Editor's note: Corrects full name reference to the American Financial Services Association Education Foundation.
Lisa Copeland, managing partner of Fiat of Austin in Austin, Texas, doesn't want her customers winding up in the wrong car for their budgets.
Her salespeople are trained to talk to customers about credit and how much they can afford to pay for a new or used vehicle. The salespeople have been instructed to be sure that customers don't take on more debt than they can handle.
Copeland recently posted on her Buying Cars Her Way Facebook page a newspaper article that quotes her saying that consumers with blemished credit should get their credit scores before visiting a dealership, check into more forgiving financing -- say, from a credit union -- if their credit score is below 660 and stay within their budget.
The Facebook page and her website, buyingcarsherway.com, are devoted to helping women better understand the auto industry and the vehicles they drive. But her tips are applicable to men, too, she said.
"I want to help this customer get through their credit issues," Copeland told Automotive News. "I want to give them good advice. I want to help this customer buy the right car today, so two years from now when it's time to trade, they're going to remember us as the good guys and they're going to come back."
Copeland is among the dealers, captive finance companies and others in the industry that are trying to help consumers learn good personal finance skills that in turn will help them become better versed about buying and financing vehicles.
They agree that consumers who have a firm grasp on personal finance have more realistic expectations when purchasing vehicles and are more satisfied with their purchase.
"That's the consumer I want," Copeland said. "Not the one that thinks I'm ripping them off because they have bad credit. I'm all about empowering consumers."
Dave Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals, notes that financially literate customers are good customers because "the more the consumer understands about the process, the more equitable the transaction and the less likely that somebody will go in as the salesperson and break the rules."
Toyota Financial Services Inc. believes that adopting good money-management skills early in life will help consumers have brighter financial futures. That's why the captive finance arm pledged $2.3 million to help more than 26,000 girls become financially savvy through a partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA.
"Driving My Financial Future" is a two-year, nationwide program of financial-empowerment events for Girl Scouts featuring Toyota Financial employees as volunteers. The program also includes college scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 and chances for scouts to earn financial-literacy badges.
Sue Valascho, community relations specialist at Toyota Financial, said the partnership with the Girl Scouts started in October 2014 in 10 councils across the country. The program provides funding for those councils to identify financial educational opportunities for underserved girls in grades 6-12.
As part of the effort, Toyota Financial employees are conducting workshops on topics such as establishing good credit, credit scores and budgets.
Ann Bybee, Toyota Financial vice president of corporate strategy, communications and social responsibility, said it is important that girls are comfortable with numbers, financing and accounting because women often are responsible for household finances.
"We are a financial services company and think it is our responsibility to help improve financial education and capability of people in our communities," Bybee said.