Avoid Bottlenecks by Introducing F&I Early

By Ted Ings, Executive Director

Remember back to the time you bought your first car from a dealership.

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You had the needs assessment, the product demonstration, and the sales pitch, but they look very different from what happens today. Then, when the deal was struck, you waited to see the F&I manager to get your financing in order. You also heard about the vehicle protection items and insurances. That sounds virtually unchanged today – it’s the same thing a customer experiences buying a car now. 


The automotive industry moves slowly, but the financing department seems to stay idle. That’s unfortunate seeing as one in three customers is dissatisfied with their interactions with the financing department, according to AutoTrader’s Car Buyer Journey study. Just under half of car buyers are unhappy with how long it takes to buy a car, start to finish. 

What Can Be Done?

F&I consultant and trainer, Rebecca Chernek, says the business office has room for improvement. “It [F&I] still struggles with implementing a consistent best practice that helps to streamline the process… Dealers are not adapting to online self-desking capability that may otherwise help customers reduce some of the heavy lifting to obtain preapproval earlier in the process.”

In other words, dealerships need to turn their attention to the F&I department to reduce the time spent in the dealership. The sales process has been adapted to better suit the way customers want to buy a car. When it’s time for financing, there’s a disconnect. 

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“Customers continue to spend the entire day buying a car, and fewer want to spend their days doing that.”

And where transparency is concerned, there’s room for improvement. The back-end business plays their cars close to their chest, continuing the practices that have soured customer relationships for decades. Becky says, “Box closing continues to occur, which opens the dealer to aggressive unethical business practices. And, there continues to be a lack of communication between sales and the finance department.”

Alleviate bottlenecks in the sales process by introducing F&I before closing the sale. Product advisors can help by ensuring accurate customer and financial information when estimating payments. And above all, the F&I office must be mindful of the customer’s time to improve their overall experience. 


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