Bob Corbin is the president and CEO of Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS), and he sat down with us for this month's View from the Top. Corbin said that the company's mission has been the same since it was founded in 1984: to provide practical aftermarket programs and high-quality administration and claims. One of its first products, and one that remains a key part of its offerings, is its menu software. As a company, IAS targets both agents and large dealerships for its client base, selling the products under its own brand, as well as private labeling some of its most popular offerings.
Because it has been around for a while, IAS has a great vantage point to look at where the industry has been and where it's going. Corbin noted that, because of that perspective, he sees change itself as the biggest issue facing the industry today. "Dealerships are facing an enormous amount of change from adopting new technologies to regulations to the type of consumers they are selling to — as the adage goes, 'The only thing that stays the same is change,'" he said.
Corbin went on to note that, "The last five years have been a wild ride in the car business. After taking a hit a few years ago, the industry is on its way back and I think technology and compliance will continue to shape our industry." Corbin believes that ever-advancing technology has most of the industry and the major players taking notice, and IAS is no different. It has impacted every aspect of the industry, from the vehicles themselves, to the way they're sold, to the products available in the F&I office.
"The advances in technology over the last decade in the car business are staggering," Corbin said. "Many dealers are still working toward their goal of becoming paperless. They are now selling to pure Internet customers and have found a way to utilize tablet devices in their presentations. In addition, technology is being utilized as an excellent tool to overcome the ever-changing compliance issues facing dealers in F&I transactions."
Those advances have done more than just add a lot of fancy gadgets, or move the industry away from paper. They've also brought a higher degree of compliance to various regulations — and helped F&I become a more profitable sector overall. "The last five years have produced technology advances that have made F&I more compliant and efficient and also more profitable," said Corbin.
One example? "Twenty years ago, there was no electronic menu and now a large percentage of dealerships not only use them but have seen profits grow substantially because of them. I see that happening with Internet sales as they continue to increase in frequency in our industry. Dealers will, of course, still sell cars, but what about F&I products? As an industry, we have to figure out how to adapt to this new breed of customer and find a way to successfully sell F&I products," Corbin said.
The Internet in particular is one area where Corbin believes the most change will come. He noted that, as those Internet sales increase, consumers won't buy products they aren't offered, so F&I managers and agents will have to find better ways to present and sell using the newer technologies. "Over the last five years we've finally seen the emergence of eRating and eContracting of warranty products across the country. And in the last two years we are seeing more and more dealers embrace and even ask for this functionality," he noted. "Also with more and more customers shopping online we have seen the emergence of technology offerings which aim to sell products to this new class of customer."
In terms of specific hardware technology he sees shaping the industry, Corbin noted that he would not be surprised if most, if not all, dealerships will have adopted tablets by the end of 2014. "Over the next few years it's clear that younger customers and employees will drive dealers to utilize more and more tablet technology. Solutions already exist for almost every area and process in a dealership, although adoption of this technology is just starting."
Why does he target that technology in particular? Because it allows the sales team to interact more directly with consumers during the selling process, allowing them to make better, stronger connections. In addition, he noted, anyone under 30 has grown up with the Internet as simply a way of life. "These individuals shop, buy, converse and decide in an entirely different way than previous generations."
So with all the changes, what does he recommend to agents who are looking to break into the industry? "Professionalism, a positive attitude and strong work ethic are essential to success," he said. "As the industry is poised for a comeback, there is a lot of noise and distractions. Therefore, the ability to deliver high-impact, innovative products will set you apart from the pack. Partnering with the right administrator and underwriter is crucial to achieving these goals."