October 1, 2020

F&I role will change, but never vanish

Finance and insurance managers aren’t likely going anywhere, according to one industry expert. But at what point in the sales process they’re introduced may shift based on changes expedited by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jim Houston, managing director of consumer lending and automotive finance at J.D. Power, said on a webinar hosted by the Automotive Press Association that the F&I product sales experience is here to stay. But it may gravitate more often from the time — and the place — it historically has occurred during a vehicle sale.

“Maybe it’s upfront before the vehicle’s selected, or in many cases, it could be after the vehicle has been selected, purchased, the consumer goes home and [they] engage you in that particular product after the fact,” Houston said.

“More consumers will look to be able to find the vehicle they want and the financing options they want outside of the dealership. The typical indirect model where I show up at the dealership with my driver’s license and I spend two or three hours filling out applications goes away.”

Though their roles are rapidly adapting to accommodate customers outside of the dealership, F&I managers are even less likely to vanish after the outbreak.

Double-digit unemployment, payment deferrals and credit reporting freezes because of the pandemic likely have added pressure to the credit landscape, and expertise inside the store is going to help move metal in the coming months.

Coronavirus complications aside, credit-challenged customers will always benefit from dedicated dealership assistance.