Tag Archive | "2015"

Depreciation Slows in June, NADA Used Car Guide Reports


MCCLEAN, Va. — Used-vehicle depreciation slowed modestly in June compared to May’s more rapid pace, according to the NADA Used Car Guide, with prices for vehicles up to eight years in age falling 2.5% on a monthly basis in June, or more than a half a percentage point less than the 3.2% drop recorded a month earlier.

While May depreciation was among the worst recorded for the month since 1995, June’s drop wasn’t so dramatic. As a result, the NADA Used Car Guide’s seasonally adjusted used vehicle price index dropped a 0.2% relative to May to 123.7.

“With the first half of the year now behind us, one could say used-vehicle prices have held up well despite mounting pressure from the new-vehicle market and rise in supply,” the firm said in its monthly newsletter. “After all, NADA UCG’s index slipped by just 0.6% over the first half of 2015 compared to the all-time high reached over the same period in 2014.”

Year-to-date depreciation stood at 9% relative to all of 2014, which, according to the firm, was only moderately higher than the 7.2% rate recorded last year and less than the nearly 10% year-to-date drop logged in 2013.

“Digging a bit deeper, we see the year’s steady performance is a result of strong truck prices compensating for weak car prices,” the firm noted.

Cars, subcompact, compact and mid-size car prices have been among the softest all year, which the firm said is due in large part to intense new-market competition — both within their respective segments and from high-demand crossover utilities. Lower gas prices haven’t helped the situation, either, the firm noted.

“For example, new subcompact, compact and mid-size car incentives were up by a combined 10% through May, and the average spent per unit for the trio is similar to what’s been spent on luxury compact and mid-sized utilities — vehicles costing thousands of dollars more,” the NADA Used Car Guide noted.

The downward pressure has taken its toll on used prices for the group, with compact and mid-size car prices falling nearly 3% on a monthly basis in June. Prices for the pair on a year-to-date basis were 11% lower, on average, than in 2014. “This compares to depreciation of 7% over the same period last year,” the firm said.

Subcompact cars have performed even worse, with prices for the smallest car segment plunging by an average of nearly 4% in both May and June. That brought year-to-date depreciation to 12%, which is four percentage points worse than last year’s mid-year figure.

“By comparison, prices for used trucks and utilities have remained strong,” the firm noted.

With prices declining by 2.1% in June, compact utility prices bounced back from May’s 3.3% fall. Depreciation for the group on a year-to-date basis stood at 7%, which is just slightly worse than last year’s 6% figure.

“In June, mid-size and large utility prices fell by averages of 2.2% and 1%, respectively, which brought YTD depreciation to 6% — essentially unchanged from 2014,” the firm said.

Down 1.8%, mid-size van movement was fairly typical for June; however, the 10% drop in value on a year-to-date basis is two points higher than last year’s 8% figure. As for large pickups, prices dipped by 0.5% in June, bringing year-to-date depreciation to just 4% — and industry low.

“Large pickups continue to be the market’s standout performer,” the firm noted. “Large pickup prices haven’t fallen by more than 2.5% on a monthly basis in five years, which is a threshold passed by compact and mid-size cars more than a dozen times.”

As for the luxury segment, losses were less substantial than what occurred in both May and last June, with declines ranging from 1.5% to 2%. “Even so, YTD depreciation for luxury cars i among the highest in the industry,” the firm said.

Luxury compact car prices were down 11% in June, while luxury mid-size and large car prices were off by 13% and 15%, respectively. As for luxury utilities, prices of compact and mid-size luxury utilities were down by respective averages of 8% and 10% so far this year.

“On a like-age basis, we continue to see trucks and SUVs outperforming their car counterparts,” the NADA Used Car Guide said. “Through the first half of 2015, large pickup prices were 7.3% higher than the same period last year. Other strong performers include the mid-size utilities and large SUV segment, whose prices were 4.1% and 3.1% higher than last year, respectively.

“Subcompact and compact car prices were 1.7% and 6.9% lower than last year, respectively,” the firm added. “On the luxury side of the market, compact and mid-size SUV prices were around 1% higher than last year, however, compact, mid-size and large car prices were down between 0.6% and 2.9%.”

Posted in Auto Industry NewsComments Off on Depreciation Slows in June, NADA Used Car Guide Reports

Portfolio Repeats Top Diamond Ranking in Annual Dealers’ Choice Awards


LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Portfolio, one of the nation’s leading reinsurance program managers for automotive dealers, has again been ranked as the top Diamond provider of Vehicle Service Contracts‐ Reinsurance in the annual Dealers’ Choice Awards national survey sponsored by Auto Dealer Monthly magazine.

This is the fifth Diamond Award for Portfolio, matching its achievement from 2008-2010 and in 2014. Portfolio has never been ranked less than Platinum, the second-highest award.

”Let me start by saying how honored we are that dealers have given us their vote of approval as the top reinsurance program once again,” said Brent Griggs, President and CEO. ”Being recognized by our clients in this way motivates us to do even more to make their Portfolio experience rewarding in every way.”

“I know our entire company comes to work each day with the goal of making the dealer’s decision to sign up with Portfolio the best decision he or she could make. Serving the dealer is a comprehensive mission,” Griggs elaborated, “from handling a claim to funding the premiums weekly, and from helping install a new product to structuring a loan from the reinsurance company for the dealer’s business development goals. Everything we do is designed to deliver on our brand promise. Our people embrace this mission with trust and respect for our clients.”

Steve Burke, founder and Chief Executive for Sales adds, “I share Brent’s sentiments, and would add my thanks to all of our agents who service our shared dealer clients. Their work in the stores every day contributes greatly to the dealers’ favorable view of the Portfolio program.”

“I am confident that we deliver the best reinsurance structure with its inherent ownership benefits,” Burke continued, “and I know how much good having a Portfolio reinsurance company has done for our dealers in both growth times and slow times the past 25 years. The personal wealth created has even kept some families in the dealership business for succeeding generations. But I also know that without our local agents and reinsurance specialists engaging the dealer face­‐to‐face regularly, we would never be worthy of this top ranking in the Dealers’ Choice Awards.”

The survey was conducted over four weeks during March and April of this year in an audited process where hundreds of dealer principals and other dealership personnel scored their satisfaction with providers in 29 categories of products and services. Survey respondents are asked to cast votes only for providers with which they have firsthand knowledge and experience.

In addition to identifying their primary providers in each category, respondents must rate their providers in four areas: (1) the product or service provided; (2) customer support and service; (3) the overall value for dollars spent; and (4) whether the dealer would recommend the provider.

The complete list of winners, as well as any provider or finance company that rated higher than the group average score in any category will be published in the July 2015 print issue of Auto Dealer Monthly magazine and online at www.autodealermonthly.com. Award winners will be honored at the Industry Summit in Las Vegas in September.

Posted in Auto Industry NewsComments Off on Portfolio Repeats Top Diamond Ranking in Annual Dealers’ Choice Awards

ADM Names 2015 Dealers’ Choice Award Winners


TORRANCE, Calif. — The publishers of Auto Dealer Monthly magazine have announced the winners of the 11th annual Dealers’ Choice Awards. The program recognizes the industry’s best product and service providers and are voted on exclusively by dealers and dealership personnel.

“This year’s awards produced a record number of participants, votes and awards,” said David Gesualdo, publisher of Auto Dealer Monthly and F&I and Showroom. “Each of the winners deserves praise for earning their dealer clients’ praise and loyalty while driving their businesses forward.”

This year’s program featured 29 categories, including two new categories: Compliance Training and F&I Technology. Each voter had to write in the name of their provider in each category and score them on the product or service itself, customer support and service, value, and whether they would recommend the company to another dealer.

To qualify for a first-place “Diamond,” second-place “Platinum” or third-place “Gold” award, a company must be among those that scored above the group average score in each category. There was no Gold winner in the Traditional Auction category; F&I Training featured two gold winners, which marked the first tie in the program’s history.

Representatives of the winning companies will receive an award in a ceremony on Sept. 10, 2015, at Industry Summit in Las Vegas. The complete list of winners is below; look for more coverage in a Special Awards Section in the July issue of ADM.

New-Vehicle Leads
Diamond: Autotrader
Platinum: Dealer.com
Gold: Autobytel

Used-Vehicle Leads
Diamond: Autotrader
Platinum: Cars.com
Gold: eBay Motors

Special Finance Leads
Diamond: DealerLink
Platinum: CarsDirect
Gold: Auto Credit Express

Digital Marketing
Diamond: eBizAutos
Platinum: Dealer.com
Gold: ELEAD1ONE

Website
Diamond: Dealer.com
Platinum: eBizAutos
Gold: VinSolutions

Chat
Diamond: ActivEngage
Platinum: Client~ConneXion
Gold: Contact At Once!

Mobile Media

Diamond: eBizAutos
Platinum: Dealer.com
Gold: Dealer Synergy

Social Media Management
Diamond: Naked Lime
Platinum: Ally
Gold: Driving Sales

Reputation Management
Diamond: Dominion Dealer Solutions
Platinum: CDK Digital Marketing
Gold: Dealer Refresh

Direct Mail
Diamond: ProMax Unlimited
Platinum: Credit Mail Experts
Gold: Strategic Marketing

Online Inventory Listing Management

Diamond: eBizAutos
Platinum: Dominion Dealer Specialties
Gold: Auction123

Inventory Management
Diamond: Dealertrack
Platinum: vAuto
Gold: FirstLook

Sales Training
Diamond: Ziegler SuperSystems
Platinum: Joe Verde Group
Gold: Ally

Internet Training
Diamond: Dealer.com
Platinum: Dealer Synergy
Gold: Kain Automotive

Compliance Training
Diamond: Compli
Platinum: American Financial and Automotive Services (AFAS)
Gold: United Development Systems (UDS)

F&I Training
Diamond: United Development Systems (UDS)
Platinum: Ally
Gold (tie): American Financial and Automotive Services (AFAS)
Gold (tie): Reahard & Associates

F&I Products
Diamond: IAS
Platinum: ECP
Gold: RoadVantage

Service Contracts
Diamond: CNA National
Platinum: Protective Asset Protection
Gold: AUL

Reinsurance
Diamond: Portfolio
Platinum: CNA National
Gold: GSFSGroup

F&I Desking Software
Diamond: ProMax Unlimited
Platinum: Reynolds and Reynolds
Gold: Dealertrack

F&I Technology
Diamond: MenuVantage
Platinum: MaximTrak
Gold: F&I Express

CRM
Diamond: ELEAD1ONE
Platinum: ProMax Unlimited
Gold: VinSolutions

DMS
Diamond: Dealertrack
Platinum: Auto/Mate
Gold: Reynolds and Reynolds

Online Auction
Diamond: SmartAuction
Platinum: Manheim
Gold: ADESA

Traditional Auction
Diamond: Manheim
Platinum: ADESA

Captive Finance Company
Diamond: GM Financial
Platinum: Toyota Financial Services
Gold: Ford Motor Credit

Non-Captive Finance Company
Diamond: Ally
Platinum: Chase
Gold: US Bank

Subprime Finance Company
Diamond: Wells Fargo
Platinum: Regional Acceptance
Gold: Capital One

Biweekly Payments
Diamond: US Equity Advantage
Platinum: SMART Payment Plan
Gold: EAC

Posted in Auto Industry NewsComments Off on ADM Names 2015 Dealers’ Choice Award Winners

Industry Trends for 2015


With the recession now in the rearview mirror, the automotive industry appears to be continuing its upward climb. Car sales are at a steady high and vehicle production was still on the rise at the end of 2014. Those who were forced to tighten their belts to survive some of the economy’s worst days are now reaping the benefits and flourishing in today’s market.

AE Magazine spoke with 20 of the industry’s top executives about trends they will be watching in 2015 ­– both in the automotive industry and specifically in F&I. They shared their thoughts and predictions about the economy, products and technology, F&I operations, and the growing impact of Millennials on the auto industry. Read on to learn what they had to say.

The Economy

There are a few shared views among our executives; at the top of that list is the 2015 economy. Some have concerns about the possibility of rising interest rates in the third and fourth quarter, but to one degree or another; most are optimistic about the 2015 outlook. The 2015 economy is generally expected to be robust, following on from the strong momentum of the fourth quarter of 2014.

Kelly Price, president, National Automotive Experts, says, “The major indexes that we pay attention to are oil prices, housing (new construction), interest rates, Dow and NASDQ; all of these lead to more relaxed consumer spending. Year-over-year growth is anticipated as all signs point to a strong and sustainable 2015. Assuming all of this stays positive, the auto industry should follow suit and have a strong year.”

Garret Lacour, CEO, RoadVantage, also expects the economy to continue improving ­– driven by job creation, increased wages and lower fuel costs. “These factors will drive more consumers to showrooms. Several brands set new sales records in 2014, and that momentum will continue into 2015.”

Jerry Biller, president, EcoProProducts, believes all indications point towards a solid 2015 in both the financial and the automotive sector. Mentioning the decrease in unemployment, Biller expects 2015 to be a record year for new and used automotive sales, with more sales transactions this year than ever before.

Oil defines this year’s economy according to Steve Rosenvall, CEO, Alpha Warranty Services Inc. “The economy is driven in large part by natural resources. It’s important to keep an eye on these issues as they arise. Oil and the auto industry are attached at the hip. The economy is seeing some good gains and will continue to through 2015. Lending institutions are continuing to lend money and they are getting creative to help many afford the vehicle of their choice. Many large banks and local banks are posting some of the best gains they have seen in years. “

Bill Gorra, president and CEO, Simoniz USA, Inc., is also among the optimists. He believes the table is set for a prosperous 2015, due to factors such as gas prices, little or no inflation, low interest rates, historical market highs, and record car sales in 2014. He says the stars are aligned for the automotive industry to have a great year. “There should be ample inventory with a wide spectrum of alternatives for the consumer. I believe there is still some ‘pent up demand’ and a lot of older cars on the road that need to be replaced.”

With the increasing availability of credit, Scott Karchunas, president, Protective Asset Protection, expects modest growth in automotive and GDP growth at or about 3%. “If interest rates were to rise modestly in 2015, any negative impact should be minor and potentially offset by the benefits of higher rates to savers.” Additionally, he sites a strengthening economy and labor market combined with lower fuel prices, a low interest rate environment and increasing credit availability as signs that the automotive industry will have another year of modest growth ahead.

Barring any major geopolitical upheaval or a premature monetary response from the Fed, John Luckett, senior vice president of sales and marketing, The Warranty Group, also expects to see 3% growth. “This supports NADA’s forecast of 16.94 million new cars and new trucks to be purchased or leased in 2015. This forecast is based on an economy that has continued low interest rates, rising employment and wages as well as lower gasoline prices.”

Rising Interest Rates

Those with concerns about what the 2015 economy holds cited rising interest rates, international turmoil, and a slowing stock market.

Should the Fed raise interest rates mid-year as it has suggested, Robert Steenbergh, CEO, US Equity Advantage, LLC, believes we could see a general slowdown in the economy; less of a bull market, and an overall wait-and-see approach in the near term from both businesses and consumers. “Automotive will follow suit. With interest rates exceedingly low, consumers will want to buy now before the anticipated mid-year rate increase. How much of a drawback that has on auto sales will depend on how high interest rates go and the total impact it has on the consumer’s overall budget, since rates affect everything from housing and credit to student loans.”

Also on the more cautions side, Tony Wanderon, CEO, National Auto Care, sees the US economy in 2015 having some challenges. “From a growth perspective, I see good results for domestic companies who have very little or no distribution overseas. With the recent strength of the dollar, exports will be a challenge and profits will drop as well. For companies importing into the US, such as Toyota, I see some big profits and aggressive incentives to increase market share. From the energy side, what goes around comes around. I could see gas getting below $1.50 a gallon. That will drive pick-up and SUV sales, then a rapid rise in oil and gas pricing would put pressure on disposable income and drive residuals down dramatically. If you combine that with the return of aggressive lending and the return of normal interest rates, we could see some real pressure on the industry and overall economy in the third to fourth quarter of the year.”

Chris Kerby, president of sales and marketing, Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS), thinks 2015 will start as a stellar year, but also has some concerns. “With low fuel prices, turmoil in the Middle East and so many countries like Russia and China going into recession, I think you are going to see some pressures that will affect the economy in many ways. One thing is certain – interest rates are going to go up and in turn, the stock market will slow.

“From an F&I/dealership perspective,” Kerby continued, “I think you will see changes. When times are good, dealers can get loose and experiment in certain areas. F&I is running historically high and not for everyone, but for many, it is not because of their skills. It is because the average carry is the longest it has ever been – finance terms are the longest they have ever been and rates are low. That all changes when the market slows down and interest rates go up. It will be a different ballgame when rates get above 5%. When interest rates go up, what we know as the highest F&I profitability in the history of the car business, as far as income per retail, will be significantly affected.”

But according to Jim Smith, CEO, SouthwestRe, the industry is nearly back to “the good times” of 2000 when there were 17.0 million in sales. Smith pointed out that many businesses were forced to streamline their operations in order to survive the leaner times of years past. The businesses that survived those lean years are now reaping the benefits of their improved efficiency and the elimination of excess spending. And Smith says they are stronger now because of it.

TRENDS TO WATCH:

There are many trends our executives will be watching this year. From trade-ins to technology, and consolidation to the CFPB, there is no doubt there will be a lot worth keeping tabs on in 2015.

Tony Wanderon, CEO, National Auto Care, says, “We could see pressure on margins from start-ups looking to become disruptors in the auto-lending arena. I could definitely see a major lender or credit union put a big push on going direct to the consumer. I think dealers and agents will finally say enough is enough and stop doing business with companies who directly compete against them, such as the recent trends of F&I providers selling cars, refinancing or directly selling vehicle service contracts to consumers.”

Among the trends Steve Amos, president and CEO, Gulf State Financial Services (GSFS), will be watching “is the possibility of selling F&I products on dealer websites. There are dealers experimenting with this and having some success. The key to this possible new process will be to identify who will be selling F&I products and make sure they are compliant and know the benefits of the products.”

The Return of the SUV

Bolstered by the 2015 Ford F-150 and GM’s reentry into the small truck market, Bob Pruitt, president, Cal-Tex Protective Coatings, Inc., expects to see truck sales grow at a faster pace than automobile sales. He predicts domestic growth will outpace foreign competitors, but only slightly. “The industry leaders, both foreign and domestic, finished 2014 strong and will continue that momentum into 2015.”

John Vecchioni, national sales director, United Car Care, is looking forward to wonderful opportunities in the year ahead. “With the large drop in oil prices, I think we will see more SUVS and trucks because people won’t be as concerned about vehicle operation costs as fuel prices decline. Smaller vehicles will see a downturn in sales.”

Vecchioni predicts the increase of trucks and SUVs in the marketplace will result in a demand for customized products for these vehicles. “These type of vehicles are used differently to smaller, commuter cars; there is much more wear and tear, they have four wheel drive, and new electronics.” He expects to see vehicle service contracts (VSCs) tailor-made to meet the rougher demands of these vehicles.

John Luckett, senior vice president of sales and marketing, The Warranty Group, expects increased competition in the pickup truck segment as well as the new powertrain combinations being brought to the forefront by manufactures. He thinks that this trend, along with a few others, will lend itself to new product development, and training and underwriting reviews of the products and processes, which are currently being offered in the finance office.

But despite the current price of oil and a corresponding up-tick in truck/SUV sales, Jay Lighter, president, Nitrofill, says, “The quest for fuel efficiency will continue with a growing emphasis on electrics. As for F&I, I think we will continue to see growth in paperless processes and menu driven sales.”

Leasing and Trade-Ins

The explosion of leased vehicles has been on everyone’s radar. With attractive lease terms and prices, the market appeal for leases is expected to increase even further in 2015. Many of the executives we spoke with will be watching this segment of the market.

Bill Gorra, president and CEO, Simoniz USA, Inc., predicts the upward trend in leasing will continue in 2015. “Some experts predict as much as 30% of new car sales will be through leasing. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity. For instance some traditional F&I products may be short circuited by leasing, but products that address things like end of lease charge backs will be well received.”

Leasing is a trend Kelly Price, president, National Automotive Experts, is closely monitoring. “We anticipate it will continue to be strong across the country. The captives have strong lease programs right now – and we do not anticipate this changing in 2015. Leasing is very attractive to the younger (Millennial) buyer because of the quick turn and hassle free ownership, along with the lower payment point.”

“We all know that there is still a good deal of pent up demand when you consider the average age of a vehicle in the US,” noted Dave Duncan, president, Safe-Guard Products, “but there are other variables that will aid in growth for 2015. Leasing is back to pre-financial crisis levels and in 2015 we will see the early part of the wave of lease returns that will take place for the next few years. Leasing will continue to be strong in 2015, so any protection product that speaks to the needs of those customers will see greater acceptance. Lease wear and tear, tire and wheel protection, some bundled programs, and pre-paid maintenance will be the biggest winners.

With regard to trade-ins, as these older cars and leased vehicles return to the market, they may present some challenges in the financing department. Tim Brugh, president, American Auto Guardian, Inc. (AAGI), says, “As used car values continue to decrease, it will increase the difficultly of an F&I department’s ability to obtain a consumer loan. Customers trading their vehicles in will have less equity in those trade-ins, which means the F&I department will need to work much harder to get those loans approved.”

Dealer Consolidation:

As the activity of private equity companies in the auto and F&I industries increases, so does the trend of the big becoming even bigger.

Garret Lacour, CEO, RoadVantage, predicts the trend toward consolidation will continue and will be an interesting one to watch in 2015, as will the increased focus on F&I as a profit center for the dealership. “This, coupled with the CFPB’s ongoing presence, will make both training and compliance more important than ever.”

Jimmy Atkinson, COO, AUL Corporation, believes there will be some interaction worth watching between franchise dealers and independents regarding used vehicle inventories, sales and values. “I think it will be interesting to see how aggressive the larger franchise groups, which are currently in acquisition mode, become in 2015.”

Processes in F&I:

“We need processes that create efficiencies and avoid redundancies by allowing the front end to pick up more of the administrative duties.” Notes Chris Kerby, president of sales and marketing, IAS, “Using technology will be critical in the process to eliminate waiting. We are proactive with eliminating the manual input of data whenever possible. State regulations and lenders stand in the way for a lot of us, but overall, the industry is getting a lot more efficient at eliminating paper through eSignature and eContracting.”

Jimmy Atkinson, COO, AUL Corporation, noted that F&I processes continue to be more streamlined in order to shorten the transaction time in F&I. “Technology can help with this as well as a strong training program to make more succinct and prepared presentations. F&I managers who ‘wing it’ take longer and achieve poor results when compared to someone who develops the skills needed with today’s customers.” Atkinson says technology should complement the process and enhance the presentation – but it can’t replace the holes in a lousy F&I presentation.

Garret Lacour, CEO, RoadVantage, predicts the ongoing presence of the CFPB and FTC will continue to put the spotlight on dealership processes in 2015. “Dealerships need to have a Compliance Management System (CMS) in place, and a big part of that will be processes: formalized documentation of policy management, training, complaint resolution and compliance audits. In January 2015, RoadVantage launched a CMS specifically to help dealerships address and be prepared for what’s coming.”

Technology:

Another trend on the mind of many executives is the expanding reliance on technology as it relates to all aspects of the automotive industry – from the design and manufacture of the vehicle to the retail sale and F&I presentation.

“Technology is evolving quickly and traditional manufacturers are turning to technology companies to design and develop center-stack interfaces for the vehicles,” says Scott Karchunas, president, Protective Asset Protection, “Manufacturers are shifting from designers and developers of these technologies to thoughtful integrators of these technologies. This trend may speed up the evolution to more autonomous, safe, and productive driving. Also, technology is continuing to change the way cars are retailed – beginning with the lead generation process and continuing with a search for a more consumer-friendly and efficient sales process.”

“Technology can be difficult and ‘scary’ because of the unknown,” says Tim Brugh, president, AAGI, “I don’t care who you are, if technology is not your chosen field of expertise you’re going to be hesitant to replace the process you have in place today. I do think that the hesitation is diminishing, with more and more integration for rating, printing and remitting of the contracts between the websites, menu companies and direct ingratiation to the DMS. It has become less of a scary thing to make that change. It’s really about educating the dealership about the time savings and the simplicity of an electronic transaction. Taking that fear out of the process!”

Garret Lacour, CEO, RoadVantage, pointed out the traditional conservative approach of dealerships, when it comes to adopting the advancements offered by new technology, such as online sales, eContracting and online claims adjudication. He says the growing trend to embrace the online customer experience, due in part to the influx of Millennials, will require dealerships to respond. And, as vehicles become more infused with technology, he predicts the F&I offering will evolve to match it.

Kelly Price, president, National Automotive Experts, sees more technology, such as menus, eBusiness, and product presentations in 2015 as a result of better training, more availability and lessoning reluctance over time. “With increasing pressure from the CFPB and other regulators, F&I offices will be forced to adopt more technology to protect the consumer as well as the dealership. Additionally, more buyers demand more efficient, transparent and friendly F&I transactions.”

Dave Duncan, president, Safe-Guard Products, reports seeing increases in vehicle service contract penetration across the industry as technology offerings in vehicles continue to grow. “The key driver seems to be the message to the consumer that technology on their vehicle can be very expensive to replace or repair. It doesn’t require a drivetrain claim anymore to be in the thousands of dollars. F&I managers are doing a much better job illustrating this fact to the customer.”

No doubt, the role played by the Internet and advances in technology will continue to evolve and impact the whole buying and selling landscape. Jim Smith, CEO, SouthwestRe, says this will be especially significant in the F&I department, as the average customer becomes more knowledgeable. “This makes it that much more important for F&I to ‘stay up with the times.’ The days of customers reviewing brochures are being replaced by customers researching products online. As the world shrinks, consumers will expect things much faster therefore it is up to the providers to be able to satisfy these demands and the Internet and technology is the most efficient way.”

Mark Mishler, CEO, Interstate National Corporation, thinks technology will continue to revolutionize the way that dealers interact with finance companies, the consumer and their product providers. “Dealers need to continue to look at ways to streamline their operations with the goal of having a fully automated front-to-back system in their dealership. This would include everything from desking to DMS integration to the menus and eContracting for both the financing of the car and products, to eContracting for service contracts and ancillary products.”

Robert Steenbergh, CEO, US Equity Advantage, LLC, anticipates a burst of activity in technology, but says it is difficult to predict how successful it will be. “I expect continued exploration of tablet-based technologies, customer self-service approaches (with and without F&I personnel assistance), and an attempt to move F&I online. The success of these approaches will depend on the level of PVR profits they produce.”

Matt Croak, president, Wise F&I, also expects the growing trend of online contracting and remittance to continue expansion throughout 2015. He sees technology as a means to improve the customer experience, by “utilizing online resources to provide better customer support.”

“There are dealers experimenting with selling F&I products on dealer websites and having some success,” Steve Amos, president and CEO, GSFS, notes, “The key to this possible new process will be identifying who will be selling F&I products and ensuring they are compliant, and that they know the benefits of the products.”

Technology is streamlining many businesses’ operations through the offering of apps for smart phones and tablets. Jerry Biller, president, EcoProProducts, started the new year with the launch of an app tying their warranties to a service drive VIN scan using an iPhone camera. It is available to both consumers and dealers. Biller says the app makes the claims process easier and faster for both the customer and the dealer by prepopulating warranty data.

Tony Wanderon, CEO, National Auto Care, says the direction and the impact of technology in F&I is a hard call. “Most technology in the F&I office is controlled by a few dominant providers. I could see someone making a hard push at the direct-to-consumer market with a dynamic and aggressive online solution. If you can now pay with a cell phone, why not have all of your preapproved auto loans done that way as well?”

Compliance and the CFPB:

A significant driving factor for the increased use of technology is the CFPB’s continued encroachment into the F&I office. Technology today offers a variety of elegant solutions for protecting customers’ personal data and for keeping dealers’ operations secure and efficient. Many in the automotive industry, especially those in F&I, will be on the look out for the regulators next move.

Bob Pruitt, president, Cal-Tex Protective Coatings, Inc., says, “Compliance methodologies and practices will continue to be a hot topic for all providers and dealers. The compliance experts seem to believe that there very well may be a trend towards standardized, non-discriminatory pricing on all F&I-type products. This year will likely see most industry providers, including lenders and product and service contract providers, continuing to develop compliance processes and pricing strategies to ensure compliance while increasing dealer profits.”

2015 will continue to be all about compliance and the reach of the CFPB according to Robert Steenbergh, CEO, US Equity Advantage, LLC. He would like to see an initiative from within the industry to work with the CFPB so that everyone clearly understands the rules going forward. “This includes collaborative input on the development and scope of these new rules as we understand our business better than anyone else. Otherwise, this increasingly antagonistic ‘us versus them’ mentality will not end. The CFPB does not have to be an adversary when it comes to treating consumers fairly. Conversely, the CFPB should operate more transparently when it comes to dealing fairly with our industry.”

Jimmy Atkinson, COO, AUL Corporation, says he too, will be closely watching as the CFPB progresses in their march on F&I. “It reinforces the need for transparency in our F&I processes and the need for developing a compliance program that reinforces an atmosphere of integrity in our stores.”

With the CFPB’s continued focus seemingly set on dealer reserve, Dave Duncan, president, Safe-Guard Products, says the current model has come under their scrutiny. “The end result could very well produce a reduction in fees to the dealer. Some people are concerned that the CFPB’s next focus will be on F&I products. That would not be a complete surprise. But, if you are a dealer who demands consistent processes that are fully transparent to the consumer at fair prices, you should see an increase in product sales. Keep in mind that there are many perils of ownership of an automobile and F&I protection products help consumers save money, offer them many conveniences and may even contribute to increased safety and security. Many people want to have this coverage and being able to pay for these protection products within the framework of a loan or lease makes them more affordable to the majority of consumers.”

Kelly Price, president, National Automotive Experts, says it is critical for dealers to pay attention to how they handle every single transaction. “Whether it is a transaction dealing with a lender, which menu system they work with, or how an F&I manager presents the products, they must pay attention every step of the way to ensure that they aren’t the next story in Automotive News. Now is the time to look at and refine those processes that will protect the dealership, the F&I department and the profits that come with it.”

Hot Products

It is no surprise that VSCs and GAP are generally expected to hold their spot as the mainstays in F&I. There are, however, a growing number of products that our panel of executives will be watching this year. Unique products, bundled products, and products geared especially for lease and cash customers are on the rise and expected to experience substantial growth, as are products that create loyalty, such as prepaid maintenance.

“Historically,” says Jerry Biller, president, EcoProProducts, “dealers have been comfortable selling the same products they have been selling, but in the last few years new products have been extremely well embraced, indicating a trend in increased desire to have innovative products for the consumer.”

Chris Kerby, president of sales and marketing, IAS, anticipates that any products that add to owner loyalty will be big sellers in 2015. “Maintenance programs, lease wear and tear – anything that hedges depreciation and helps the vehicle maintain its value will be a hot product.”

Jay Lighter, president, Nitrofill, said they are looking for an expansion of products that provide dealers with residual opportunities in addition to a profit earned at the time of the vehicle sale. “In other words, more sophisticated products that marry F&I solutions to service drive and other departmental needs.”

Tim Brugh, president, AAGI, predicts things will be “back to the basics” in the F&I office. “I think 2015 will be all about simplifying the delivery process in F&I. Keeping the number of products to a minimum of VSC, GAP, a form of tire and wheel combo, and one other product that the dealer is most interested in selling. It’s not about how many products we can throw at the consumers but about the transparency of those products. The F&I team can say, ‘Here are the products we believe in at our dealership and here are the prices for these products.’ Consumers have technology at their fingertips, and they know what things cost before and during the sale process. Transparency is an absolute necessity.”

Kelly Price, president, National Automotive Experts, says that while traditional F&I products such as VSCs and GAP protection will remain strong, she expects products that fit the increasing lease trends will be great sellers this year. “Short term service contracts that appeal to lease customers and ancillary products that fit cash and lease transactions will be the product focus for 2015. Products such as our new Shortfall Deposit Discount and Depreciation program are excellent for lease and cash buyers. In addition, appearance protection packages (paint and fabric, windshield, dent and ding) as well as maintenance programs are excellent for both the dealer and the customer. Maintenance ties the customer to the selling dealer for routine maintenance. This is critical to capturing the next vehicle transaction down the road.”

“With the increased accessibility relative to lending,” Matt Croak, president, Wise F&I, predicts, “GAP will continue to play a primary role in most automotive sales that are financed. Appearance care service contracts will provide increased value to the product mix delivered in the F&I office.”

Jim Smith, CEO, SouthwestRe, expects customer loyalty programs to continue to gain support in dealerships, and products that fit in those programs will also gain traction. These are products such as limited and lifetime warranties, prepaid maintenance and appearance and theft protection products – all of which can be incorporated into customer loyalty programs.

Smith recommends F&I departments consider products to complement theft protection such as key replacement. “Especially with the changes in vehicle technology, key replacement is a lot different and more costly than when you had to just stop and get your key duplicated at the local hardware store.”

Scott Karchunas, president, Protective Asset Protection, believes thoughtful, customer-centric products with dealership retention properties will continue to make sense for dealers and consumers. “The service contract will lead the way. However, dealers and consumers are going to look for updated coverages, which integrate the addition of new in-vehicle technology, powertrain, and safety systems. Product bundles will likely continue to grow as dealers look to increase opportunities for customer retention and revenue both at the time of the sale and over the longer term. Also, GAP will continue to be a staple product for the F&I office.”

“Consumers want peace of mind on many levels,” says Steve Rosenvall, CEO, Alpha Warranty Services Inc., “and now they can afford it. With high tech vehicles becoming a standard, a VSC with better high-tech coverage and array of different terms is a must. It’s important to continue catering to these high-tech buying habits and arm the F&I office with the services and products customers’ desire. New technology offered in vehicles will drive the consumer to want protection from these potentially expensive failures. I see a greater desire to cover high-tech vehicle add-ons such as wi-fi devices, Bluetooth technology, infotainment systems, gaming units, etc.  GAP and ancillary bundles are also on the rise and I expect that trend to continue.”

Millennial Shoppers

Millennial shoppers and employees are definitely making their mark in automotive. As the largest generation in the US, Millennials represent around one third of the entire US population. They are the first generation to have access to the Internet in their earliest years of life and are the most culturally diverse and educated generation in history. With their tech-savvy research skills, the generation that didn’t know life before the Internet is causing the automotive industry to rethink and revamp the buying and selling process. Described as impatient, well educated, and technical, Millennials are a leading factor in the push for increased technology and the use of social media when it comes to car sales.

Jimmy Atkinson, COO, AUL Corporation, describes them as having less patience with sales pitches and being more prepared when they enter the dealership. His recommendation for both salespeople and the F&I office is “be armed with solid product knowledge and the ability to listen rather than talk.” He also mentioned the impact of Millennials in the workforce.” Millennial employees are maligned for being lazy but what we find at AUL is that they work hard and can be very engaged. We focus on creating a culture that is friendly, fun and creative that allows all of us to be a part of an extended family. When that happens, you can keep turnover low and employees happy including Millennials.”

“Millennial shoppers are different from older generations,” explained John Luckett, senior vice president of sales and marketing, The Warranty Group. They have more of an affinity for technology, will consider lesser-known brands and are very dependent on research and referrals. They tend to put more credibility on people with firsthand experience than someone with professional credentials. Millennials are all about instant gratification. They put a premium on speed, ease, efficiency and convenience in all their transactions. The other challenge facing Millennials are loan applications that don’t have enough credit history to generate a credit score using traditional methods.”

John Vecchioni, national sales director, United Car Care, says, “If we aren’t continually and constantly training – about sales and the personalities we deal with, we will be left behind. Millennials will come in with all the information. Our job will be telling them why the products in F&I will match up with their purchase. They already have their minds made up, so we have to meet them where they get their research on the Internet. We have to do something different to take down their expectation that they know what we are doing and why we do it. We need to do something different to create more value – a more logical conversation in addition to sharing the features and benefits. It has to make sense to them.”

Millennials are on the verge of becoming the majority consumer, according to Steve Rosenvall, CEO, Alpha Warranty Services Inc. “They have so much technology and data in the palm of their hand, it may prove difficult to convince them that the dealer has everything they want and need for their buying experience. The dealer, product provider and service provider will need to be on the cutting edge of offering more.  A new buying experience, and technology that supports this new experience, will need to be created and refined in order to cater to the next generation of consumers who speak the language of technology.”

Bob Pruitt, president, Cal-Tex Protective Coatings, Inc., says Millennials are more attuned to detailed research before, during, and after a vehicle purchase. “That level of research requires marketing and sales efforts geared towards Internet-friendly products and reputation management along with competitive and consistent pricing and services. The use of interactive ‘Apps’ that inform customers and encourage dealer retention will also become more frequent and effective.”

Mark Mishler, CEO, Interstate National Corporation, however, doesn’t think there is a major difference in the buying habits of Millennials from other consumers. “Today, most everyone still goes into the dealership to purchase the vehicle. This being the case, F&I products will still be sold in the F&I department with very little differentiation on who or what group is purchasing these products. However, if and when the time comes when a car sale transaction will take place utilizing social media and the Internet and the consumer is no longer going to the dealership, then we will have to think of ways to offer F&I products to these consumers.”

“We anticipate the influx of Millennial shoppers positively affecting dealerships that have established a plan for catering to the younger, more technical, more educated and less patient buyer,” says Kelly Price, president, National Automotive Experts, “There has been much publicity, education and buzz in the industry regarding the importance of selling to the Millennial buyer. It will take some time for this to transcend the industry. The automotive industry has proven it takes a while to make whole scale changes. Again, progressive, forward thinking dealerships have a plan to cater to the Millennial buyer – and they will be successful because of that. As it relates to F&I, the processes and presentation must change to successfully sell to the Millennial buyer. Technology is critical to breaking down the barriers. Millennials demand more and the industry must be willing to provide it in order to attain success.”

Jay Lighter, president, Nitrofill, pointed out that with the vast majority of Millennial shoppers seeking new vehicles priced under $20K, value is key, as is their appetite for technology. “Addressing the issues Millennials care about is also important; products that save them time and money, and perhaps positively impact the environment as well, will be in demand.”

Whether Millennials or not, Bill Gorra, president and CEO, Simoniz USA, Inc., pointed out that the customer experience is first and foremost on everyone’s minds. “Building customer loyalty takes long term thinking; the experience the new car buyer takes from the F&I office needs to be pleasant and built on trust.”

And the customer experience really is the bottom line according to all of our executives. Whether you look at the economy, how things are done in F&I, technology or processes, it all boils down to one thing – are the variables in play creating a positive experience for the consumer? Staying relevant through technology and training on products, processes and personalities will pave a profitable path into 2015 and the years to come.

Posted in IndustryComments (0)

GM Sales Jump 18.3%, Ford Up 15.3%, FCA Up 14% in January


Detroit’s automakers on Tuesday all posted strong sales increases in January compared to a year ago, led by General Motors Co.’s 18.3 percent gain — its best January in seven years, reported The Detroit News.

Buyers took advantage of low gas prices, easy access to credit and stable feelings about the economy to buy vehicles, particularly full-size trucks, crossovers and SUVs. Better weather than a year ago also seemed to aid sales, which analysts expect will come in more than 10 percent higher than January 2014.

Ford Motor Co. saw January sales jump 15.3 percent to 178,351, while FCA US LLC, formerly Chrysler Group LLC, also posted a 14 percent sales gain in January.

GM said its U.S. sales to retail customers and fleet customers increased by 14 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

GM saw big gains from its Chevrolet brand, up 20 percent; GMC was up 28.6 percent and Cadillac had a 2.6 percent sales gain. Sales for Buick fell by 5.5 percent.

The Detroit automaker was boosted by big increases in pickup sales — up 42 percent year-over-year — and sales of crossovers and SUVs jumped 36 percent from January 2014.

“Consumers feel very good because more people are working, the U.S. economy is expanding and fuel prices are low,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations, in a statement. “Consumer and commercial demand for trucks and crossovers is really driving our business, and our move into the small crossover segment with the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore, and mid-size pickups with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, was well-timed.”

Ford said its retail sales increased by 13 percent — the best retail sales month for Ford since 2004. The Dearborn automaker said passenger car sales to retail customers rose by 6 percent, utilities were up 10 percent and truck sales rose 23 percent.

Ford sold 54,370 F-Series pickups last month, up 16.8 percent in January, marking the best January for F-Series since 2004. Lincoln brand sales also jumped 10.8 percent.

FCA posted its best January sales since 2007 with 145,007 vehicles sold last month.

“We kicked off 2015 with a 14 percent increase in sales and extended our year-over-year sales streak to 58 consecutive months,” said Reid Bigland, FCA’s head of U.S. sales, in a statement. “In spite of some tough 2015 comparisons, we remain confident in our ability to post year-over-year sales increases on the back of strong retail demand for our products.”

FCA said its Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat brands each posted year-over-year increases, led by Jeep’s 22.9 percent increase. The company said 10 vehicles set January sales records including four Jeep vehicles. Ram pickup sales also jumped 14 percent.

Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. said its sales jumped 15.6 percent in January, as light truck and Lexus brand sales set January sales records.

“This year is off to a strong start as the sales momentum we saw in 2014 continued into January,” Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, said in a statement.

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. said its total U.S. sales rose 15.1 percent in January, with its Nissan division setting a January record with 94,449 sales, up 15.9 percent.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. said it had record U.S. sales in January of 102,184, up 11.5 percent from a year ago. Its Honda brand set a January record with 90,202 sales, up 11.6 percent, while Acura brand sales increased by 10.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor America said its January sales rose 1.1 percent to 44,505 vehicles, setting a January record. Kia Motors America also had record January sales of 38,299, up 3.5 percent year-over-year. Volkswagen of America Inc. posted flat sales of 23,504 in January.

TrueCar Inc., a car-buying and -selling marketplace, said it predicts U.S. auto sales will reach nearly 1.15 million vehicles in January, up 13.2 percent from January 2014. January 2015 had one extra selling day than January 2014. Kelley Blue Book estimated a similar increase of 12.9 percent, though it noted some final selling days of the month may have been hampered by bad weather in the East.

“Full-size trucks continue to thrive in 2015 and Kelley Blue Book anticipates sales will improve more than 10 percent in January alone,” said Alec Gutierrez, Kelley Blue Book senior analyst, in a statement. “Expect a strong push from Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram and F-Series, especially when taking into consideration the low cost of fuel and the appeal of these recently redesigned core products.”

Many industry forecasters are calling for U.S. auto sales to reach 17 million in 2015 after hitting 16.52 million last year, up by nearly 1 million sales from 2013.

Posted in Auto Industry NewsComments Off on GM Sales Jump 18.3%, Ford Up 15.3%, FCA Up 14% in January

Black Book: Vehicle Depreciation to Rise in 2015


LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Vehicle depreciation is expected to increase in 2015 as a larger used-car supply and off-lease volumes place pressure on retention rates, according to a report from Black Book and Fitch Ratings.

The annual depreciation rate in 2014 was 12.1%, and Black Book believes depreciation levels will continue to trend upward to as high as 14.5% in 2015.

“2014 depreciation was defined by pockets of volatility due to seasonality, harsh weather patterns and falling fuel prices,” said Anil Goyal, vice president of analytics and strategic partnerships at Black Book. “Lower consumer demand and CAFE-driven model competition will place higher depreciation pressure on smaller car segments.”

The truck market should maintain a stable retention rate in 2015 due to balanced production levels and strong housing and service economies, Goyal added.

Higher depreciation in 2015 will not have a significant impact on overall auto asset-backed securities performance, according to Fitch Ratings. The ratings agency said it believes U.S. auto loan ABS loss rates will rise in 2015, but they should not have a significant impact on overall performance. The firm maintains a positive outlook for 2015, with stable prime asset performance and positive ratings performance consistent with 2014.

Used-vehicle inventory levels and leased vehicle returns will continue to increase in 2015 by more than 10% along with higher trade-in volumes, Fitch said. These trends will drive residual value losses higher throughout the year, but not impact performance. Auto lease ABS should remain positive for 2015 despite the negative trends.

The Black Book-Fitch vehicle depreciation report is a joint venture between the two companies, combining Black Book’s used-vehicle depreciation data with Fitch’s U.S. auto ABS indices data. The full report is available for download, here.

Posted in Auto Industry NewsComments Off on Black Book: Vehicle Depreciation to Rise in 2015

Page 1 of 3123