Tag Archive | "technology"

Mercedes-Benz Captive Now Available on AutoGravity’s Auto Financing App


IRVINE, Calif. — AutoGravity has added Mercedes-Benz Financial Services to its auto financing app, which allows car buyers to search for loan and lease options based on the vehicle they want.

The partnership gives AutoGravity users access to Mercedes-Benz Financial Services when purchasing a Mercedes-Benz or smart vehicles. The captive is already integrated into the public beta release of AutoGravity’s platform, which is available as an iOS app, Android app and mobile-responsive web app, according to the company.

“Our partnership with AutoGravity is valuable, because it enhances our positioning among the growing number of digital savvy consumers who rely on smartphone technology when making purchasing decisions,” said Peter Zieringer, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

The AutoGravity app is designed to allow car buyers to choose any new car make, model and trim, browse nearby dealerships that sell that car, apply for financing online in three steps, and then select from up to four resulting financing offers. Customers are then able to take their selected offer to the dealership and complete the lease or purchasing process.

“AutoGravity was created to empower car buyers through their smartphones and give them access to a wide selection of auto finance options from the palm of their hands,” said Andy Hinrichs, founder and CEO of AutoGravity. “The partnership with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services provides choice for our users and gives Mercedes-Benz access to a broader pool of new and existing digitally savvy customers. This is a prime example of how the AutoGravity platform benefits consumers, dealerships and lenders.”

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Alpha Warranty Services Releases Claims Tracker


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Alpha Warranty Service Inc. (AWS) announced the release of Alpha Claims Tracker, a tool that allows customers, dealers, and agents to easily track their claims in real time.

By using the Alpha Claims Tracker, users can view which step of the process a claim is in, similar to how someone can track shipments online. The tool provides a detailed description of what is happening during that step so users are fully aware of what is being done to complete repairs on their vehicle.

“Our goal is to always find ways to improve the customer experience, especially when filing a claim. The claims process in this industry can be an overwhelming and stressful process for a customer. We’ve worked for years though to eliminate that frustration and the Alpha Claims Tracker takes the customer experience to a whole new level,” says Jeremy Lindsey, COO at Alpha Warranty Services.

“Being able to know the current status of your claim, who is responsible to move the claim forward, and what’s left in the claims process really minimizes the unknown when filing a claim. And the great thing is that our customers will have all this information at their fingertips without the need to pick up the phone.”

The tool offers a mobile-friendly user portal, along with the option to receive status updates by email and text message. It also provides a complete history of the claim and information on who is performing the next step to help reduce confusion.

If the user has any questions throughout the process, he or she can live chat with a customer service representative to have them answered, the company added.

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Keith Whann Joins Over the Edge Corp. as Outside General Counsel


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Over the Edge, a technology development/design company and creator of the TecAssured™ Software Suite, is pleased to announce its partnership with Keith Whann, a national compliance expert and attorney. Whann’s role will be to advise and consult clients as they use the company’s TecAssured system to easily create, sell, manage and administrate F&I, warranty and other protection products.

Released to the public in May, TecAssured is an innovative, cloud-based e-rating and e-contracting solution that provides easy-to-use tools for dealers, agents and TPAs to sell and manage their own custom, private-label products. With the power to self-administer high-revenue, high-growth products now in their hands, these businesses will need protection from complex industry laws and regulations to avoid potential fines and litigation. The partnership between Over the Edge and Whann meets this vital need.

Whann is a leading authority on the issues that face automotive dealers, agents and related businesses – including compliance, sales, F&I, and technology. For more than 30 years, Whann has successfully predicted industry and regulatory trends, including the development and implementation of several compliance document-review and dealership walk-through programs. Whann also consults businesses on how to integrate F&I products and services into the sales and financing process from a big-picture perspective.

The new partnership will help dealers and TPAs “navigate the minefield of regulations and compliance with confidence,” according to Over the Edge Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Pesce. “Keith is one of the few people in this industry who has seen it from all sides – as a former regulator, industry attorney, business owner and technology developer,” Pesce said. “He understands the many nuances involved and can help our clients develop profitable products while staying within industry guidelines.”

As government regulations become increasingly complex, any warranty or service creator could unwittingly find his business facing legal trouble. “When we sat down to talk, I had a user’s F&I menu screen open on my desktop. Keith’s keen eye quickly saw six potential compliance hurdles in their product development,” Pesce said. “With Keith on board, we can now offer our clients the added service of expert compliance guidance as they create products with our TecAssured system.”

“Over The Edge is providing powerful technology that has a direct impact in the dealership F&I department,” Whann said. “My work will make a difference to TecAssured users by making transparency and compliance not just words, but real dealership practice.”

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Brian Reed to Helm Technology Panel at PALS 2016


LAS VEGAS — Organizers of the annual P&A Leadership Summit have announced that Brian Reed, president of F&I Express, will lead a panel discussion devoted to electronic signatures at the 2016 event, which will be held Aug. 30–31 at Paris Las Vegas.

“Brian Reed has been a staunch advocate of advancing the universal adoption of time- and money-saving technology in the F&I office,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of P&Amagazine. “He is the ideal speaker to lead this esteemed group.”

The session, “eSignatures Today and in the Future,” will begin at 9:05 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Reed will be joined by Dan Doman of RouteOne, Tim Gill of Advent Resources, Andy Mayers of Dealertrack and MaximTrak’s Jim Maxim. The group is expected to address the evolution and current state of the technology, discuss its benefits and the rate of adoption, and take questions from attendees.

“The panel brings together an impressive cross-section of hands-on experience and knowledge about this technology,” Reed said. “We’re going to go from a basic understanding of how it works to how it is being used and will be used in the near future.”

To register for the 2016 P&A Leadership Summit, click here. To inquire about sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, contact David Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is required or at 727-947-4027.

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F&I Is Not About Menus


Everyone in our industry has their own vision of what our new, hyperconnected world, tomorrow’s vehicles and the F&I department of the future might look like. It seems every manufacturer, DMS provider and F&I menu software company has their own high-tech version of what the sales and F&I process needs to become. In this geekoid future of Snapchats, Instagrams, and Tweets, we’ll discover a glorious new world filled with cars that drive themselves and products that sell themselves, which are then delivered right to our doorstep via Amazon drones.

The ultimate fiction of this shiny new techie-world of virtual reality goggles, wall-size touchscreens and chat-bots is that somehow computers and menu software will soon be able to discover and fill customer needs, create customer interest, overcome objections and entice people to buy more stuff. And they’ll be able to pay for it all with digital money that rains down from a virtual cloud. Yeehaw!

Now I certainly don’t profess to know what the future holds. However, I do know that, while technology, computers and software can do a lot, there’s one thing they can’t do and won’t ever be able to do: care. Only a human being can care about another human being.

The Easy Button

Dealers, F&I managers and agents (and F&I trainers!) are always looking for an “easy” button — that new product, word-track or “close” that will magically get customers to buy F&I products with little or no effort. Whether it’s menu-selling software, a new closing technique or a video product pitch using a spokesmodel, hope springs eternal that someone has found a quick, easy and foolproof way for an F&I manager to sell more F&I products and make more money in less time with less work.

The latest easy buttons are the high-tech electronic F&I menus that have more bells and whistles than a $35,000 Tesla. The only difference being they’re actually available, and you don’t have to stand in line to buy ‘em. Some of these menu software companies now offer desktop or large tablet touchscreens or their menu on an iPad. Some even include computer-generated graphics and video product presentations. Most allow the customer or F&I manager to easily move products around to see how adding or removing them will change their payment.

Some of these menu software programs are truly impressive. They have the ability to combine previous purchase information and new customer data to determine which products they’re most likely to buy. These menu software programs mine the dealership’s own data to see what F&I products the customer bought last time, as well as the odds the customer will purchase a specific F&I product this time.

Even I have to admit this is a huge improvement. In prehistoric times, we actually had to get off our butts and walk down to the accounting office and pull the customer file out of the file cabinet to see what F&I products they bought for their last vehicle.

Many of these software programs include self-serving “customer surveys” that are designed to eliminate the needs discovery process. I put the term in quotes because these brief surveys include a few questions designed to replace the antiquated idea of having an actual conversation with a customer. Most software designers aren’t too keen on human conversation, so the assumption is that most consumers would prefer little or no conversation.

Once the customer completes the survey, the F&I software operator knows which products they should offer the customer. Apparently, knowing the answer to only six or eight questions allows a computer to know all of the products a customer is likely to buy. Here’s what the computer says you need, here’s what it covers and here’s your new payment. Now talk yourself into it.

All of these menu software programs can structure the deal and create a menu designed to ensure maximum profit. And all are promoted as a surefire way to increase F&I product sales and profits. On the surface, they are certainly pretty slick. And this futuristic dream of software that sells F&I products continues to be updated, upgraded and improved upon every year in an effort to move us all toward what they really desire, which is to get agents and dealers to buy their software.

But is a high-tech menu on a big screen what the customer wants?

Do you really believe most human beings desire less human interaction and more preprogrammed, premeditated, computer-generated digital sales presentations based on odds, algorithms and logic traps? Do you really think self-serving software created specifically to benefit the user, not the customer, is the way anyone wants to buy anything? No one who has ever been trapped in an automated phone system loop, those automated torture devices that misunderstand what you say or require an endless series of button pushes to complete even a simple task, wants to envision a future with more of that.

That’s not progress. That’s hell on earth!

Putting Technology in Its Place

We have cameras in hundreds of F&I offices and record thousands of F&I transactions every month, and I have yet to hear a customer request a better menu, complain because the options were offered on a paper menu or demand to see a touchscreen version. In reality, most customers couldn’t care less how F&I products are offered. While one generation may prefer viewing a menu on a computer screen to a paper version, they certainly aren’t going to buy any F&I products because of a pretty menu.

All a customer wants to do is get their paperwork completed as quickly as possible so they can take delivery of their new vehicle. The fact is, most customers do not walk into an F&I office wanting to buy additional products. Nor do they want to be forced to wait while an F&I manager creates a custom menu with those products. If customers are being forced to wait while a menu is being prepared, we’re wasting their time. Can you imagine a restaurant forcing every customer to wait while a custom menu is created just for them? That restaurant wouldn’t last a month.

What a customer is really buying is the F&I person presenting those products. Customers appreciate having someone take time to review the options, answer their questions and help them make an informed decision. They resent having to listen to a sales pitch. It doesn’t matter whether that sales pitch is made using a brochure, a paper menu or a 60-inch flat-screen monitor. It’s still a sales pitch.

Every customer asks themselves this question: “Is this person trying help me, or is this person trying to sell me?” How they answer that question in their own mind will determine whether or not we’re able to sell them. If they think that F&I person is trying to help them, they’re going to be very interested in what they have to say. If they think that F&I person is trying to sell them, they couldn’t care less what that person has to say.

Helping customers demands that an F&I professional seek out, with eagerness, reasons why the customer needs each and every one of their products, and helping them see how that product will benefit them. If a customer trusts that person, believes they know what they’re talking about, and feels like they’re genuinely trying to help them, they will value that individual’s knowledge, expertise and input. It doesn’t matter whether those products were offered on a high-tech menu or a bar napkin.

F&I is not about menus. It’s about helping customers make an informed decision about the options available in connection with their purchase. Customers don’t buy F&I products because they understand every nuance of the coverage. They buy them because they feel someone understands their unique situation and is trying to help them make the right decision for them and their family — in other words, an F&I professional.

In the F&I office, we have a responsibility to offer every customer every product every time. You don’t need a custom menu to do that. We don’t need F&I software operators spending more time customizing menus. We need F&I Professionals who are genuinely interested in helping customers, and care about people. Because customers don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. And no menu can do that.

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Mobile Phones, Online Research Shrinking Shopping Window, Study Shows


SAN FRANCISCO — From start to finish, the time it takes for consumers to pull the trigger on a new vehicle purchase is shrinking. And Millennials are the reason.

Jumpstart Automotive study, which looked at the buying habits of women, Millennials, Asians and Hispanics, found that 74% of Millennials now take four weeks or less to find a new car. Mobile technology, social media and online research are all noted as reasons for the shift toward a shorter shopping window, said Libby Murad-Patel, the firm’s lead analyst.

“This was one of the surprising elements for us as well, because, in reality, we’ve seen that the typical shopping window is four months,” Patel said. “Even though the majority still completes their research from start to finish in four months, 74% of Millennials are taking four weeks or less. They’re really doing the bulk of their process in a shorter amount of time, but also accessing more information throughout the entire process.”

However, it’s not just Millennials that are taking less time to buy a car. Every demographic observed in the study had a large percentage of respondents saying they spent four weeks or less to shop for a car. Sixty-eight percent of women, 65% of Hispanics and 62% of Asian respondents said that hey spent four weeks or less to complete their vehicle-shopping process.

Social media, Patel noted, has played a big part in reducing the shopping window because it increases consumer exposure to potential vehicles. “People are passively gathering information even when they’re not in market,” she said. “A lot of that is even more exaggerated because of social media and the fact that we’re looking at Instagram and we’re sharing on Facebook. You see what your friends are driving outside of what you see on the roads.”

And that online shopping and research doesn’t stop once consumers get to the dealership, Patel added. Looking at study results, about 40% of consumers — about 66% for Millennials — use their cell phones inside the dealership to make sure they’re getting the best deal.

“They’re doing a lot of comparison shopping. Price is definitely a factor, it could be looking at the overall price or offers in the area. It could also be comparing features, trim and packaging that they could get from a similar vehicle that they were looking at,” Patel said.

The fact that consumers are using their cell phones to verify pricing while at the dealership should ring certain bells for dealers, Patel noted. Although the study found that 76% of respondents found their dealership to be trustworthy, three aspects of the dealership experience still brewed mistrust for a majority of them: trade-in appraisals, vehicle pricing and financing.

“When you look at what your vehicle is valued at, you see what you could get privately versus trade in, consumers are always going to try to push the dealer to get the best value for their vehicle,” Patel said. “Because it is a sensitive point in the negotiation, I think the trade-in is one of those factors that they don’t always walk away feeling like they got the best value for their vehicle.”

She noted, however, that there’s not much a dealer can do when it comes to vehicle appraisals. While there’s some room for negotiation, the amount a consumer can get for his or her vehicle is ultimately tied to the true value of their vehicle. The aspects of the car-buying experience dealers should focus on are vehicle pricing and financing, Patel said.

“I think this leads very much into the common theme that we saw throughout the entire study,” Patel said. “Authenticity — whether it’s advertising or at a dealership — is what [the dealership experience should be] about. If you’re advertising pricing, don’t advertise something that has 20 different caveats to it. Be forward and be honest with the pricing that you put out there, because if the customer comes to check the advertised price and its ends up being something that is really unattainable to them, they’re going to feel like they can’t trust the dealership in what they’re saying.”

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