You Don't Need a Compliance Program

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Thomas B. Hudson, Esq. - Also by this author

Your dealership is lucky that it hasn’t turned up on one of those candid camera episodes. Your sales and F&I guys know every trick in the book.

You sell unpopular new cars to unsophisticated buyers for MSRP, just because you can. You tag buyers with premium prices for mediocre used cars. You steal trade-ins. You engage in payment packing.

You hard-code “etch” protection on every contract and tell buyers that it is required, just like you tell them that GAP, service contracts and credit life are required “by the lenders.”

You “spot” cars when you know that you can’t sell the resulting retail installment contract to any financing source, counting on getting the customer back in to rework the terms of the deal.
You occasionally sell a “clipped” car, a flooded car or a car with an odometer rewind.

You treat your customers like dirt, turning a deaf ear to legitimate complaints.

You engage in “bait and switch” advertising, and your radio ads have some guy talking like he’s on helium, machine-gunning the required federal advertising disclosures at a speed that ensures that no one will understand them. Or, you just ignore the disclosure requirements altogether.

If this describes your dealership, I’ve got some great news for you.

You don’t need a compliance program.

You can save a ton of money. You don’t have to worry about hiring expensive lawyers, having a compliance audit or sending your salespeople and F&I people off to the occasional 2 or 3-day compliance class. You can forget about a lot of expensive training. And you don’t need to spend any time at all trying to figure out whether ethics training makes sense for your operation.

And it’s a good thing you don’t need compliance help, because if this is the way you are going to operate, no compliance program in the world will help you. I can’t help you, Keith Whann can’t help you, Chris Leedom can’t help you, Greg Goebel can’t help you, the Cat in the Hat can’t help you and the genie in the lamp can’t help you.

You need a compliance program like a gravedigger needs a manicure.

I’ve said it in this space and others often, but the place that every good dealership compliance program has to start is in decent, ethical treatment of the dealership’s customers. If a dealership lacks that necessary base, all the compliance stuff in the world is just a bunch of eyewash.

To paraphrase Joe Lescota, my dear friend who is the department chair for Automotive Marketing at Northwood University, if you wouldn’t sell a car to your mother or sister, you shouldn’t sell it to one of your customers, and the same thing goes for the terms of the financing and every other aspect of the deal.

Now that’s a real “friends and family” promotion.

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