November 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
The Technology Impact
During the past several years, F&I managers have probably not been on most environmentalists’ Christmas card lists. The amount of paperwork purged when a customer completed a transaction was enough to frustrate anyone, let alone how frustrating it was to line up the paper in an archaic printer. Couple that with the hassle of having to file all the paperwork either at the dealership or offsite, and it made the entire process look and feel antiquated. There have been numerous examples of when human error in this process caused havoc with consumers, vendors and manufacturers.
Many manufacturers have sensed the frustration that exists at the time when a dealer and buyer are at the final stage of the transaction where speed and efficiency is what’s needed (not delays, paper jams and mistakes). It’s sometimes comical to me that we live in an era where two people on opposite sides of the world can talk to and see each other on a computer and society shortcuts processes because time is money, yet the F&I office at a car dealership is fraught with ancient methods, technology and business practices.
Three years ago, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation made the decision to automate the entire F&I experience and bring about change, discipline and technical innovation. Today, over 80 percent of banks that serve Nissan dealers are euphoric with the new technology that has been introduced to better streamline the process and minimize human error. Paper is a thing of the past.
Most everything is captured electronically and stored for seven years in a remote server where the risk of data loss is minimal. Consumers’ signatures at the point of sale are captured via a signature pad. Credit applications are all completed at a terminal and sent to the finance manager. All compliance items, including red flags and the new credit score disclosures, are automated. There are only a few paper documents that need to be signed: the title application and the documents for any aftermarket products the buyer purchases. Credit applications, odometer statements, contracts and agreements to purchase insurance are all signed and stored electronically. This entire package is then submitted to the bank with a bar code on the cover sheet. The bank scans the bar code and presto—all the documents appear at their end!
Service contracts are probably the most common aftermarket product sold at the F&I office. In the past, the F&I manager would have a rather thick book, the service contract rate book, where he or she would have to search by the make, model year, etc., to obtain the rate. Today, through the use of technology, the F&I manager enters the VIN number, and based on what coverage the buyer wants, the system instantly provides a quote. A contract is generated and printed on a laser printer. This completely eliminates human error.
State-of-the-art technology is no longer a commodity that only Fortune 1000 companies can afford. As competition is ripening amongst technology companies vying for dealers’ business, now is the time to consider streamlining processes and using technology that’s available to help your business—not just in F&I, but also in sales, accounting and collections if you have a buy here pay here operation. There is no avoiding technology. By not embracing it, you are simply delaying the inevitable. One thing is clear. Technology is indeed having a major impact on F&I.
Vol. 8, Issue 9