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Agent Summit V Wrap Up

To all who attended – thank you for making Agent Summit V the best yet. Since its inception, the number of attendees has increased with each passing year – and with close to 900 attendees, this year was no exception. Agent Summit was launched in 2010 and was designed to provide Independent Agents, who serve as an extension of F&I product providers, with a forum to come together to network, share and learn. Today, many now regard Agent Summit as the one must-attend industry event of the year. This year’s show highlighted the latest training techniques and addressed the newest trends and most pressing challenges that Agents face as they serve their dealer clients.

Attendees were welcomed to the show’s upscale new location at the Venetian Palazzo. Complete with cobblestone streets, footbridges over canals, blue skies, and gondolas, attendees couldn’t help but feel as if they had just stepped off the plane in Venice, Italy. Jaws dropped as Agents who had taken advantage of the Agent Summit room block entered their stunning suites. Words like “lavish” and “spectacular” were heard describing the Palazzo as Agents arriving on Sunday evening gathered for welcoming cocktails.

Much like the Palazzo’s five star reputation, show sessions featured “five star” industry experts with every detail of the show sessions ultimately spelling “Profit!”

The third annual Reinsurance Symposium once again preceded Agent Summit; this year featuring two expert speakers. Greg Petrowski, senior vice president, GPW and Associates Inc., and a veteran speaker at Agent Summit, returned to the stage, and was followed by Brian Feldman, executive vice president, Spencer Re – a seasoned executive who has been a part of just about every facet of the reinsurance space.

With more than 20 years of industry experience each, Petrowski and Feldman shed light on the often confusing benefits of controlled foreign corporations (CFCs) and non-controlled foreign corporations (NCFCs).

At the conclusion of the half-day Reinsurance Symposium, Randy Crisorio, president and CEO, United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), and returning advisory board chair, got the show underway with the official opening address.

This year’s show focused on four major areas, 1) Selling to dealers; 2) Training; 3) Coaching and development; and 4) Technology. Each topic was explored first in an individual feature presentation, and was then followed by a panel session.

Morning presentations featured strategies for closing more business and practical steps for getting in front of dealers. Jimmy Atkinson, COO, AUL Corp, stated, “You have to look at a dealer’s DNA – ‘Dealership Needs Analysis’ so you can provide them with products and solutions to meet those needs. This requires pre-call planning and a targeted presentation.” His mantra for agents was “Be prepared. Be flexible. Be confident.” AE readers can look forward to Atkinson’s further expansion of this topic in an upcoming issue.

Days one and two closed with a cocktail reception in the Expo Hall. Throughout the show, crowds filled the expansive Expo area as agents took advantage of the buffet of networking opportunities. With more than 75 tabletop exhibitors and just shy of a hundred sponsors, the exhibit hall was full to overflowing. Exquisite breakfasts and lunch were served alongside the Expo Hall, thanks to show sponsors.

Known as the “World Greatest Closer,” keynote George Dans jump-started day two out with a bang. Dans was a whirlwind of energy, as he crossed the stage, leaving a flurry of excitement and emotion in his wake. He shared personal stories of both success and failure. In his fast paced, energetic address, Dans got the audience pumped up with a revitalized enthusiasm for closing every single deal. He encouraged attendees to be at the top of their game, “We become what we think about all day. You need to say to yourself, ‘I’m good. I’m gifted. I’m talented. Fear, doubt and worry are behind me.’” Dans urged attendees to step out of their comfort zone and to change their way of thinking so they could come out not just ahead, but at the front of the pack. After his presentation, Dans signed hundreds of copies of his book, Just Close It… Ask and You Shall Receive, which were available to all attendees.

Day two also featured two sessions on training, which emphasized the foundational importance of establishing good relationships in order to get buy in from all parties. The sessions covered themes, frequency, and the needs of retail personnel in service, sales, desking and F&I management.

“As an agency,” stated Ron Reahard, president, Reahard & Associates Inc., “you have to help your F&I managers address the challenges they face on a daily basis, and give them the skills, the knowledge, and the confidence to be successful… Performance doesn’t improve because you or a dealer demands it, it gets better because you put a plan in place to ensure it happens.”

A panelist urged, “Make sure the dealer and GM see you as a partner, and know that you are there to make them better.”

Joe St. John, director of training, Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS), and seasoned academic, delivered the feature presentation on coaching and development titled, “Xs and Os – Brain Science for Better Coaching.” This dynamic presentation was definitely an audience favorite. St. John’s unconventional yet proven approach focused on the “why” that drives a customer’s decision to make a purchase. He used a lively combination of humor, experience, and science to demonstrate how to reframe common scenarios for success and forge a unique roadmap for the road to the sale.

The coaching and development panel session explored topics ranging from dealing with underperforming veteran F&I managers, strategies for facilitating collaboration between the sales department and F&I, and how agents can ensure their efforts are recognized by dealers. ”Communication,” urged panelists, “is key.”

After a lunch that rivaled any Vegas hot spot, names were drawn for two $500 gift cards, courtesy of Old Republic Insured Automotive Services, and two weeklong deep-sea fishing trips, thanks to Performance Automotive Management. The lucky recipients of the gift cards were Glen Tuscan, president, Dealer Commitment Services, and Greg Liverett, vice president of marketing, SGI Services. William Kelly, partner, Automotive Development Group, and Anna McMillan, president, The Milby Group, were thrilled to win the fishing trip prizes.

Jim Maxim Jr., president, MaximTrak, showed agents how to use cutting edge technology to set themselves apart from the competition, increase profits and operate more easily and efficiently. In addition to examining today’s technology landscape in industries across the board, he presented innovative technology solutions for agents and explained how they could be integrated into everyday business.

The technology panel session dissected topics ranging from the impact of compliance on menu usage, to data analytics, and the increasingly popular move towards customer driven presentations in F&I. Panel members were in agreement that in any type of business, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

The day concluded with a drawing for a Surface Pro 3 sponsored by Endurance Dealer Services. Tom Clark, the owner of Prosperity Dealer Services, was named the prizewinner.

Day three of Agent Summit ushered in the second annual agent principal only session, featuring round table discussions during a sponsored breakfast. The new format was informative and engaging with top agents brainstorming solutions for common issues agents face in their day-to-day business operation. Agents entered the room on high alert as they scanned topics by table to decide which one was most relevant to them. After thoughtful collaboration, each table captain shared their group’s recommendations for making the most of the given challenges. Discussion topics included selling in the service drive, provider relations, dealer expectations, effectively managing a remote sales force, staffing, competition and more. As one table captain took the podium, he pointed out the vast amount of wisdom and experience in the room, stating that his table alone represented more than 81 years of collective industry experience.

Show sponsor, ECP, ended the third day by sending several attendees home with new timepieces. Tension filled the room when names were drawn for the recipients of a Tissot Sailing Touch watch, a Luminox Deep Dive watch, and a Rolex Explorer II. Derek Doberstein, account executive, Back End Builders, took home the Tissot; Brian LoBaugh, partner, Auto Group Services pocketed the Luminox; and Mark Swannie, president, Karbiz took home the grand prize Rolex.

At the end of the show, Crisorio shared his thoughts on Agent Summit V with AE, “The feedback I’ve received is scary. We’ve set the bar so high that future Summit planning will be challenging. Nonetheless, I was told over and over again that Agent Summit V was the best industry event EVER! That says it all and is a credit to the industry professionals that left their knowledge and talent on stage.”

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AUL Corp Introduces New Suite of Products for Franchise Dealers

NAPA, Calif. – AUL Corp, the Napa, CA based vehicle service contract administrator unveiled their new Absolute suite of products for automobile franchise dealers at their recent Annual Agency Meeting. The all-new Absolute program was developed in conjunction with AUL’s leading agents from the ground up to meet the changing demands in the marketplace.

“We spent a lot of time in the development of this product with our agents to ensure we were highly responsive to the dealer’s needs,” said Jason Garner, General Sales Manager. “Our creative approach extended to not only Reserve Care Plus, our exclusionary new vehicle offering featuring versatile Hybrid and Electric Vehicle coverage. We further developed Reserve Care Lease, Certified Warranty and Wrap as well as Lifetime Warranty and Wrap so the dealer has a complete marketing strategy to not only increase F&I income but also sell more new and used vehicles.”

The Absolute suite of products also features Absolute Profits offering multiple avenues for dealer participation based on their individual needs. Reinsurance as well as underwriting participation programs combined with volume incentives allowing a dealer to maximize ROI for their vehicle service contact program.

Luis Nieves, founder and CEO said: “It was important that this new suite of products be as innovative and revolutionary as our Any Year, Any Mileage concept was in 1990.” He went on to add: “AUL became the leading used vehicle service contract provider with our personalized approach and appreciation for our dealers, we bring that same enthusiasm and dedication to this new offering.”

Internally, AUL has invested heavily in infrastructure for compliance, product development and risk management to support new programs like Absolute. Matt Russell, AUL Risk Manager said “Bringing to life the product that Jason, our GSM, and agents imagined was truly exciting. We used a granular approach with multiple layers and variables so that each make and model was uniquely priced. In the end, we developed over 9,000 prices across 6 different products. We’re confident this will be a great product for our agents, dealers, and contract holders.”

The Absolute suite of products has been met with unbridled enthusiasm from AUL agents. The multi-tiered approach ties in beautifully with AUL’s core used vehicle programs and provides agents with a program that will be essential to an agency’s offerings. All programs are fully electronic and supported through the company’s website. AUL is integrated with most menu and DMS systems allowing a seamless connection for the dealer to quote, sell and fulfill through their dealership platform.

“This is an exciting time in the automobile business,” added Garner. “This next-generation suite of products truly delivers a breakthrough opportunity for our agents and dealers and delivers on the promise of AUL to be the industry best at customer service and support.”

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Pelican Auto Finance Partners with AUL Corp.

NAPA, Calif. – Pelican Auto Finance, LLC (Pelican), a leader in deep sub-prime auto financing, has selected AUL a Napa, CA based company to be their national vehicle service contract provider. AUL an industry leader in the vehicle service contract business, has a strong national network of agents and dealers. The combined strength of the field representation and dealer base of the two companies creates a best-in-class solution for dealers in this market.

“Pelican is growing and making an impact nationwide, and AUL is a natural complement to our offering that we feel that customers and dealers will see as a value-add and just another reason to choose us,” said Troy Cavallaro, CEO of Pelican Auto Finance.

Currently in the national roll-out phase, both AUL and Pelican believe that the vehicle service contract offering they developed together will add business to the portfolios of both companies. To date, dealer response has been strong with an unprecedented number of dealers signing up to take advantage of the service contract program.

“The timing couldn’t be more perfect,” says Pelican Chief Operating Officer & Chief Compliance Officer Joel Kennedy. “We at Pelican are constantly looking for ways to improve our customer experience, and an AUL service contract is a great offering that we firmly believe will have meaningful impact.”

As the two companies worked together in development of the program, the common value of customer service was driving the program development. Additionally, integration of the technology used by both companies is a key advantage to providing a seamless launch to all Pelican Auto Finance dealers.

“We at AUL believe that there is a terrific alignment between our companies,” said Jimmy Atkinson, Chief Operating Officer at AUL. “Pelican has a terrific platform and our focus on the claims experience complements their value added approach to the dealer lending space.”

“AUL has demonstrated real competency in the areas of customer service and operational excellence and they have a solid team of professionals with years of experience in vehicle service contracts,” said Troy Cavallaro. “By partnering with AUL, Pelican now offers our dealers an even more comprehensive solution to provide their customers with protection that complements the Pelican loan.”

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AAA Mid-Atlantic offers Mechanical Breakdown Protection to its Members

NAPA, Calif. – AUL will operate as the administrator of AAA Mid‐Atlantic new vehicle service contract program, called the AAA Vehicle Protection Plan (VPP). This relationship was designed to enhance AAA membership by combining the exclusive AAA Roadside Assistance experience with the added mechanical breakdown protection of a service contract administered by a veteran in the vehicle service contract business, AUL Corp.

This program is available to all members throughout the AAA Mid-Atlantic region. The AAA Vehicle Protection Plan offers three levels of coverage, including the option of battery replacement, 0% financing for up to 18 months, business use and the exclusive AUL Any-Year Any-Mileage plan. AUL Corp. is recognized by the Better Business Bureau as an A rated company and is also backed by an A-rated insurance company.

Keith McIntyre, Manager of AAA’s Auto Buying Experience, stated, “AAA MA is very excited and pleased to be working with AUL as we introduce our new Vehicle Protection Plan (VPP). The AUL customer centric experience is the perfect fit for AAA, we are confident this added protection will be of great value to our members.”

Jason Garner General Sales Manager of AUL Corp., said, “AUL is excited to partner with a company like AAA where the member always comes first. AUL’s commitment to customer service has always been at the forefront of our mission. These parallel philosophies will serve AAA’s members with the best Vehicle Service Contract experience available.”

Customers wanting more information can contact AAA Mid-Atlantic at 800-323-4300 or at their website midatlantic.aaa.com. AAA Mid-Atlantic serves members in Delaware, Maryland, Washington, DC and parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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What Does 2013 Have in Store for Our Industry?

The end of 2012 was certainly an interesting one, on a lot of levels. The election in November helped to shape the way the budget talks went at the end of December, and no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s probably safe to say that no one really won here. There were wins and losses on both sides, concessions made to pass a deal late on New Year’s, but that was mostly a stop-gap effort, with more political debating about our economy and debt to come. But why are we talking about that here? Because it will play a very strong role in what 2013 will bring for the automotive industry in general, and agents and F&I managers specifically.

We talked to a few industry players to get their take on what to watch for in 2013, and the first striking trend was that almost all of them are only cautiously optimistic. They all see the economy — and the industry — either holding steady or showing moderate growth, and all of them prefaced their remarks by noting that a lot of that is due to uncertainty with where the economy will go, and how the politicians will solve various debt issues. One of the major fallouts from the New Year’s bill that passed Congress is that the payroll tax cuts expired — meaning every American has less discretionary income now.

“I don’t know that there has ever been a time I’ve been so confused as to what will come in the next year,” said Tony Wanderon, president and CEO, Family First Dealer Services. “There are so many changes and uncertainty in the economy. I’m not going to think anyone on a salary will be taking home more, and that could put pressure on car sales, which will then put substantial pressure on F&I sales. If that increases payments, even if consumers need a new car, they might not be able to afford it. The first half of the year could be a challenge as we absorb the changes that will occur.”

Wanderon went on to note that he does believe that, once consumers adjust to the changes, the second half of the year will see the market expand, and as auto sales grow, F&I will follow suit. He also said that without economic uncertainties, the trends all suggest 2013 will be a great year, with lending starting to open up, especially the advanced lending that is key for F&I sales.

Ryan Williams, executive vice president, Fidelis Systems, agreed, noting that he doesn’t see the market shrinking, but doesn’t predict a huge swell, either. “I don’t see much of a change in overall penetration. With banks loosening up a bit we may see a lift of 5% or so.”

Another expert in agreement with that sentiment is Kelly Price, president, National Automotive Experts. “I would think F&I penetration will remain fairly steady. With grosses declining and the pinch on the economy and tax increases, I don’t see it increasing overall.”

“The swing between pessimistic and optimistic industry pundits is 500,000 units — an estimated 14.5 or 15 million cars and light trucks will be sold in 2013. I concur with those who predict a second, but less severe, recessionary dip, likely in the third or fourth quarter,” noted David Robertson, executive director, AFIP. But that number is still up from the 2009 levels of 10.4 million, so even with that slight dip he sees coming, the industry is still in a much stronger position today than it was a few years ago.

Bright Spots
Despite the economic troubles that will impact every aspect of every industry in this country, there are some bright spots. F&I, the experts agreed, might not grow hugely, but they don’t see it shrinking either. And one category in particular saw a number of them as fairly optimistic: service contracts.

“Service contracts will continue to be the predominant product sold in the F&I office. It provides the most value to the dealership as it not only drives revenue at the point of sale, it brings customers back for service work contributing to fixed operations coverage,” said Jimmy Atkinson, COO, AUL Corp.

Williams agreed, noting that he sees a similar product, pre-paid maintenance, as being right up there with service contracts in sales volume this year. “I see pre-paid maintenance as one of the winners. With so many manufactures offering it, customers are now asking for it; it will probably will be a banner year for pre-paid maintenance.”

Robertson was a bit more specific. He sees the growth area as coming in not just service contracts, but in contracts for used vehicles. He believes the economy, coupled with an aging overall fleet of cars on the market today, will drive consumers to the used-car lots, which will drive not only those sales, but the F&I on those types of vehicles as well.

“Generally, shifts in the aftermarket product mix are reflective of the changes in consumer demand. The joust between GAP and VSC may be decided by increases in used vehicle service contract sales in 2013. A tepid economy, coupled with the need to replace a rapidly aging fleet — Experian estimates that 52 million vehicles on the road today are 16 years or older — may drive a growing number of wannabe new-car buyers to the franchised dealers’ used-car departments.”

Wanderon cautions, though, that while consumers are seeing more of the value in F&I products, in some cases they might be priced out of the market. “Service contracts have gotten more expensive. One of the most valuable products for the consumer might be out of their price range. But consumers are keeping cars longer, so they realize they need to take care of them now.”

Predictions for 2013
So where does that leave the industry overall? Our experts had a few predictions to share.

Robertson sees 2013 as the year that will bring a shift in how the market sells cars online. There are still challenges, he notes, but he sees the concept as one that is going to gain acceptance. “In my view, the latter part of 2013 will see the natural progression of the 70% of prospective car buyers who currently shop online opting to complete the entire transaction electronically. A major manufacturer is beta testing an online vehicle purchase program, with very promising preliminary results. F&I is an integral part of the program. However, numerous obstacles exist. Handling the trade-in is chief among them. Also, the E-SIGN Act left numerous procedural hurdles to be addressed before ‘paperless’ transactions, in all phases of the vehicle purchase, funding, and owner indemnification processes, become a practical reality. But the inevitability of online car sales is a given, and in many respects, the car business as we once knew it will never be the same.”

Wanderon believes customers will still be coming in the door, but believes there will be fewer of them. But while that might mean fewer car sales, he sees it as an opportunity for F&I. “We need to focus on products that retain customers, because it’s too expensive to get new ones; we haven’t done a good job of selling products and the experience at a dealership that gets customers to come back in the door. I see 14-15 million sales for the year, and I will be surprised if it goes higher than that. If car sales drop, F&I has more time to focus on each individual and their needs, so they can sell more and better products – it takes more time to explain each one as products become more complicated, and when it’s busy, it’s easier to hear ‘No’ and move on to the next customer.”

Agreeing that F&I is key, Williams noted that, overall, he’s positive about F&I in 2013, “because the market is growing, but I’m nervous about the overall economic climate. F&I sales are more important that ever as they usually represent the profit of the store.”

At the end of the day, said Price, there will be growth, but she agreed that it will come from better F&I sales and penetration, rather than because more cars are sold. “We are personally forecasting growth again this year, but I don’t believe it will be from an increase in unit sales.”

Atkinson summed everything up, and put it into perspective, noting that at the end of the day, if an agent wants to see growth in this tough economy, they need to be proactive about it. “Growth for agents is in direct correlation to the value you provide a dealer. Agents should find their niche, whether it be training, F&I income development or other areas for the store. Develop that and have a relentless focus on leveraging that strength to bring you growth. 2012 was a strong year for our markets and 2013 could be even better. It’s up to each of us to make it our best year ever.”

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AUL Partners with Ace Motor Acceptance for New “BHPH in A Box™” Program

NAPA – AUL Corp., a national provider of used car service contracts announces an expansion of the service contract relationship with Ace Motor Acceptance Company (AMAC). AMAC of Charlotte, a sub-prime lender, and Napa-based AUL VSC’s, have been working together to provide automotive dealers traditional financing and service contract options since 2007.

In 2009, AMAC rolled out a secondary financing program designed for Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) dealers called Buy Here Pay Here in A Box™. The success of this program has been astounding, and in a move to provide more security to the BHPH customers and dealers, AUL and AMAC have created a vehicle service contract program designed specifically for the AMAC BHPH in A Box™ program.

This program launched January 1st 2012, and is an unprecedented move in the BHPH financing space.

“AUL truly appreciates the business relationship we have had with AMAC, and this new addition allows more dealers to offer vehicle service contract protection customers want. The buy here pay here space is a challenging one for service contracts and AMAC’s innovative leadership is creating terrific opportunities for BHPH dealers,” said AUL Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Atkinson.

Wayne Garland, Director of Business Development of AMAC stated, “We could not be more excited to have AUL Corp. on board with BHPH in A Box™ in 2012. AUL Corp.’s partnership of BHPH in A Box™ compliments other services provided by AMAC such as capital funding and floor planning programs offered to buy here pay here dealerships. Since its launch, BHPH in A Box™ has been widely successful. Through this new avenue with AUL Corp., we are confident that our unique secondary financing option will be a more complete program to our BHPH dealers.”

The AMAC BHPH in A Box™ program is available to dealers in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. AMAC is forecasting expansion of this product into several neighboring states throughout 2012.

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