Past auto F&I managers often ask the Brown & Brown training team about the differences between RV and auto F&I as they start a new career in the RV industry. Let’s explore how these two similar fields are so alike, yet so different.
Understanding Collateral and Establishing Value
The first obvious difference between RV and auto is the collateral type. Our training team starts by asking every new trainee what they know about the distinct types of RVs on the lot.
Generally, the trainee answers something like, “They all look nice, but I don’t know much.” This is when we begin basic education with a sales lot tour to explain the differences between motorized and towable. We examine the many unique features and accessories each RV has. To be successful at selling coverage on an RV, you must be able to identify the features of the coach a customer has purchased. You must be able to ask informed questions about how the buyer will use those unique features. Only after this occurs, can you truly relate to your customer. Only then can you properly offer the exact coverage to protect their investment and RV lifestyle. Thus, knowing the units you offer coverage on is essential for an RV F&I professional.
Next, F&I pros must understand the manufacturer’s RV invoicing statements. We love asking a new RV F&I professional, “You know every RV invoice is different, right?” The F&I person’s baffled response is priceless.
This is because the automotive industry provides fairly uniform invoices to establish an auto’s value. In the RV industry, the coach’s billing invoice is similar to a shopping list at Lowes or Home Depot. As the unit is built, items are listed on the invoice and discounts are deducted at the whim of the dealer’s negotiating skills with their factory rep.
During training, we spend a great deal of time handing out sample invoices. We ask F&I professionals to add up and provide the gross invoice total vs. the net invoice total. You would think this is simple, but the task is fairly difficult for most.
Establishing an RV’s value is key to getting a loan purchased and establishing the loan-to-value percentage. Loan-to-value determines the customer’s interest rate.
In the automotive industry, many lenders already have the invoice values from various websites, so auto F&I professionals typically don’t have to think too hard about value. F&I pros can simply submit a deal and move on to the next loan packet. Thus, establishing value is a critical point of education for any RV F&I professional.
Many past auto F&I professionals will tell us up front, “I know how to submit a deal to a lender. Just teach me how to use their software.” In automotive, submitting a deal to a lender through Route One or Dealer Track is fairly easy.
This method is commonly referred to “shotgunning the deal out to the lenders.” We must slow down the process for an RV F&I trainee when performing this step.
In the RV world, we might call the practice “shut gunning,” because freely sending out a deal with little consideration on where the deal should be submitted is a truly amateurish move. Free-sending with little consideration often results in very few approvals.
You could shut the door on your customer from obtaining financing. Thus, comprehensive lender education is a key topic to understanding RV finance.
At Brown & Brown, our national school highlights RV lenders and how to effectively use them. They are dramatically different from auto lenders. Each lender has unique methods of examining an RV transaction—such as a unit’s invoice value, payment-to-income ratio, debt-to-income ratio, advance, bureau scoring models, hard adds, backend advance and much more.
Many senior RV F&I professionals will tell you that they work most of their lives attempting to master the art of using the many different RV industry bank programs but never truly succeed. This is why RV lender education is a constant and absolute requirement, especially with programs changing daily, weekly and monthly.
After a new RV F&I professional learns each lender’s basic guiding principles, we then must teach the second concept of RV lending: The rate line from a lender is a guideline, not the final decision.
Too many new and senior F&I pros fall into bad habits when deciding on an underwriter based on what the rate line says vs. picking up a phone and working as a true salesperson by selling the customer and loan to a lender.
On its own, this is an art of the trade. In auto, a lender will provide a dealer with a “left-handed turndown,” also known as a counter call. In RV, this is not uncommon. We work hard teaching trainees how to call lenders and go back through deals to find the positives in the paperwork that give a lender the desire to buy a deal. Again, this endeavor is a big differentiator on how RV retail lenders manage and approve loans vs. automotive retail lenders. The lesson can sometimes be a big learning curve for past auto F&I as they transition into an RV dealership.
Next, the actual process can differ vastly between RV and automotive. Many auto locations push for same-day purchase and delivery, known as “spot deliveries.” In RV, the collateral sold is similar to residential houses, which require customization and prepping.
RV spot deliveries are possible but are extremely uncommon. This brings us to the next question,
“How does the process work at your dealership?”
Some dealers will meet a customer on the day of deposit and attempt to do all paperwork as well as product selling to the customer. The next dealer may wait until delivery and then complete the paperwork either before or after the RV walk-through with the customer. Using either method is fine, depending on what works for your dealership and its processes.
That said, how you offer F&I protection plans can change based on the dealership’s process. The one constant in all models, though, relates to cash deals. The F&I department must offer RV protection plans on the day the customer puts down a deposit.
Many ask me why. The answer is simple. When a customer gets a check from their bank for their new RV, if the total doesn’t include the pre-negotiated protection plans, selling the F&I products on the day of delivery is much harder.
An RV F&I professional will always have a difficult time overcoming the customer’s day-of-delivery objection, “I wish I knew about the programs earlier; I would have had the bank make the check out to include them.” Therefore, we must offer protection plans to our cash customers on the day they leave their purchase deposit. This new product offering process can make for a hard transition from auto to RV for F&I professionals.
Product and RV Lifestyle
The easiest aspect for past auto F&I professionals to learn is
the RV F&I protection products themselves. Coverage terminology is similar to that in the automotive industry. Though, how you offer the protection plans to RV consumers is far different.
An automobile is a necessity for most people. Our vehicles take us to and from work, provide us a means to drive to see family and give us a way to get our children to school.
In comparison, RVs are a want. Consumers buy them for relaxation and to fulfill dreams of the places they can now visit. This is a hard topic for F&I pros to grasp.
We never want to say to an RV customer, “You know this part costs $XXXXX.00 to repair, and you should be scared if it breaks.” That tactic might be commonplace in auto dealerships, but RV customers are far more afﬂuent. Many will respond, “I can afford to fix that myself.”
This can leave most new RV F&I professionals speechless without a direction to go. Instead, learning how the customer intends to use the RV is a must. A question like, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, what dream trip will you take in your new RV?”
Why do we want to know this information, outside of being nice and making conversation with our customers? The answer is simple: All RVers dream of relaxation near a fire in some camping location that gives them peace.
When training, we call this the Dr. Phil (from the Dr. Phil TV show) effect. Dr. Phil loves suggesting ways to find peace in your life. What better way for customers to do that than in an RV on their dream trip?
RV protection plans can protect consumers’ investment and keep them on the road while they seek their adventures. Most RV consumers find much more value in the protection plans when explained using this angle.
Brown & Brown calls this selling method the “The RV Lifestyle Selling Method.” The method is definitely a transition for past auto F&I managers to learn. Changing old ways of selling protection plans can be challenging.
As you can see, auto and RV are alike in their similar retail environ-ments. Though, to be successful as an RV F&I professional, a person must learn many aspects of the industry to create a truly long–lasting RV F&I career.
Shawn Moran is the national RV and marine training director with Brown & Brown Insurance, Dealer Services Division. He started his career in 2002 as a business manager at an automotive dealership in upstate New York. In 2003, Moran became a successful finance director for a multilocation RV and marine dealership. In November 2008, he opened his agency, F&I Consulting Unlimited, where he quickly became known for his work ethic and knowledge of the RV industry. In July 2013, Brown & Brown bought the agency, creating the largest RV master general agency in the country. Moran provides personalized finance training to RV business managers. He conducts numerous weekly training sessions with small and large RV groups.