DETROIT -- The Ford and Lincoln brands are celebrating 40 years of their F&I product suites, Ford Protect and Lincoln Protect.
Frederiek Toney, president of Global Ford Customer Service, which includes Ford Protect and Lincoln Protect, and Dan Hutko, operations manager for the product suites, say the F&I operation's attitude and easy-to-work-with mentality set it apart from its competitors.
Toney, 61, and Hutko, 47, talked about their business, dealerships' F&I profitability and how Ford Protect and Lincoln Protect will play a role in what could be an autonomous driving world with Staff Reporter Hannah Lutz at Ford Motor Co.'s headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., late last year.
Q: Why do Ford and Lincoln sell F&I products through Ford Motor Co.'s global customer service division rather than company captives Ford Motor Credit Co. and Lincoln Automotive Financial Services?
A: Toney: It's about the total consumer experience of buying a product. We actually work and collaborate with Ford Credit and Lincoln Financial Services on F&I-related things. Each one of us has our own role.
F&I is complicated, so the driving of the extended services has so much to do with the kind of services that customers receive, whether that be the dent-and-ding repair, whether it's the tire repair. So much of it has to do with us facilitating the technical training around doing the repairs. It's a key part of our business. I think in some entities, maybe Ford Protect or Lincoln Protect would literally be part of Ford Credit, but here, the independence and autonomy that is afforded to us and the focus that we are able to provide make a big difference for the dealers, for the customers and for Ford.
Is there a mission or motto that your F&I operations have relied on for all these years?
Toney: "If it's gray, we pay." We have cut down the amount of time it takes us to resolve claims, and the payment is seamless and fast for our dealers, which enables them to take care of customers right away. We want to make sure that we treat customers the way we want to be treated, and that includes timely processing their claims and, frankly, making sure that if [the claim falls into a gray area], we try to find ways to take care of the customer as opposed to not. That's the way we think is the right approach.
What if that will result in a loss for the business?
Toney: Sometimes [we] do things because customers have been loyal to us. The process is fairly robust. The whole part of this business is a bit of risk, and so we think we do a pretty decent job of managing those risks while at the same time making sure those customers are treated appropriately.