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 the 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.
The RMIF is backing the initiative. Business development director Louise Wallis says the fall in point-of-sale finance is “a massive issue for motor retailing”.