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The big picture: Dealers shun POS profits

The SMMT’s new-car market assessment for the next two years is enough to have dealer principals blubbing into their morning coffee: sales down 2.7% this year and 1.9% in 2007.

Given the intense pressure on margins and the rising cost of meeting franchise standards, it’s reasonable to think those DPs are doing everything in their power to maximize sales of other products.

Well, they aren’t. Not if the findings of research carried out by the Finance and Leasing Association are to be believed – and given that they match trends found by other surveys, including one carried out by AM, there’s no reason to doubt them.

Customers are not being offered finance products at point of sale. Almost one-third of customers buying a new car say they were not offered finance, while dealer staff failed to discuss finance products with 43% of used car buyers. Given that F&I can account for up to 15% of a retailer’s profits, not offering POS is commercial suicide.

It’s no wonder point of sale finance penetration is falling every year (new car has fallen from 69% in 1997 to 46% last year; used car from 46% to 36%), with buyers turning to high street lenders.

And it’s no surprise the FLA is now calling for some form of accreditation for F&I specialists and sales staff in general to improve performance.

It also believes a programme similar to the Automotive Technician Accreditation scheme could help dealers to retain staff, which it hopes would encourage them to spend more time and money training them.

The FLA is right. More than 1,500 technicians have signed up to the ATA since its launch last June and their reaction has been pretty positive. The IMI, which governs the scheme, believes it could easily be transferred to other parts of the industry.

Accredited staff have greater loyalty to the business because they feel appreciated and can see a career mapped out in front of them. So, will you embrace Automotive Finance Accreditation?

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