chevrolet finance director, is one user.
Another vendor, MaximTrak Technologies, says the mobility a tablet allows is attracting dealerships. Some finance managers, particularly in Florida, use the company's product to conduct remote sales.
"It basically just rendered everything we do portable," said Jim Maxim Jr., president of the Wayne, Pa., company. "We do see a better customer experience."
Clients typically gain a $250 to $300 increase in profit per vehicle retailed, and transaction times are trimmed 10 to 15 minutes on busy weekends, Maxim said. In a pilot the company did for Chrysler Group dealerships, profit per vehicle increased 27 percent, and service contract penetration rose 33 percent.
OptionSoft Technologies Inc. in Clifton Park, N.Y., has about 450 stores using its Mobile Menu product launched in 2010, shortly after the iPad's introduction. "It wasn't the mobility that was the big interest for us," said Nick Sennett, sales and technology manager. "It was the interactivity with the client."
The 150-plus dealerships that already had been customers saw a 12 percent increase in profit per vehicle retailed after adopting the technology, Sennett said. That translates to an average bump of around $100.
Despite such reported gains, many dealers and finance managers are still waiting and watching.
Many finance managers, in particular, are skeptical about tablet-based menus. One concern often expressed is that dealers could use the technology to displace them and create hybrid sales/F&I positions that pay less money.
Vendors say they try to discourage such moves.
"Hybrid managers are not why this product was built," Sennett said. "If anyone ever asks me my opinion on it at the dealership level, I say stay away from it. Without an F&I professional, our product is not going to be ineffective -- but far less effective."
Some dealership service pro-viders say it's too soon to tell whether tablets are the best option. Dealerships have experimented with other methods of electronic menu presentations such as using a second monitor or putting a flat display screen on the wall.
Dealerships shouldn't seek out tablet-based menus "just for technology's sake," said Chris Woerner, vice president of product management at ADP Dealer Services, a supplier of dealership management systems. "The F&I managers have to see value," Woerner said. "They're going to use tools that help them do their job and sell more products."
ADP will conduct a pilot with a large dealership group this summer on using a second monitor in the F&I office. That second monitor could be positioned in various ways -- back-to-back with the finance manager's primary monitor and facing the customer or mounted on a wall for both customer and manager to view together. Though it won't start this way, the monitor could be enabled with touch-screen capabilities later to promote customer interaction. Woerner would not disclose the retailer but said it is among the country's 10 largest dealership groups.