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Trying to reverse the point-of-sale slide

Last February the Finance and Leasing Association’s pragmatic director general Martin Hall warned his organization’s crisis convention on declining point of sale motor F&I business: “If we dither we may get hammered. Finance companies and dealers will sink or swim together.”

Five months on, after a series of meetings with the RMIF and contacts with other “interested bodies” including the SMMT and the DTI’s Retail Motor Strategy Group, Hall says the complex, sometimes delicate process of trying to reverse the POS slide is “grinding forward with a positive momentum”.

Some initiatives are moving more rapidly than others. The most tangible development involves establishing an FLA-funded and managed website to highlight the virtues of POS F&I, while providing impartial, unsponsored information and guidance.

Doug Moody, deputy chairman of the FLA’s motor finance division, explains that the “strategic” website will be open to input from the RMIF plus captive and independent finance providers who, along with dealers, can provide online links to this central point.

“By establishing this website we can grasp the initiative. Consumers and the media can gain rapid access to the unsung benefits of obtaining finance through dealers, the options available and what suits individual cases,” reasons Moody, whose day job is sales and marketing director for DaimlerChrysler Financial Services.

On F&I training, accreditation and best practice fronts, Martin Hall concedes: “It takes time to get all the ducks in a row before definitive moves are made. We are using networks across the automotive, retailer and finance service communities to avoid a fragmented approach.”

Doug Moody says industry-wide accreditation standards could cover personal competence qualifications, and individual outlet and group ‘kitemarks’ or customer charters for F&I services, harnessing expertise gleaned from captive and independent providers alike.

He adds: “We are investigating possible partners and who would endorse this type of programme – the RMIF, SMMT and IMI – or all three on a unified basis. It must connect credible professional standards to consumer faith and peace of mind.”

While Hall hopes dialogue is underway between finance companies and dealers “in the commercial undergrowth”, Moody says: “Virtually all captives are speaking to their retailer customers. We must overcome conflicts of interests between captives and independents, and reach consensus.”

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