F&I managers have long had a reputation as being disingenuous and pushy, maybe because of the stress many of them feel in the face of performance pressures, long hours, changing pay plans or even conflicts with colleagues.
But if F&I managers are stressed, they aren't showing it.
"Warm and welcoming" were the adjectives most consumers used in a DealerRater-Automotive News survey to describe the F&I managers they worked with during their most recent dealership experience.
The survey, conducted by DealerRater in October, pulled in responses from 14,663 recent car buyers. After "warm and welcoming," the majority of respondents called F&I managers "polished and professional" and "knowledgeable and helpful."
"Cold and impersonal" and "pushy and aggressive" each were picked by just 3 percent of respondents.
So does this mean that consumers' negative perceptions of F&I managers finally have gone away?
Doug Kearns, vice president at Yark Automotive Group in Toledo, Ohio, said he was pleasantly surprised by the shift in attitude. "More customers do feel the way they should," he said. "Hopefully, slowly but surely, dealers are changing those perceptions over time and getting more in tune with the rest of the retail environment on what consumers' expectations are."
DJ Supan, finance director at Yark Automotive, said the Internet can play a major role in improving customers' perception of F&I managers. "The level of transparency that customers expect has to be there," he said.
Bill Jarrett, owner of Jarrett Ford in Avon Park, Fla., said that finally the F&I department is in a position it "should have been in for decades." Especially with the Internet, "knowledge is power," he added.
Today, F&I managers make putting the customer's budget together a pleasant experience because the industry has accepted the resourceful customer, Jarrett said.
"I'm quite excited that the consumer has gained this knowledge," he said. F&I managers should tell the customer: "This is what we both know. Let's take the journey to see if this fits your budget."