September 27, 2020

Help from within for auto recyclers, F&I managers

Every sector of the U.S. economy, it seems, has been touched by the coronavirus pandemic. Retail, entertainment, hospitality, health and service are among the most affected industries, given their consumer-facing nature.

Yet the deadly virus has touched essential service workers who don’t often make headlines, who worked quickly in the early weeks of the U.S. outbreak to address the needs of their unique professional communities.

The Automotive Recyclers Association established the COVID-19 Relief Fund in early April to support members of its community affected by the virus. Similarly, the F&I Providers Relief Fund, founded and financed by finance and insurance product companies, aims to aid the retail community supporting its business.

“Everyone is being impacted by the global reach of the coronavirus. Professional automotive recyclers are no different,” Sandy Blalock, executive director of the association, said in a press release. “Our industry represents thousands of businesses in all shapes and sizes, and thousands of employees. Many of our members are also family-owned businesses, often second or third generation.”

The association is currently $8,000 shy of its $75,000 goal. The group has distributed $44,000 in grants so far, Blalock said, to 44 automotive recyclers.

“When mechanical repair shops and body shop business slows down, so does ours. We weren’t hit as hard as the restaurant industry, but we had a lot of our recyclers just go to a shoestring of employees to keep the doors open,” she said.

A fundraising initiative heralded by 20 of the nation’s top F&I product companies is also working to provide assistance to an under-the-radar group of essential workers.

Founded in April by National Auto Care CEO Tony Wanderon and NAE/NWAN CEO Kelly Price, the F&I Providers Relief Fund for F&I managers has raised $530,000 to date and has funded over 450 F&I managers and their families. Among the largest donors are Safe-Guard, AUL Corp., Assurant, EasyCare and StoneEagle F&I. The fund’s board, with members from F&I product leadership, has been awarding grants from $500 to $2,000 to affected F&I professionals throughout the crisis.

Assurant, a global insurance provider that furnishes F&I products for the automotive industry, has donated $40,000 to the fund, which would support 20 F&I managers, said Dan Lenczner, a senior vice president at Assurant and fund board member.

“During COVID-19, the auto industry has seen unprecedented losses in sales. F&I managers around the country have been impacted, and they are facing serious challenges, including loss of income, illness and deep pay cuts,” he said.

Board members have covered the majority of the costs associated with running the fund as well as additional fundraising efforts, including merchandise.

Many F&I managers returned the grant money upon getting their jobs back after initial coronavirus-related closures, Wanderon said in an email.

“With the continued challenges faced with COVID, we are still focused on our mission to help those in need due to COVID,” Wanderon said. “As we move forward, the board will look to determine the future of the fund and how we can continue to help those in the industry that may be affected.”