Friday, Jun. 30, 2006, 08:00 PM UPDATED 11:59 AMBy Nick Zulovich
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Automotive Dealership Institute announced it has joined forces with Dealership for Life, which is a nationwide dealership customer loyalty and retention program. ADI offers a variety of courses covering the gamut of a dealer's operations, while DFL offers processes and services designed to drive sales, customer retention, employee retention and more.
Executives said Dealership for Life representatives will now offer all or portions of ADI's automotive finance management and service advisor training courses to its dealership partners.
"ADI's courses complement Dealership for Life customer reward and retention programs," explained Jeff Buchanan, Dealership for Life chief executive officer. "Dealership for Life was created to provide a comprehensive turnkey approach to the ultimate customer loyalty program for automotive dealerships. Training is an essential aspect of that philosophy because it benefits both the dealership and the consumer."
Alan Algan, chief executive officer of the Automotive Dealership Institute, added, "The concept of customer loyalty and retention is one that we stress in our classes. Referral and repeat businesses are fundamental building blocks and are key factors in the growth and success of any dealership. By learning with Dealership for Life, we can help spread that message to progressive dealerships that understand and appreciate the value of a professional automotive education."
ADI executives said their four-week automotive finance management program was developed by Arzu Algan, dean of education. It includes legal compliance certification by the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals, as well as Ethics Certification for Automotive Finance Professionals by the Institute of Ethical Behavior.
Other topics covered by ADI's courses include credit bureau analysis, deal structuring, subprime financing and product presentation/objection handling. Executives also said ADI offers a two-week service advisor program designed to teach students the nuts and bolts of the profession, including how to interact with customers and keep customer satisfaction at high levels.
"ADI's curriculum is world class, as are its facilities in Scottsdale," Buchanan said. "The professors are well-schooled industry professionals, and their approach is hands on and student-oriented. I believe that DFL dealerships that take advantage of ADI's programs will improve their bottom line and increase customer loyalty. That's what we're all about."
Keith Tuber, ADI president, chimed in, saying, "Our message revolves around the concept of providing exceptional customer service. Dealership for Life shares that same passion. By joining forces, we can achieve a higher degree of professionalism in the automotive industry and improve the image and conception of the dealership experience to the general public."
Behind the Doors of ADI
ADI offers F&I management and service advisor courses, in addition to providing job placement services for its students. ADI has an articulation agreement with Northwood University, which offers ADI graduates the opportunity to transfer up to 32 educational credit units to Northwood.
In the automotive finance management course, students learn the skills necessary to become a successful F&I manager, Internet sales manager, dealer representative for aftermarket manufacturers or banks and the option of loan officer for a financial institution, according to executives. Courses require no previous auto experience for enrollment, they added.
ADI also offers an automotive service advisor course, which is designed to train students to become expert service advisors for either franchised or independent stores, executives said.
In addition to these educational opportunities, the Automotive Dealership Institute said it plans to release an Encyclopedia of Finance and Insurance Management. The book, which will come in at more than 1,000 pages, has been in development since January 2005 and will become available in August, company executives said.
"The publication of the Encyclopedia of Finance and Insurance Management is an industry event," said Algan. "There have never been any F&I-related publications of this magnitude. Our contributors are renowned for their reputations and expertise. I can't imagine any dealership without a copy of it for reference purposes."
Leading industry experts from ADI, Northwood University, the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals, the Institute of Ethical Behavior and CreditRe, all came together to contribute information and create the encyclopedia.
Some of the topics covered in the book include:
-- F&I, prime and nonprime
-- F&I menu presentation process
-- Creation and management of the dealership Internet department
-- Retail installment sales contracts
-- Consumer leasing, lease agreements
-- Collecting, analyzing and evaluating credit information
-- Legal compliance, including privacy rule, safeguards rule and cash purchases
-- Credit insurance and related products
-- Ethics for automotive financial professionals
"Education is an important factor in the success of any dealership, as changing regulations and technologies continue to mold the automotive industry," said Robert Serum, vice president of academics and international programs for Northwood University. "Having a single-volume resource guide is an indispensable tool that will be utilized over and over again by F&I personnel and upper management. I am pleased to be associated with this ambitious undertaking."
The encyclopedia will retail for $795, and will be distributed domestically by Idealergroup. It will also be available through Northwood University bookstores in Michigan, Florida and Texas. Other sources to purchase the book include the Association of Finance and Insurance Professional's Web site (www.afip.com), Amazon.com, the ADI Web site (autodealerinstitute.com), along with other retailers.
"There has been a basic shift in the car-buying experience from a product-oriented market to a credit-oriented market," noted David Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals. "Accordingly, the F&I process is afforded much greater attention, not only as a process, but as an academic endeavor. This isn't something that few people do, it's something everybody does, and consequently, the emphasis on the F&I process has greatly increased."
David Long, chancellor and chief operating officer of Northwood University, added, "The Encyclopedia of Finance and Insurance Management is destined to become the bible of the automotive industry. It contains a wealth of information on all aspects of F&I management, including ethics. I see it evolving with the industry, making it and future editions a dynamic, practical resource guide. It is a book written by professionals, for professionals."
Idealergroup said it is now accepting pre-orders. Those interested can call (570) 366-0221, or visit www.idealergroup.com.
ADI is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is licensed by the State of Arizona Board for Private Postsecondary Education, as well as approved by the Arizona Department of Education.
For more information call (877) 998-7200, or visit www.autodealerinstitute.com.
The Benefits of DFL
Dealership for Life was created to build loyalty in a dealer's customer base, executives explained. The program provides customers with an engine warranty, oil changes, multi-point inspection, tire rotations and car washes at no additional cost for the entire life of ownership.
Executives said the program's goal is to go beyond customers' expectations to drive floor traffic, greater revenue in service, parts and F&I departments, along with encouraging higher customer service index scores.
"In addition to giving dealerships a tremendous retention and rewards system for all of their customers, we've also created a method for dealers to participate in the underwriting and investment income associated with the program," said Buchanan.
Customers earn points through the program for a new or used vehicle purchase and can use those points to buy items at their dealership. This points program is administered by Ensurety Group and is customizable for each dealer. Some dealers may decide to reward customers with points for every dollar spent, executives said. To participate, customers are given a Dealership for Life card that is scanned when they return to their dealership for services.
"The Dealership for Life package is for dealers who want to set themselves apart and not fall into the 'we won't be undersold' realm of advertising," Buchanan explained. "This is for dealers who want to give customers a value-added reason to buy a vehicle from their store."
Company executives went on to say that their program enhances employee pride, as dealerships who offer such a program receive positive attention in their town or city.
Jim Kutzler, national sales manager for DLF, said the program has been embraced in a variety of markets due to the fact it's a process rather than a product. He said the company has spent time visiting with dealers and carefully selecting agents who share the same goals as DFL.
"We're only working with agents who are engaged in wealth building for dealers, and who have the dealers' best interests at heart," Kutzler said. "Everyone is very interested to learn about our process, which has been refreshing."
Moreover, executives pointed out that dealers who sign up for the program can designate an exclusive marketing area where competing dealers cannot offer the same thing.
"Dealers are looking for something to make them unique, and we are helping them do that," Kutzler said.
For more information on DFL, call (800) 717-4988, or visit www.dealershipforlife.com.