Auto dealerships are placing higher emphasis on F&I product sales as regulators work to limit dealerships' retail margin -- or reserve -- on customer financing.
Profit from F&I products appears to be increasing, data from at least one F&I provider indicate. But as dealerships work to boost product sales, they are confronting other challenges, such as competition from insurance companies and potential regulatory oversight on how they price and sell their F&I products.
F&I's share of total dealership profit has grown in recent years, according to data from the National Automobile Dealers Association. Last year, F&I profit made up 39.6 percent of new and used gross profit, up from 38.8 percent in 2013 and 36.9 percent in 2012.
But as F&I's share of total profit has grown, a shift may be starting to take place within the F&I component itself, that is, the amount of profit derived from product sales vs. that from financing.
Traditionally, auto dealerships have made more from financing. But that may be changing, data from F&I provider Service Group in Austin, Texas, suggest.
Profit from F&I products rose to about 63 percent of total F&I profit on the 148,785 deals done by Service Group's dealership clients this year through November, up from 62 percent on 155,014 deals for the full year 2014 and 60 percent on 139,301 deals in 2013. Profit from finance reserve, on the other hand, dropped one percentage point through November to about 38 percent of F&I profit.
Vince Santivasi, vice president of business development, finance and insurance, at Zurich North America, said the notion of F&I product profit over reserve profit "seems to be more of a focus" every year. But, he said, it "has probably been going on for the past five, six or seven years."