Can you give me a bit of your company history?
Family First Dealer Services (FFDS) was established more than two years ago by its founders Tony Wanderon and Courtney Criado. We provide and administrate many of the F&I products sold in dealerships today. In addition, we actively offer training and marketing support to our clients nationwide. We are focused on providing new and innovative solutions and products to the industry. As an example, in 2011, FFDS was first-to-market with our trade-in protection negative equity program.How did you become involved in the Tire & Wheel category?
Our company has strong roots in the F&I industry. Our executive management team has over 40 years of industry experience. This has allowed us the opportunity to provide professional consulting services to insurance companies, financial institutions and auto manufacturers that are interested in expanding their value proposition by offering an in-house F&I solution. To answer your question directly; we have been involved with tire and wheel on the consulting side of things since the product emerged eight or so years ago. Recently, due to agent demand, we launched an FFDS-branded tire and wheel program. Interestingly, our tire and wheel has been the fastest growing product since we enhanced our portfolio in 2012.What makes your product different from others in the market? How do you differentiate it?
We feel our tire and wheel program, Tire & Wheel Protection, is one of the most competitive programs in the market today. In our agents’ opinion, there are two main components of the tire and wheel product that need to be strong in order to be considered competitive: performance and appearance. Performance in that the product does what it says it is going to do; customer satisfaction. Appearance is in regards to cosmetic coverage. Cosmetic coverage is very important to today’s consumer as automobile aesthetics continue to increase. Tire & Wheel Protection also covers damage caused by curb-impact; a coverage that absolutely resonates with the consumer during the sale.What is your primary sales channel? How do you market to that channel?
Our primary sales channel is through independent F&I development agencies. We are deeply dedicated to the independent agent channel, and only partner with high value organizations that offer their dealerships quality service and support. Our primary marketing strategy is driven through e-marketing and direct-mail campaigns. However, the majority of our growth is a result of current partner referrals. We think that speaks volumes about our company and the way we do business.How has technology impacted Tire & Wheel in the last year, if at all? Do you see it having an impact in the future? Why or why not?
Yes. It’s evident in current OEM product line-ups that flash and performance will be the standard for the foreseen future, no matter what the segment. Low-profile tires, speed-rated tires and over-sized alloy/chrome wheels paint the picture of the dealer inventory of today. Durability is always a concern with the aforementioned parts and the materials used therein. The rise in technology lends it hand to the repair/replacement dilemma that exists after every tire and wheel claim is reported. Customers prefer replacement, underwriters prefer repair; for obvious reasons. Having said that, as new technology or more aggressive materials are used, the repair/replacement ratio will slightly shift to replacement. That results in: increased claim cost/severity; increased dealer product cost; increased consumer product cost — that is until it approaches the perceived value of the product; and reduction in dealer profit margin on sale of the product.
On another note, new types of tires and wheels could be introduced to the market soon. Google “Tweel.”In your opinion, where is the greatest growth potential for the Tire & Wheel category?
Over the past five years, we have seen the tire and wheel product excel in the F&I office given the more progressive nature of the OEM product line-ups. In many F&I offices, tire and wheel has surpassed guaranteed asset protection (GAP) in terms of penetration and perceived value. This could point to the experiential selling tactics used in the F&I office, as many consumers have experienced a flat-tire or curb-scrape. The future growth potential of the tire and wheel category hinges on the hopes that the product’s coverage will remain concurrent with and cover new technology as it emerges.