If you’re an F&I manager, how many times have you seen a weary buyer arrive in your office ready just to take delivery and depart the dealership? But it’s your job still to make the pitch, right?

As frustrating of a situation that might be for store personnel, a new study from MakeMyDeal, a Cox Automotive company, showed consumers are frustrated with the current finance and insurance process, too.

But MakeMyDeal highlighted that if dealers could make it easier, they actually could sell more. That’s one of the significant findings of the MakeMyDeal 2015 Finance & Insurance Study, which also showed that shifting F&I product information online could be the key to higher sales and profitability.

“F&I is one of the biggest parts of the buying process that has still not moved into the digital age, and dealers have been hesitant to evolve this process because it’s a major profit center,” said Mike Burgiss, founder and vice president of MakeMyDeal.

“However, our study shows that the current F&I process breeds consumer skepticism,” Burgiss continued. “By changing when and how the shopper is introduced to F&I products, dealers could see a dramatic change in consumers’ likelihood to buy F&I products.”

Findings from the study included three other major points.

The Current Experience Breeds Skepticism

• A significant number of consumers showed skepticism about F&I products, with 61 percent indicating that they believe the products are just ways for the dealer to make more money. Additionally, 48 percent said that they would never buy anything other than the vehicle from a dealership.

• However, further results from the study indicated that the resistance felt in the F&I office is not about the products themselves, but about the experience. This is supported by the fact that consumers realize that F&I products may be beneficial: 84 percent say they believe that F&I products may have real value, and 66 percent indicate that they think F&I products may save money in the long run.

• Despite this, 54 percent said they prefer to simply complete their purchase and leave the dealership as quickly as possible.

Consumers Lack Knowledge of F&I Products

• Consumers’ desire to sign on the line and run is problematic, as the study showed that there is a gap in their understanding of the offerings. One third of respondents say they find the list of F&I product choices confusing. 

• Even among consumers who said they were familiar with key product offerings, a significant portion could not correctly identify them. For example, 46 percent of respondents who claimed to be familiar with the Vehicle Service Contract did not select the correct definition. Similarly, 56 percent of those who claimed familiarity could not identify the correct definition for Prepaid Planned Maintenance.

Online Education Equals Openness and Greater Likelihood to Buy

• Currently, most consumers are first exposed to F&I offerings after the vehicle price and trade-in have been negotiated at the dealership, but the study shows that consumers would prefer to learn about F&I products beforehand — on their own time. More than eight in 10 of study participants (83 percent) mentioned they are interested in learning about F&I products before entering the dealership.

• Once a consumer has a better understanding of the offerings, they are more open to hearing about them from the F&I manager, even among the most skeptical shoppers. Three fourths — 75 percent — of all respondents (and 69 percent of those who are skeptical of F&I) report being interested in learning more about them from the dealership after they had a better understanding of what they were.

• Most strikingly, 63% of consumers state they would be more likely to buy F&I products if they could learn about them on their own time, before finalizing their vehicle purchase. By bringing F&I education and pricing online, dealers could not only enhance the in-store experience, but also position themselves to sell more F&I products.

“When F&I product information and pricing is brought online, the dealer not only provides an exceptional buying experience, but they also help more shoppers realize the value these products provide. And since consumers are more likely to buy F&I products and services when they learn about them earlier in the vehicle purchasing process, dealerships have a huge opportunity to grow their bottom lines while providing an experience that consumers desire,” Burgiss added.

About the Study

For this study, MakeMyDeal conducted a quantitative online consumer survey among 500 shoppers and buyers in September of last year. The purpose of the study was to:

• Understand consumer feelings toward F&I products and services and the current process of learning about and purchasing them.

• Measure current consumer awareness and knowledge of F&I products and services.

• Determine if consumers already know what F&I products they want to purchase or if they depend upon the dealer for education and encouragement.

• Evaluate the potential impact on F&I product sales if the education and sales process is brought online.

In order to qualify for participation in the study, respondents were required either to have purchased a vehicle from a dealer within the previous six months, or to have been in the market to purchase a vehicle from a dealer within the following six months. Out of the 500 surveys, 279 were vehicle purchasers and 221 were vehicle shoppers.