Finance director, Oakes Kia
Jesse Powers improves things.
He worked on his days off to learn the business at his first auto retail job, he serves the community through his church and he’s the self-proclaimed “ guru” at Oakes Kia, helping credit-challenged consumers find loans to afford vehicles in a market with limited public transportation.
“What I really love about [special finance] so much is that you really are fulfilling a need in peoples’ lives,” Powers said.
He’s also leveraged technology to improve the auto retail experience for customers and staff at Oakes Kia in Kansas City and boosted used-vehicle sales by analyzing potential inventory.
Powers established a compliant system for customers to approve paperwork and review finance and insurance products remotely in 2020 and helped expand it to two other Oakes stores.
“That really helped a lot because obviously that became the huge trend over the last couple years,” he said.
Customers expect to be able to handle most of a transaction online.
He credited the dealership’s performance during “such a crazy market” to its early embrace of such technology.
“We’ve just seen such crazy growth,” he said.
Powers brought F&I tech into transactions within the store. He took a customer-friendly format — buyers speak to the finance manager at their salesperson’s desk rather than in an unfamiliar finance office — and made it even easier by introducing tablets with F&I menu software.
Previously, finance managers might have to reprint paperwork, go back and forth from the finance office and use calculators as they adjusted a deal during the conversation with the customer. The tablets can recalculate deal numbers on the fly for the customer’s approval as the buyer selects F&I products.
“We let the customer be in control,” he said.
After playing with the menu, “The next thing you know, your paperwork’s done and you’re out. And if you really want to make it fast, you can have almost all of it done online before you come in,” Powers said.
Oakes Kia’s F&I profit has grown to more than $4.6 million in 2022 from $1.8 million in 2020, the year Powers started there. The store averages 2.43 F&I products on every deal — nearly double the 1.24 products it tallied in 2020. Nearly 65 percent of car deals include a vehicle service contract, up from 54 percent two years earlier.
Powers also helped the dealership more than double its used-vehicle volume during an inventory shortage by providing the confidence and analysis that stock acquired at elevated market prices will still yield a profit.
One simply needed to “find exit strategies for all cars,” Powers said. “I can show you retail solutions out of vehicles.”
One strategy involves Powers, a “numbers guy,” flagging vehicles with large discrepancies between Kelley Blue Book and the J.D. Power valuation more common in his market and finding lenders who will accept the KBB valuation when structuring a consumer loan for the vehicle.
Vehicles might appear to command “ridiculous” amounts at auction, but “it’s like, ‘No, go get them,’ ” Powers said.
— John Huetter