We are an industry of business professionals. Salespeople know more about the features and benefits of the vehicles they sell than the average citizen. Sales and F&I managers know how to calculate monthly payments for retail and leases while many consumers would struggle to do so. Agents know the intricacies of complicated F&I products while the public refers to service contracts as extended warranties. Like other industries filled with professionals, we have our share of kinks. Lawyers are disbarred. Doctors are stripped of their licenses. Teachers can no longer teach. CPAs stop counting. No industry is without its bad seeds. Our industry differs from the other professional industries in that we do not require an industry certification or continued education. Lawyers, physicians, nurses, dentists, teachers, engineers, and CPAs must pass a test to become certified. They also must demonstrate continual learning in their field to maintain their certification.
ACE Certification & Continuing Education
Automotive Compliance Education (ACE) to the rescue. ACE provides seven different curricula for the automotive industry professional, depending upon the level of responsibility in the dealership or vendors serving the industry. The curricula range from two hours of online training for the sales person and BDC staff to 15 hours of modules delivered online for the company compliance officer. Curricula for the sales manager, office manager, compliance clerk, and F&I manager. After completing the coursework, the student takes an exam to confirm a legitimate level of understanding of the curriculum and is certified. More importantly, the certified professional is required to complete a shorter courseload as part of the continuing education process. The courses include required annual training on such topics as ethics, discrimination, sexual harassment, safeguards, and red flags. Additional training is provided for any new topics since the professional was last certified. Your agents and their employees play an important role as a trusted advisor to their dealer clients. After the primary role of income development, many agents are asked to assist to varying degrees with compliance. Unfortunately, I’ve run across a few agents and a larger number of situations where the agent or their employee provides bad advice. Most often, after a fruitful discussion, it turns out the advice was given out of naivety.
ACE is extending its certification offering to include a Product Specialist curriculum. The modules within this course offering include basic legal requirements that agents may face questions about on a frequent basis. Included are each of the modules above as well as training focused on discrimination and sexual harassment and federal Red Flags, Safeguards, and Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAP) standards. Also included are processes that may not be required legally but have certainly gained status as best practices to help a dealer client establish a potential litigation minimization strategy. Some best practice modules include F&I Menus, Menu Vocabulary, and the Paper Trail. The differentiation that sets this curriculum apart is the modules that train and test the agent on what their F&I products do. These are not modules with word-tracks about features and benefits to help an F&I manager sell the products. Rather these are modules to certify that the agent understands what the products cover and do not cover. The core F&I products — vehicle service contract, prepaid maintenance, GAP, credit life and disability, and tire-and-wheel — as well as ancillary products are covered by these modules.
Potential Whistle Blower Defense
One huge benefit to your agents is a potential defense against a whistle blower. After all, the agent recognized that the industry is heavily regulated and decided to provide compliance training for the employee. The employee undertakes the training and successfully passes a test demonstrating a command of the topic. The employee has a shaky case alleging that the agency owner failed to provide training in this critical area. Good luck and good selling.