Some dealerships that experimented with one-touch hybrid sales and F&I managers over the years ended up going back to separating the roles, saying the change ultimately dragged out the process for customers and cost them thousands in profit.
That has not been the case at White River Toyota, a dealership in rural Vermont that boosted profit per vehicle after eliminating the F&I office and reducing F&I managers. Could this be a model for dealerships considering switching to a one-touch sales and finance position?
At White River, which launched its storewide transformation six years ago, the same salesperson who helps customers select and test-drive vehicles also walks them through vehicle pricing, financing options and F&I products on a tablet device. Finance assistants, four in total, manage the paperwork while the vehicle is prepped. A finance manager works in the background with the salesperson.
The dealership sends its finance deals exclusively to Toyota Financial Services, the brand's captive finance arm, and it only sells insurance products provided by the automaker. It doesn't mark up interest rates.
Through this process, the store has increased from 1.2 F&I products per vehicle sold to nearly 3.5 products. Profit is $2,000 to $2,200 per vehicle.
Beefing up responsibility for salespeople also cuts down on wait time for customers, said White River General Manager Jason Quenneville, who spoke at Automotive News' Retail Forum: Chicago last week.
"A couple Saturdays ago, we sold 25 cars with one finance manager, and nobody waited at all," Quenneville said. "The salespeople do it all."
Many dealers are reluctant to curtail elements of the traditional F&I experience. The F&I office is a key profit center for the typical dealership. And F&I managers play a critical role in helping dealerships stay compliant in the highly complex world of regulatory requirements.
But for dealers considering altering their F&I department, note the impressive change on display at White River Toyota. Would similar changes make sense for them given the idiosyncrasies of their markets and brands? What works for some may not work for all, but the progress White River Toyota has made in the F&I department signals possibilities to come.