Throughout the summer, the FLA has been developing and refining SAF with the support of leading dealer groups.
The FLA is convinced the decline in point-of-sale motor finance cannot be halted without better-trained staff at retail points.
A joint presentation by the FLA on the methodology and of SAF and its business plan has gained the support of the Office of Fair Trading and the Financial Services Authority.
Paul Harrison, FLA policy adviser, says this marks another encouraging step forward for SAF.
There is growing interest among motor retailers whose staff can register for the course, and also “swot up” at the SAF website – www.specialistautomotivefinance.org.uk – before formal training begins.
Harrison says the FLA has been determined from outset not to ask dealers to become involved until its content and procedures are known to work properly within dealerships.
Franchised motor retailers including Inchcape Retail, Bristol Street Motors (Vertu Group), Perrys and Dutton Forshaw have supported the FLA.
The groups have asked staff to undertake training through a pilot scheme and to comment on its value.
The SAF’s annual competence test will have to be renewed annually and its multiple-choice questions have to be completed within 40 minutes.
Users are asked questions on a broad range of motor finance products available to consumers, and their understanding of regulations governing their sale is also tested.
There will be no charge to dealers whose staff undertake the SAF course, designed to give dealer employees confidence to provide customers with all the information they need.
Latest FLA research indicates showroom finance provision accounts for little more than 45% of the total.
The objective is to help more dealers to reach the 70% penetration achieved by the best groups, and start raising the 20% share managed by the poorest.
#AM_ART_SPLIT# The RMIF is backing the initiative and business development director Louise Wallis, business development director at the RMIF, says the fall in point-of-sale finance is “a massive issue for motor retailing”.
Survey finds 24% most like to use POS
Encouragement for the FLA campaign comes from a survey by GMAC that found more retail buyers likely to use point-of-sale finance than a personal loan.
The provider of retail finance for GM UK brands Vauxhall, Saab and Chevrolet says the survey suggests that 88% of people have made up their minds how to fund a car purchase before reaching a dealership.
The 1,043 buyers surveyed were asked what would most influence a decision to take out showroom finance: 34% said it was their “personal experience” in the dealership.
Finance advisors’ expertise was given as the single most important factor by 22%, ahead of any research into the different finance options available.
Another 15% said benefits such as extended service and maintenance options would be most important.
Ed Paulat GMAC's UK managing director, says: “It might be difficult for direct loan providers to accept but the truth is that retailer finance is extremely convenient and flexible. What's more, it can compete with the best personal loan rates available.”
GMAC says 24% of car buyers say they are most likely to choose a finance package from a retailer, with 53% saying they regard cash in a savings account is the most popular way of paying for a car.
Another 15% are likely to choose a personal loan from a high street bank and only 7% favour an online loan provider.