As an automotive finance veteran of nearly 30 years, Sue Wilke opposed the hybrid model of individual dealership employees managing both sales and finance and insurance.
"I was a hundred percent against it," Wilke, finance director and sales manager of Lompoc, Calif.-based RocketTown Honda, told Automotive News.
She recalled an encounter with Cindy Merry, finance director of a dealership group in Alaska that has thrived for years with a hybrid format. "I told her, 'You're crazy,' " Wilke said.
Then COVID-19 struck in March 2020. RocketTown was forced to adopt appointment-only sales and lay off a sales force of about 10 people, two finance staffers and an Internet sales manager. But when conditions improved in 2020 and RocketTown Honda needed to add staff, it seemed sales personnel wouldn't have enough volume to earn a decent living, Wilke said.
The dealership switched to a hybrid format as it brought back three of its staffers throughout 2020. One salesman, whom RocketTown had deemed qualified for F&I prior to the layoffs, was trained and assumed F&I duties. The two F&I managers returned with sales responsibilities.