In my previous Megatrends article, I wrote about how advancing technology is changing the role of F&I. This week, we examine some new business practices. You already know what I mean. We’re going to talk about:
- Hybrid Sales Process
- No Haggle Pricing
- Salaried Employees
- Flat Reserve
High line manufacturers have tried to promote “one face to the customer,” since I was at BMW in the twentieth century. Lexus Plus is the latest iteration. Tellingly, BMW called it Retail 2000. I fondly remember hearing a radio spot for “the last BMW dealer” in San Francisco, because we had styled all the others as retailers. “If you want to pay retail, go to a retailer,” the ad went, “to get a deal, you need a dealer.”
So, it goes in cycles. Lexus, or Scion, or AutoNation, will roll out a new process only to be outmaneuvered by the wily dealers. Then they retrench and, five years later, someone else tries the new process. They could literally be passing around the same procedure manual. Look at me. I have been advocating price transparency since Zag.
One Sonic-One Experience offers no-haggle pricing with one sales rep using an iPad who takes the customer through the entire vehicle sales process, including financing and the F&I product presentation.
A good example of the new process is Jim Deluca’s exposition of the Sonic One Experience. In their EchoPark process, Sonic also eliminates dealer reserve. The fight over flats and caps lasted from roughly 2012 to 2014. See here, and NADA’s endorsement of caps here. Next, Sonic will leverage their heavy investment in training to roll all of this into an online process called Digital One-Stop.
I suspect that Sonic would soon like to fire all their trained F&I professionals in their self-interest of saving a buck.
Forum comments reveal that old-school practitioners dislike the new process. It’s funny to hear an F&I manager accuse a dealer of shameless self-interest, but there it is. On the other side, Sonic’s Jeff Dyke reports good results from hiring people with no prior automotive experience. Meanwhile, at rival consolidator AutoNation, 70% of the sales staff opted to go on salary.
Well-known F&I trainer Tony Dupaquier is here, advocating the hybrid process at First Texas Honda, and here is Findlay Group’s Las Vegas Subaru. Savvy dealers everywhere are experimenting with at least two or three of the four new practices (online selling and iPads come up a lot, too).
Smart people have told me that the hybrid process will never produce four-digit PVRs, but many dealers – and certainly the consolidators – reckon that’s a price worth paying for a streamlined process, reduced turnover, and improved customer satisfaction.