Interest among dealers in F&I production and profitability is elevated as profit margins remain compressed, new-vehicle sales show signs of plateauing, and dealers seek to maximize opportunities for service-department revenue. Among F&I product providers and administrators, the pressure to deliver benefits that appeal to agents and dealers and deliver real value for end users has never been greater.
To learn how the industry is keeping pace with the evolving needs of agents, dealers, and car buyers, P&A met with six high-ranking executives from some of the provider and administrator segment’s biggest players.
The Importance of a Full Product Suite
Matt Croak, president of Wise F&I, says his company constantly updates, changes, and augments its F&I product mix. Product development has been a focus for the past decade, he says, stressing that, to be competitive, a provider must offer a complete lineup. But in the age of digitization, they also have to do a whole lot more.
“A full suite of products isn’t enough; it’s having the technology to bring those products into the dealerships through online contracting and menu providers and adapting to changes in the car-buying process,” Croak says.
Like Croak, David Pryor of Safe-Guard Products International says his company invests heavily in product development — at the corporate level as well as with dealer clients.
“Program and product design is a key part of the Safe-Guard process and is usually one of the first discussions we have with clients,” says Pryor, who serves as the company’s CMO. “Over a series of product design sessions, Safe-Guard will be able to understand the client’s goals, desired customer experience, and, ultimately, design the program and product requirements to drive success.”
Tony Wanderon, president of National Auto Care, says offering a full product suite ensures every agent and dealer can find the products that fit their customers’ needs. Partnering with a full-suite F&I provider introduces “numerous efficiencies,” adds Dave Border, president of Allstate Dealer Services, including easier account maintenance, combined billing and commission payments, and improved reporting.
Larry Dorfman adds “consistency in sales and F&I training” — a key consideration for any dealer that is serious about F&I production — to the list of additional benefits brought by a full product suite. A single provider can offer “streamlined training for all benefits, rather than two or more different companies fighting for shelf space and confusing the employees with different training processes,” says the chairman of APCO, home of the EasyCare and GWC Warranty brands.
For Patrick Brown, president of IAS, a full suite is “more than just VSC and ancillary products,” noting that his company offers services ranging from income development and reinsurance to compliance training and marketing solutions. “We can help them grow their business by offering everything they need to increase F&I production.”
Defining the Full Product Suite
National Auto Care’s Wanderon says that his definition of “full suite” depends largely on the client, but most will include vehicle service contracts, GAP coverage, tire-and-wheel, and appearance protection as the most critical benefits, relegating other product types to a lower tier.
Pryor also includes prepaid maintenance on his must-have list, followed by “daily driving” coverage, including but not limited to tire-and-wheel, dent, windshield, and roadside assistance. He says Safe-Guard is working to “round out” its suite with lot-management, connectivity, and theft-deterrence and -recovery products.
“We’ll continue to evaluate how consumers drive and use their vehicles and make sure that we’re offering products that offer extra peace of mind and convenience,” Pryor says.
Allstate’s Border divides F&I products into categories: Service contracts offer long-term peace of mind, GAP adds a layer of security to financing, and appearance products assure the customer their investment will be protected against undue disfigurement.
“The ability to bundle a number of these products into a combo product can greatly simplify the presentation process and increase consumer comfort. Additionally, a provider with a full suite of products should offer a competitive reinsurance program,” Border says.
Brown agrees, adding that components such as income development and training, technology that streamlines the sale and administration of F&I products, and “multiple, A-rated underwriters” are somewhat less tangible but still valuable features that can help make a product suite complete. Finally, Dorfman says new technology can help dealers and managers build smarter processes and help establish lasting relationships with car buyers.
“It shouldn’t stop with vehicle coverage,” Dorfman says. “Retention tools like the SAVY Driver app tie the customer to their vehicle and to the dealership for service and repeat sales, which is instrumental in today’s digital age.”
As for which products to leave out, Wanderon says that, if pricing cannot be based on the underlying risk, he’s not comfortable with it. “In other words, some administrators underprice their products to gain market share, and we will not chase those who chose that path.”
Brown stresses that each of the products in IAS’s suite provide value to dealers and customers and that his company takes extra steps to ensure they are properly presented and sold.
“We’re not comfortable providing products that don’t have a clear benefit to the consumer. Additionally, we stay on top of the regulatory environment to ensure that products are being provided in a compliant manner,” Brown says.
Self-Administration and White-Labeling
Dorfman says each of APCO’s products are self-administered and -insured, noting, “Our EasyCare and GWC brands are on them and we assure the service delivers our brand promise.” Allstate Dealer Services “proudly” stands behind their products as both administrator and insurer, says Border, and his company develops and insures white-label products as a service for other admins.
“As a full-service F&I provider, we have complete control over the design and pricing of our programs and products,” Border says.
“We have seen a demand for white-labeled products in various channels and are able to provide that service for our clients,” says Croak, noting that Wise F&I administers every product in its suite. IAS and Safe-Guard self-administer nearly every product in their lineups, according to Brown and Pryor, with roadside assistance serving as a notable exception for both companies.
“Safe-Guard administers all of the products we offer except roadside assistance. Roadside requires significant scale to efficiently operate a 24/7 response center and the associated dispatch networks. We prefer to partner with a dedicated roadside provider to provide this service to our clients,” Pryor says.
Although more than 95% of his company’s products are self-administered, Brown prefers to rely on third parties for “smaller bolt-on services,” roadside included. “The key for us is ensuring that we have the ability to deliver the best product, service, and value to the consumer. We strongly prefer to do that in-house, but if we can’t, we partner with third parties to ensure that we can deliver best-in-class solutions.”
Wanderon says National Auto Care’s 34 years of experience in the administration business has been “critical” to the success of the company and its agent and dealer partners. He counts more than 6,000 dealerships, credit unions, and banks and finance companies on NAC’s administrative services roster and millions of contracts sold to date.
“We believe providing these services to our partners, along with the product offering, is imperative. Being the administrator allows us to have unwavering commitment to superior customer service and support,” Wanderon says. “In addition, it allows our partners to place their trust in us to take care of their customers — and the end consumers — in a time of need.”