If the customer buys the vehicle at lease end via a new loan, "that's my biggest payer of any customer who walks through the door," he said.
For dealers, taking a positive, long-term approach to lease customers may become vital. Edmunds.com analysts estimate leasing will climb 1 percentage point to account for 30 percent of U.S. new-car sales this year, compared with 22 percent five years ago.
To make money on lease deals, "the F&I manager has to take the time to explain what the manufacturer's warranty does and doesn't cover," Knight said. "There are products that address every one of those areas that could be offered to lease customers."
Lease deals could dent F&I profits because for most F&I managers, the two best-selling add-ons, extended service contracts and guaranteed asset protection (GAP), are typically off the table, says Dave Duncan, president of Safe-Guard Products International in Atlanta.
A leased vehicle is often protected by the manufacturer's warranty for the life of lease, so the customer rarely sees value in buying an extended service contract, which has a wide profit margin. And nearly all manufacturers include GAP as part of the lease, Duncan said.
J.D. Power data released in November show that just 18 percent of premium customers buy an extended warranty when it's offered compared with 30 percent of nonpremium customers. That broad disparity most likely is because "leasing is more common among premium customers than nonpremium," J.D. Power's report said.
Still, leasing is rising across all makes. As a percentage of new-vehicle financing, leasing reached an all-time high of 34 percent in the fourth quarter last year; in the fourth quarter of 2011, it was 23 percent, according to Experian Automotive's "State of the Automotive Finance Market Fourth Quarter 2015" report.