In a shrinking new-vehicle sales environment, readers of the F&I Report sought insight into industry disruption and profitability concerns. Top-clicking F&I topics this year included Tesla's forays into auto insurance, worries of an economic downturn and the upward trend of used-vehicle sales.
Tesla took on auto insurance costs: In May, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk revealed plans to offer an insurance product that taps internal data from the company's Autopilot driver-assist system to reduce premiums.
Dealerships debated compensation for top earners: As front-end margins shrank even further in 2019, auto dealers discussed the possibility of minimizing the role of the F&I manager, weighing profits over the danger of driving away top talent.
Recession concerns were top of mind: Economists and analysts, predicting a downturn in the next year or so, debated how far new-vehicle sales would have to fall to trigger a recession.
Captive lender shake-ups: Mazda Motor of America Inc. walked away from a more than 10-year relationship with Chase Auto Finance to partner with Toyota Financial Services for consumer auto loans and leasing.
Experts outlined why used-vehicle leasing isn't catching on: Underwriting depreciation costs, and a dearth of lenders willing to engage in the practice, were some of the top reasons cited by analysts and economists.
Customers turned to used vehicles in droves: As new-vehicle transaction prices set record highs in 2019, more customers opted for older, high-mileage cars and light trucks to stick to their budgets. The mix of off-lease and off-fleet vehicles allowed for a wide range of prices among used vehicles in the past year.
Fraud in the headlines: Members of a San Diego fraud ring were identified by the local district attorney's office. The ring was accused of, among other things, credit washing, a type of fraud where customers falsely report identity theft to remove legitimate trade lines from their credit reports.
A call for compliance officers: Despite numerous regulations facing auto retailers, experts said the compliance officer post is largely understaffed and unsolicited in U.S. dealerships.