When F&I trainer George Angus first presented the F&I menu to groups of about 30 managers in the early 2000s, he was disheartened when only about six of them brought the process back to their dealerships. The menu, he found, presented a visually appealing platform to uniform sales processes. But most dealers wouldn't budge.
"The greatest force on earth, greater than the wind, the tide or tornadoes, is the ability of people to resist change," Angus said.
Angus persisted, continuing to conduct seminars on the menu for dealers. His tutelage, along with word of mouth from dealers, helped the F&I menu become an industry standard.
Now as president of F&I consulting firm Team One Group, Angus sees parallels between the industry's long-ago adoption of F&I menus and its current adoption of digital F&I solutions, though pressure to modernize dealership operations with technology is putting screws on every element of the automotive industry, he says. Industry experts agree that digitalization of the F&I process is inevitable, but which tools will be uniform across the automotive retail terrain is less certain.
Dealers should be thinking about where the world will be in three years by modernizing and investing in technology now, said Andy Moss, CEO of California startup Roadster, which creates digital storefronts on dealer sites that allow consumers to buy vehicles online.
"It's tempting for dealers to say, 'I'll get to that point in the future.' Some dealers are going to say technology is going to solve everything, and that's not right either," Moss said. "It's not like one size fits all."
Phillip Battista, CEO of Darwin Automotive, a vendor of predictive F&I menu-selling tools, said that while manufacturers are in the business of moving metal, dealers are in the business of moving metal profitably. As new-vehicle margins tighten, dealers are leaning on other departments, such as F&I, for profit. There is a level of insecurity in the marketplace around dealers and digital F&I, Battista said.
"That's where it gets scary for dealers who understand the space. They don't want people coming in with a check for the car. The dealers will not opt in to that," he said.