Looking for a fresh perspective on finance and insurance products? Enlist college students.
That's what EFG Cos. did in 2015 with its F&I Innovator of the Year competition with Northwood University. It repeated the competition in 2016 and combined the two winning products to develop Driver's Advocate, a mobile app geared toward service and retention. Driver's Advocate aims to drive customer loyalty through the service lane while providing theft protection and inventory management.
The product includes:
- A service scheduler.
- Consumer-direct, mileage-based messaging with service and maintenance reminders.
- A loyalty-point tracker, with consumers having the option to use points as discounts for service or toward a down payment on a vehicle purchase.
- A theft tracker that alerts consumers if their vehicle moves when they're not in it.
- A fuel finder.
EFG will repeat the competition with Northwood's automotive marketing and management students every other fall semester, with the next competition at the Midland, Mich., university in 2018. Each team of three students is paired with an F&I professional for guidance, and the final products are judged by a panel of auto retail leaders. A percentage of the sales from Driver's Advocate will go to Northwood.
The competition gave the students an idea of the importance of F&I in auto retailing today, said Elgie Bright, automotive marketing and management chair. "Change is the new constant," he said. Auto retail is "changing fast in every revenue stream, every department, [with] F&I being one of the very, very important profit centers."
Jenny Rappaport, EFG's chief marketing officer, noted that the students and their generational peers have grown up shaping how retailers service them. "The retail automotive industry is that next bastion. They feel empowered to say, 'Here's how I want to be serviced. Here's how I want to get information,' " Rappaport said. "Instead of fighting that, the dealers that run toward it and embrace it will capitalize and serve that audience well and gain that loyalty."