F&I managers don’t get much respect.
They generally see themselves as folks who go to bat for customers, finding a better interest rate on a car loan than those customers could have found on their own. Often that’s true.
But customers don’t see them that way. At least, not according to a survey conducted for Automotive News by DealerRater.com.
The survey asked consumers who had both bought and serviced a vehicle at the same dealership, “Which dealership employee do you feel was most interested in serving your interests, rather than the interests of the dealership?”
Stripping out respondents who said they didn’t both buy and service at the same dealership, only 5 percent of respondents pointed to F&I managers, just ahead of service technicians at 4.8 percent.
Admittedly, serving the customer’s interests over the dealership’s is a very high bar to meet. But 73 percent of respondents said their salesperson did so. And 17 percent felt the service writer met that test.
Breakdowns by brand showed F&I managers at mass-market brands were seen more often to be on the customers’ side than their peers at luxury brands, although the survey samples in many cases were too small to be truly significant.
F&I managers at Chrysler and Kia stores scored best, with 8.2 percent of respondents (146 for Chrysler and 318 for Kia) saying the person who helped arrange financing was on their side. (Again, that eliminates those who didn’t buy and service at the same store.) Next was Hyundai at 8 percent on 373 responses, Mini, at 7.7 percent with just 26 responses and Mazda, at 7.4 percent with 148 responses.
In contrast, only 0.9 percent of Buick, 2 percent of Audi, 2.3 percent of Porsche and 2.6 percent of Mercedes-Benz customers felt that the person who helped arrange their financing put the customer’s interests first.
On the surface, those aren’t great results. But I don’t find them all that discouraging.
I don’t have data to back this up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some 8 percent of Chrysler, Hyundai or Kia customers need major help to get affordable financing. And when they leave the dealership, it’s good that they recognized that it was the F&I manager, much more than the salesperson, whose work allowed them to get behind the wheel.