Larry H. Miller Dealerships is pushing to put more of the car buying process online, but the F&I component will stay in the dealership.
The group is launching LHM Fast Pass, a website tool that enables customers to select and reserve online a new or used vehicle for purchase or lease.
The retailer has introduced the program at 10 stores in Salt Lake City; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Spokane, Wash. It will be rolled out in all of the group’s 54 dealerships by late summer.
“It allows customers the ability to manage their own deal from the start,” Dean Fitzpatrick, president of Larry H. Miller Dealerships, said in a statement.
Customers can view inventory on Miller dealership websites, select the vehicle they are interested in and then click on the LHM Fast Pass icon. They must enter personal information, apply for loan approval and make a refundable $500 deposit via PayPal to reserve the vehicle for 24 hours.
A salesperson from the store will then contact the customer to schedule an appointment and complete final paperwork, and when the customer visits the store, the vehicle will be ready for delivery.
“We’ve developed this service to meet consumer demand,” spokeswoman Sara Waldman said. “Consumers are doing their research prior to purchasing an item.”
Customers can put their deals together online by adding a trade-in vehicle, a down payment, loan term and interest rate. They can also sign up for price alerts on used cars to receive notifications every time the vehicle price drops.
But the program doesn’t eliminate face-to-face interaction at the dealership. Customers still have to come in to sign paperwork, and all of the F&I work will still be done in-store, Waldman said. That includes viewing an F&I product menu, which likely will lengthen the time to complete the transaction.
Studies show that consumers spend, on average, 30 minutes or more in the F&I department at a typical dealership.
F&I activities have been slow to go digital across the industry because of complex transaction regulations that vary from state to state, many of which require signed paper forms, and limited technological options with online financing tools.
The LHM Fast Pass is “the next evolution in the car buying experience,” Fitzpatrick said in the statement.
“Overall, our focus is on people,” Waldman said. “It’s still all about customer service, but this allows customers to save some time by being able to complete some of the transaction from the comfort of their homes.”
Larry H. Miller Dealerships, of Sandy, Utah, also operates stores in California, Arizona and Idaho. The company ranks No. 11 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 U.S.-based dealership groups with retail sales of 56,182 new vehicles in 2014.