NextGear Capital to deploy new auditing tool for dealers

More dealer assistance is set to arrive this summer, especially for buy-here, pay-here operators who have to juggle the end-to-end process of finding inventory, reconditioning vehicles and finalizing deliveries.

Stemming from dealer back to make a challenging audit process easier, NextGear Capital will be introducing a self-reconciliation tool that is designed to save dealers time and provides them with greater control over their vehicle audits. Combined with other recent audit process improvements, NextGear Capital insisted dealers will be able to experience up to 80 percent fewer audit-related interruptions and have the ability to reconcile units seamlessly from their devices.

With a mobile-first solution for reconciliation, the company highlighted dealers are empowered to take charge of their audits through a simple three-step process via NextGear Capital’s Account Portal. After logging in, dealers select a vehicle, take four photos, then submit them to clear outstanding audits in real-time.

Randy Dohse, NextGear Capital senior vice president of operations, explained this process can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to resolve audits and allow dealers to avoid floor planning delays.

“After hearing dealer opinions on the audit process from our annual client survey, we were determined to make streamlining the entire auditing experience one of our top priorities,” Dohse said in a news release.

“We wanted to build more trust with dealers through increased transparency and simplify the overall experience to return time back to them so that they can focus on their business,” he continued. “Improving customer experience and addressing customer back with effective solutions are critical components for any business.”

NextGear Capital emphasized that dealer back was crucial in determining where improvements to the auditing process could be made. After conducting a comprehensive survey to gauge dealer back, results showed that the audit process was one of the more time-consuming tasks of daily floor plan management.

These results inspired NextGear Capital to further improve the auditing experience for dealers everywhere.

“None of us love the audit process. So I was very straightforward with our account rep and actually they had one of the regional guys fly in to talk to us about what we were feeling and what we were experiencing, and why that was such an issue for us,” said Heather Moreno, owner of Lightning Motorsports in Grand Prairie, Texas.

“They listened, they made changes, they’ve streamlined the audit process, they’ve worked with the auditors and I have found NextGear Capital to be incredibly responsive,” Moreno continued.

 Efforts to streamline the auditing process have changed the way dealers interact with NextGear Capital. Beyond the transparency and flexibility that the account portal’s self-reconciliation tool provides, dealers now can get twice as much time to fully clear an audit, streamlined notifications and the ability to advise on scheduled vacation and auction days, all of which can be easily done from a smartphone or tablet.

“When we revised our audit reconciliation process, we knew that we were tackling a major pain point for dealers,” said Lucas Hancock, NextGear Capital senior director of risk.

“Empowering dealers to self-reconcile units combined with the most flexible auditing process in the market will positively transform how we communicate with and conduct business with dealers for the foreseeable future,” Hancock went on to say.

For dealers who are constantly on the go, NextGear Capital reiterated that the self-reconciliation tool and audit improvements can provide the benefit of a flexible and efficient process, with fewer interruptions and more time to get everything done.

Dealers also can receive improved visibility through the “My Audits” tab in their account portal dashboard, which will show units that need to be verified, audit due dates and potential financial impact if no action is taken.

My Audits is set to launch this summer, with additional self-reconciliation features to follow.

“Access to an industry-best combination of improved flexibility, functionality and convenience on audit processing means dealers have more time to concentrate on dealership sales and operations,” NextGear Capital said.

For more information about NextGear Capital’s self-reconciliation tool launching later this year or the audit process, visit or a local NextGear Capital representative.

Confident Financial Solutions and WebBank launch loan platform for vehicle repairs

When the phone rings at a buy-here, pay-here dealership, it’s not uncommon for customers to be calling the store about a vehicle mechanical problem.

To help consumers who might not have the financial resources for major repairs, Confident Financial Solutions (CFS) and WebBank rolled out a new solution, leveraging the capability of the vehicle owner’s smartphone.

The platform introduced on Monday by CFS and WebBank lets a service adviser at a dealership or repair center offer customers another way to pay for repairs. A consumer completes a simple, four-step loan application process — from a smartphone — and receives a credit decision within minutes for up to $7,500. The loan is made by WebBank, a nationally-licensed, FDIC-insured, state-chartered bank.

 “CFS, over the past four years, has grown to be one of the nation’s largest providers of installment loans to consumers made through auto repair service centers and car dealerships. As such, we understand how hectic things can get in a service department,” CFS chief executive officer Richard Counihan said. “This innovative solution will help improve service adviser productivity and enhance the customer experience at an often tension-filled moment.

“What’s more, this fueled-by WebBank solution will aid our expansion plans as it supports our drive to offer ‘auto loans you can trust’ to more people in more places,” Counihan continued.

“Most important, however, this partnership signals that CFS has fulfilled WebBank’s rigorous evaluation process and joined their select group of partners. Our relationship with WebBank allows us to offer a new, differentiated financial product that will benefit our customers and the hundreds of thousands of consumers they serve,” Counihan went on to say.

From what CFS calls the “point of need,” the service adviser’s desk, WebBank will issue, fund and hold the loans originated through the CFS platform on its own balance sheet. Drawing on CFS’ massive database of repair costs and its own deep insight into loan criteria, WebBank is able to evaluate all factors and then, in mere moments, provide approval status on the consumer’s smartphone, keeping the entire process private and embarrassment-free. 

“WebBank is pleased to partner with CFS and bring to the automotive sector a new and better way to help their customers handle unexpected financial burdens that can occur when vehicle repairs are needed,” WebBank executive vice president Jason Lloyd said.

“As with all our partners, WebBank strives to offer financial products that exceed the most stringent qualification and compliance requirements in the banking industry while providing an exceptional experience between the bank and its consumers obtaining loans,” Lloyd continued.

According to a recent survey by AAA, the travel services organization, one in three motorists, or 64 million U.S. drivers, would not be able to pay for an unexpected vehicle repair without going into debt.

“As a long-time user of CFS services, we are excited by the new WebBank-fueled solution,” said Dan Johnson, vice president of fixed operations at Larry H. Miller Dealerships.

“We’re committed to excellence for our customers and always looking for ways to enhance their service experience. This service offers our customers yet another way to finance their auto repair expenses,” Johnson added.

Westlake rolls out spot insurance program for California dealers

Buy-here, pay-here dealers in California who watch vehicles roll over the curb with buyers who have insurance challenges can take advantage of a new product offered by Westlake Financial Services.

The finance company recently announced a new spot delivery insurance program, which is underwritten by Knight Management Insurance Services and now available to its dealer partners in California. Westlake’s new spot insurance program is designed to provide dealers short term insurance on the vehicle they have delivered to their customer during the funding process.

The company explained spot insurance can give dealers immediate vehicle coverage, eliminating the concern when a customer’s insurance cannot be verified at the time of purchase. Spot insurance can offer temporary, flexible point of sale policies available for seven- or 14-day coverage that can mutually benefit dealerships and their customers, creating a win-win opportunity.

“We are excited to offer an insurance product for dealers that will help get their customers on the road faster with immediate protection during the funding period,” said Ralph Ontiveros, vice president of Westlake Services and Lending Solutions.

Westlake highlighted every spot policy comes with five out of the box coverages — bodily injury, property damage, medical payments, comprehensive and collision. Dealers also have the option to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist.

Spot insurance is available in the state of California through DealerCenter.

Dealerships interested in learning more about spot insurance are invited to Westlake’s insurance department directly at (866) 619-2524 or online at .

Optimism wanes according to NIADA Q1 dealer survey

Perhaps independent dealerships and buy-here, pay-here operators aren’t expecting to see their vehicles roll over the curb at the pace previously seen in recent years. 

The economic and corresponding retail sales growth expectations of independent dealers were a bit more subdued to begin 2018 than a year earlier, according to the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association’s business confidence survey for the first quarter.

The survey, taken in the first quarter of 2018, found 42 percent of the respondents said they expected economic conditions to improve in the quarter ahead, down from 63 percent in the 2017 Q1 survey. Retail sales growth expectations fell to 50 percent from 70 percent a year ago and 67 percent in the previous quarter.

In addition, the percentage of dealers who expected an increase in their cost of doing business rose from 57 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 66 percent, despite the tax reform bill passed in November.

NIADA shared that optimism for increased cash flow and availability of auto finance resources also fell, with cash flow down 21 percent and finance availability down 34 percent from the previous year.

Survey orchestrators explained that trend was due in part to a sharp pullback in auto finance company investment in the subprime paper market as a handful of independent auto finance companies left the market completely.

In fact, dealers cited less access to the number of lenders as well as tighter restrictions to qualify buyers for financing (29 percent each) as the top reasons why it's been difficult to finalize underwriting for their customers.

NIADA went on to note that expectations of more consumer traffic dropped to just 41 percent from 71 percent in Q1 of 2017 after a negligible .02 percent year-over-year increase in consumer retail sales in the first quarter.

The association acknowledged that sentiment could be the result of a delay in tax refunds, prompting households to put off spending early in the year. However, tax withholding was reduced to account for the new tax cuts, which might lead to more spending down the road, according to NIADA.

Officials went on to add that the expectation of rising expenses also showed up in dealers' perception of the single most important problem facing their business — 22 percent said it was the increased cost of doing business, more than any other issue. Concern over the lack of auto finance resources rose from single digits throughout the past year to 12 percent.

The overall picture shows NIADA members expected business to stay steady with no major uptick in customer traffic or corresponding sales heading into the mid-year of 2018.

Two major factors are likely to dictate the outcome of this quarter: The availability of auto finance resources and consumers potentially opening their pocketbooks as they see the benefits of the new tax law on their household budgets.

Dealer operations and more are set to be discussed in more detail during the 72nd annual NIADA Convention and Expo, which is expected to be the largest event in the used-car industry thanks to NIADA’s recent acquisition of the National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers.

The combined NIADA/NABD Mega-Conference beginning on June 18 in Orlando, Fla., will include a record 60 education sessions in five educational tracks — retail, BHPH, legal and regulatory, certified pre-owned and digital marketing — and the largest Expo Hall in the event’s history with more than 210 exhibitors offering the latest state-of-the-art products and services designed to help dealers compete and succeed in today's ultra-competitive used vehicle market.

More details .

Fidelis PPM incorporates added convenience into prepaid maintenance package in 5 markets

Some franchised dealerships highlight their concierge-level services for their customers who need vehicle repairs and maintenance. Now, independent and buy-here, pay-here in five major markets can provide a similar level of services thanks to a new product addition from Fidelis PPM.

In an effort to attract more customers and sell more vehicles, Fidelis PPM recently announced that its preventive maintenance package now includes at-home or at-work vehicle repair services.

Fidelis PPM has teamed with mobile vehicle maintenance services to give dealers that offer their customers Fidelis prepaid maintenance plans extra competitive advantage in their markets.

Fidelis PPM maintenance plans feature discount-priced oil, filter, and tire rotation services. The added service, called Wrench, is a no-charge upgrade for dealers and their customers.

Dealers either can pre-load or sell these plans. Plan savings and this new service convenience impress customers, who remember the dealership’s special touch.

“Impressed customers say great things about their dealer — and dealers that build maintenance convenience into buyers’ schedules to keep their vehicle investment running longer become repeat customers,” said Ryan Williams, president of Fidelis PPM.

“It’s proven that car buyers who service their vehicles at the dealers tend to purchase other cars there, but independent and BHPH dealers who lack service facilities for customers can lose this connection,” Williams added, “which our program including Wrench services reinvigorates.”

Wrench is a full-service shop without the shop, offering a full range of maintenance services from oil changes and tune-ups to brake jobs and no-starts. Wrench staffs ASE-certified technicians and the tools and parts to maintain or repair most any car and service need.

Fidelis PPM plans with Wrench now service independent and BHPH dealers in the Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix markets.

“Customers schedule with us using our app, website, or phone, and our expert mobile technicians arrive at their home or place of business fully equipped to deliver excellent results. Our convenience strengthens positive impressions about their dealer,” Wrench co-founder Casey Willis said.

Wrench completes all scheduled Fidelis PPM services at no charge to the customer. The customer pays for any additional parts and labor they agree to if identified by the Wrench technician.

Wrench also provides a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty with any of these additional services.

4 parts of Dealership Advantage Program from Vero and Allied Solutions

Here is another example of service providers collaborating to provide independent dealerships with tools their competitors backed by automakers might have.

Fidelis PPM announced on Thursday that its sister company Vero has partnered with financial services provider Allied Solutions to provide an inventory merchandising and vehicle service contract program designed to drive profits and retention for non-franchised and buy-here, pay-here operators.

Together, Vero and Allied Solutions have launched the Dealership Advantage Program. The vehicle merchandising and protection program can help dealers present fresher, more appealing inventory and deliver a better customer experience — and make more money.

The program features:

• A comprehensive package of Simoniz-brand vehicle protection and appearance services for all inventory, at no charge.

• Includes GlassCoat, Simoniz’s ceramic paint protection, also, at no charge

• Vehicle service contract (VSC) options from a range of industry-leading underwriters

• A VSC purchase incentive upgrading the ceramic paint protection to a seven-year warranty

The Dealership Advantage Program is designed for independent dealers who desire maximum vehicle VSC retail profits, improved customer perception, and more satisfied customers.

“Market pressure on used car operators is considerable today, while competition for quality inventory is brisk, but dealers utilizing our Dealership Advantage Program help set apart their dealerships and vehicles as uniquely different and attractive to their customers,” Vero chief executive officer Joe Annoreno.

Other program details include:

1. An inventory refresh suite: Simoniz-brand deodorizer, sanitizer, and antimicrobial products for vehicle interiors, paint and fabric protection, and Simoniz’s GlassCoat permanent ceramic barrier for vehicle exteriors.

2. Coverage-rich VSC options from a range of leading underwriters

3. A purchase incentive, a free paint coverage warranty upgrade with VSC purchase

“Now independent dealers can enjoy significant market advantages to separate their business and inventory from the competition,” says Mark Ladd, vice president of the automotive services group at Allied Solutions.

“We believe this Dealer Advantage Program offers benefits that independent dealers will value while it enhances their competitiveness through a unique protection upgrade to trigger high-grade service contract purchases,” Ladd went on to say.

DriveTime seeks to challenge ‘outdated’ ad model with new campaign

Now that DriveTime has its new top executive in place, the retailer that caters to buyers with damaged credit histories unveiled its news marketing initiative.

This week, DriveTime launched what the company called its “The Genius Way to Buy a Car” campaign.

The national spots showcase two fictional brainiacs, mathematician Gunter Zoolof and marine biologist Dakota Isaacs, who claim remarkable academic and scientific achievements, yet fail to be true geniuses because they didn’t bypass the notoriously unpleasant car buying process by using DriveTime. “The Genius Way to Buy a Car” began airing this week on national cable networks, including A&E, ESPN, History, Discovery and USA, among others, while also broadcasting in 68 local markets nationwide. 

DriveTime contends the “Genius Way to Buy a Car” challenges the used vehicle industry’s outdated advertising model that primarily focuses on unrealistic sales, limited discounts and loss leaders that benefit the dealership and not the consumer. 

“Consumers want a dealership experience, but they are demanding a fundamental change in the way the industry visualizes and delivers that experience,” the company said. “With the ‘The Genius Way to Buy a Car,’ DriveTime delivers that paradigm shift for consumers. This campaign’s imagination, creativity and humor highlights the enormous divide between the ‘industry way’ and the ‘Genius Way.’”

DriveTime’s “Genius Way” focuses on delighting customers and begins with listening to what they say they want and includes:

— National presence with 15,000 vehicles
— Second largest used vehicle retailer focused solely on used vehicles
— 145 dealerships in 27 states
— More than 1 million cars sold
— $2 billion every month in consumer requested credit
— Intelligent online tools
— Online financing including down payment and credit score
— Superior mobile customer experience
— Quality vehicles
— Five-day free return
— Free Autocheck available on every vehicle
— Dealership experience
— 90,000 five-star reviews
— Click and brick connected retail
— Proprietary point of sales systems allowing for speed of purchase
— Salaried sales advisors delivering an experience, not a sale
— Market based pricing
— No haggle pricing
— Live market based pricing

“Our strategic pivot is grounded in listening to what we know car buyers want — to make the car buying process easy by setting a transparent expectation about the price of car and down payment online, and then over-delivering on that promise at one of our 145 dealerships,” said Scott Worthington, vice president of retail and marketing at DriveTime.

Duncan Channon, DriveTime’s agency of record since 2012, created the spots with visual effects partner Freefolk and director Pelorian Brothers. 

“Why is it that we’ve all somehow agreed that buying a car will be a complete drag? No matter how much we demand smarter, more convenient ways of purchasing other items in our lives, we reluctantly go through the old-school drudgery at the dealership when it comes to one of the biggest purchases we make,” said Anne Elisco-Lemme, executive creative director at Duncan Channon.

“But the smart people at DriveTime have developed an incredible set of online tools that give their equally smart consumers everything they need to make an intelligent and pain-free purchase — lightning fast. It might not be Carmichael’s totient function conjecture, but it’s pretty genius,” Elisco-Lemme continued.

The spots can be viewed on or via the window at the top of this page.

For more information on DriveTime, visit . 

TIADA to help market NIADA CPO Program

The Texas Independent Automobile Dealers Association and the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association are both located in the Lone Star State and already have a close relationship.

That connection became even stronger on Tuesday in a development that could help Texas buy-here, pay-here operators and other independent dealerships highlight certified pre-owned vehicles — just like their franchised store competition.

TIADA has entered into a marketing agreement with its national affiliate NIADA to promote the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program.

Association officials said that NIADA CPO is the only major third-party certified pre-owned program designed specifically for independent auto dealerships — developed by dealers for dealers.

The NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program “levels the playing field” for independent dealers in the booming CPO market, allowing them to compete with manufacturers’ franchise dealerships and take part in the popular CPO phenomenon while providing more options for consumers seeking quality used vehicles backed by a strong warranty and brand.

NIADA CPO is administered by Warrantech, an A-rated warranty provider, third-party administrator and a leader in the auto industry F&I ancillary products business, which also manages the General Motors, Volvo and Chrysler factory CPO programs.

Backed by Warrantech’s strong financial position and expertise in the CPO market, the NIADA CPO program represents the best-in-class offering for TIADA members to take advantage of.

TIADA will work closely with NIADA and the Warrantech regional team to promote and market the program and to educate and consult with TIADA members on the immense advantages of implementing NIADA CPO in their stores.

“TIADA is always looking to create more value for membership,” TIADA executive director Jeff Martin said. “Since the NIADA CPO program is only available to active members, we felt this was a natural fit.

“We are excited about the partnership and look forward to working with dealers who want to make a CPO product available to their customers,” Martin continued.

Martin added that dealers should be on the lookout for upcoming opportunities to learn more about NIADA CPO and join the hundreds of other NIADA members enjoying the fruits of the stellar program.

 “We are thrilled to have one of our largest, most successful and well-run state affiliates enter into a marketing agreement to promote the independent auto dealer market’s best-in-class CPO program,” NIADA senior vice president of member services Scott Lilja said.

“The NIADA CPO program will allow TIADA members to continue to evolve their dealership business model to ensure continued growth, profitability and long-term customer loyalty in this hypercompetitive auto retail market,” Lilja went on to say.

For more information, visit or call (800) 358-2655.

DriveTime selects new CEO

DriveTime chose a leader with plenty of experience in the franchised dealer group world to be its new chief executive officer.

According to an announcement distributed on Monday, Don Reese will join DriveTime as its new CEO beginning in late March. Reese will also be appointed to the DriveTime Automotive Group and Bridgecrest Acceptance boards of directors.

Reese replaces DriveTime’s previous CEO, Ray Fidel.

"We are very excited and pleased to welcome Don to DriveTime,” chairman Ernie Garcia said. “Don’s considerable leadership and operational experience in new and used auto sales, as well as his background as a CFO, make him an ideal candidate to lead DriveTime at this time.

“We continue to reinvent our dealership and digital customer experiences and offerings and expect to begin acquiring new-car dealerships beginning in 2018. I also view him as a very valuable addition to our boards,” Garcia continued.

Reese has more than 30 years of experience in both leadership and finance having spent:

• 11 years as the chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the Maroone Auto Group

• Six years as a senior vice president in operations and finance, and covering the Midwest Region for AutoNation

• 15 years with the Gurley Leep Automotive as COO

• Was most recently COO for Sheehy Auto Stores

For more information on DriveTime, visit . 

NIADA and Subprime Analytics confirm data agreement to aid dealers

When the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) finalized its acquisition of the National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers (NABD) this past December, the last thing Ken Shilson wanted to do was just power down his computer and never look spreadsheets or other financial documents and portfolio metrics.

But now Shilson, one of NABD’s founders, will continue to leverage his analytical and accounting backgrounds as NIADA announced on Thursday that it has contracted with Shilson and Subprime Analytics to provide analytical services for the association’s 16,000 members.

“I wanted to get back more into the analytics area,” Shilson said during a phone conversation in January. “I want to expand my analytical data to support the important positions of the industry

“It is data that will drive the decisions that regulators have to make that will impact the industry,” he added.

Subprime Analytics, a Houston-based company that analyzes subprime automotive portfolio performance using data-mining technology, has analyzed more than $20 billion in subprime auto installment contracts during the past 10 years. The firm provides nationally recognized automotive benchmarks that measure industry performance and trends.

“I am pleased to prepare and issue our used-car benchmarks and other analytical reports to assist NIADA in its representation of the used car industry,” said Shilson, who is president and founder of Subprime Analytics.

“At Subprime Analytics, we intend to develop data and analytical information in support of important legal and regulatory initiatives by NIADA that will impact the used-car industry. NIADA and Subprime Analytics, working together, plan to expand analytical reporting for its members.”

For the past 19 years, Shilson had served as president and founder of NABD, . Shilson will continue to assist both organizations and will participate in NIADA training and conferences planned for 2018 and beyond.

“We are now working together on the agenda for the 2018 NIADA/NABD Convention and Expo at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla., June 18-21,” Shilson said in a news release. “It promises to be the largest used-car show in history, and I am delighted to join the NIADA team in helping design and conduct the educational sessions and to continue to provide NABD attendees the highly valuable specialized training they have come to expect.

“NIADA is also planning a subprime auto conference this fall in Las Vegas and other dealer training events. In the highly competitive subprime auto industry of today, education has never been more important and valuable,” he continued.

NIADA chief executive officer Steve Jordan said that that he is “thrilled Subprime Analytics is now the de facto data arm of NIADA" and that Ken Shilson is adding his 20- years of data mining and analytics expertise to the NIADA playbook of service to our members.

“Through Subprime Analytics, Ken has created an extremely valuable service platform for dealers and finance companies in the subprime automotive space that can help them better understand how data trends can impact their businesses and customers,” Jordan continued. “Aggregating data is one thing, but Ken’s expertise in interpreting the data and its operational trends is what puts him in a class by himself.

“As a real-life data ninja, Ken is a hugely valuable asset to NIADA, our members and the industry, and I look forward to our continued work together,” Jordan went on to say.

For more information about the 2018 NIADA Convention and Expo or to register, visit or or call (832) 767-4759. Availability is limited.