F&I Providers Honored in Dealers’ Choice Awards
F&I Providers Honored in Dealers’ Choice Awards

On Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Caribe Royale Orlando in Orlando, Fla., Industry Summit 2018 concluded with a presentation of the 14th annual Dealers’ Choice Awards. Launched in 2005, the program was designed to give dealers the opportunity to recognize their favorite industry partners — including providers of F&I products, training, technology, and financing — and rate them on the quality and value of their product or service, the quality of their customer service, and whether they would recommend them to another dealer. Voting took place in the form of an online survey that was open only to dealers and dealership personnel throughout the month of May. Every vote is a write-in vote and voters had to complete at least five of the 34 categories listed on this year’s survey. Because the results are entirely in the hands of dealers, managers, and staff, the program stands apart in the industry, says David Gesualdo, publisher of Bobit Business Media’s Dealer Group, which includes Agent Entrepreneur as well as Auto Dealer Today, F&I and Showroom, and P&A. “For obvious reasons, the results of the Dealers’ Choice Awards are tracked with great interest by agents and dealers, as well as the companies that are honored — as well as those who miss the cut,” Gesualdo says. “Every winner deserves credit for inspiring the loyalty and adulation of the dealers who took the time to complete the category or categories in which they compete.” Let’s take a closer look at a few of the categories that are of greatest interest to agents and how some of your favorite partners fared.

Service Contract

The Service Contract category has been part of the Dealers’ Choice Awards since the program began in 2005, and in almost every year since, CNA National has won the first-place Diamond award — including seven years in a row since 2012. “It is an incredible honor to be acknowledged by our dealers for 14 years in a row. Despite the changes that continue to occur in our industry, our company’s commitment to customer-service excellence continues to be a guiding principle, as it has been for more than three decades,” said Joe Becker, president and CEO of CNA National. AUL Corp. earned second-place Platinum honors after winning Gold four years in a row while Protective Asset Protection finished in third place, having won an award in 11 of the past 12 contests. “We work extremely hard to ensure we offer the best products and provide industry-leading customer service and support. And to earn a Platinum award this year confirms that, together with our partners, we are on the right track,” says Jimmy Atkinson, president and CEO of AUL Corp. “We share this award with our amazing network of agents and dealers, without whom this award would not be possible. To them, we say congratulations and thank you for your dedication, hard work, and partnership.”

Service Contract Reinsurance 

The Service Contract Reinsurance category was added in 2008 and has been largely dominated by CNA National and Portfolio, which have recorded a total of 21 top-three finishes between them. Portfolio took home the Diamond award this year — their fourth since 2014 — while CNA National settled for the Platinum award. “I first thank everyone at our dealers’ stores who voted for us this year. We are grateful and don’t take lightly how much this means. But I also want to emphasize that this Portfolio award is shared with our independent agents, managing directors, and reinsurance specialists,” said CSO Dan Haugen. “We know that Portfolio agents are the face of our company in the stores every week. Their superb servicing of our mutual clients goes a long way to explaining our long winning record in the Dealers’ Choice Awards. “And, I will add, our quarterly meetings that are conducted by our managing directors and reinsurance specialists with our dealer principals also make an important difference in helping us earn this top award.” SouthwestRe won its second consecutive Gold award in the Service Contract Reinsurance category, and the company’s president, Eddie Eckert, wants everyone involved to share credit. “It goes without saying that all of us at SouthwestRe are exceedingly grateful to win the Dealers’ Choice Gold award for Service Contract Reinsurance for the second year in a row. Considering the amount of competition there is out there, it is a privilege to be singled out and recognized for the enormous value of our reinsurance programs,” Eckert said. “I feel there are two overwhelming reasons why our reinsurance programs were chosen for this honor. For one, we have great people whose reinsurance expertise is unsurpassed. For another, we work with an equally great team of dealers and independent agents who know us, who trust in us, and who work incredibly hard to market our programs every day. What an unbeatable combination! “Once again, our sincere appreciation to everyone who voted to put SouthwestRe in the winner’s circle,” Eckert added. “Thank you!”

F&I Products

The F&I Products category first appeared in 2013. It was added in an effort to recognize the value of products other than service contracts. The category has included appearances from many of the industry’s leading providers. In 2018, RoadVantage won the first-place Diamond award for the second consecutive year. “We are deeply honored to win the Dealers’ Choice Diamond award in the category of F&I Product Provider for the second year in a row,” says CEO Garret Lacour. “We believe that our commitment to providing a better experience to agents, dealers, and customers is not just good business, but the right thing to do. Thank you to all the dealers who continue to vote for RoadVantage as their No. 1 provider.” National Auto Care won its third consecutive award in the category, earning Platinum honors after taking home the Gold in 2016 and 2017; ECP was this year’s Gold award winner. “National Auto Care’s consistent growth and performance in this contest is a true testament to our family of employees as well as the agents and dealers who trust our brand,” says President and CEO Tony Wanderon. “We are humbled to have advanced from Gold to Platinum in this award category because of the innovative products we, along with our agent partners, are able to offer dealerships. As National Auto Care expands its scope following our recent acquisition by Lovell Minnick Partners, we look forward to advancing even further in this contest in years to come as we bring more innovative products to market.”

F&I Technology

F&I Technology was a new category in the 2015 Dealers’ Choice Awards. Organizers wanted to give dealers an opportunity to honor the companies behind the myriad of hardware and software solutions that help F&I managers and directors maximize production and streamline their presentations and processes. With one exception, each of the 12 awards in this category’s history has been won by F&I Express, MaximTrak, or StoneEagle. StoneEagle won this year’s Diamond award after winning Platinum last year and Gold in 2016. “Earning the trust of our clients and partners is of paramount importance to us here at StoneEagle. We are truly honored to win the Diamond Dealers’ Choice Award for F&I Technology and appreciate the dealer community for choosing StoneEagle as their premier F&I Technology partner,” says StoneEagle CEO Cindy Allen. “Thank you to our remarkable team members and their tremendous dedication to delivering exceptional client experiences to our network of clients nationwide. “And thank you to our amazing agent and product provider clients who continue to help us gain a deeper understanding of this ever-changing industry, pushing us to deliver the absolute best in products and service, as we continue to innovate ahead of the curve for over 30 years now. We count it a privilege to work with each and every one of you,” Allen adds. MaximTrak won this year’s Platinum award and F&I Express won Gold; both companies have finished in the top three in each of the past four years.

F&I Training

F&I Training was a charter category when the Dealers’ Choice Awards were launched in 2005. United Development Systems has failed to win the Diamond award only once; in 2018, UDS finished in first place for the sixth straight year. “In our industry, the top-tier players have always been a matter of perception and hearsay. The Dealers’ Choice Awards changed that picture by recognizing specialized talent and dedication as dealership staffs vote for their experience,” said President and CEO Randy Crisorio. “UDS has always worked hard to deliver best practices in the F&I realm within a compliant culture, and the rewards and recognition have remained with few challengers. For that I am proud of the F&I team at UDS as we add to our host of deliverables each year and continue to outpace the challengers.” American Financial & Automotive Services won the Platinum award after tying with UDS for Diamond honors in 2017. American Financial has won an award in the F&I Training category every year since 2014, as has Reahard & Associates, which took home the Gold this year. “Everyone at Reahard & Associates is enormously grateful to our clients for their continued support of, and commitment to, our training. There is nothing more rewarding, humbling, and motivating than to have dealers and managers continue to recognize your team year after year in the Dealers’ Choice Awards,” said Ron Reahard, the company’s president. “To everyone who made this award possible, thank you for your vote, thank you for your support, and thank you for enabling us to help more dealers help more customers! Because it’s a beautiful day ... to help a customer!”

F&I Product Training

F&I Product Training was a new category in this year’s Dealers’ Choice Awards. American Financial & Automotive Services won the first-place Diamond award, one of six category wins (including three Diamonds) for the company this year. National Automotive Experts finished in second place and RoadVantage won the inaugural Gold award for F&I Product Training. “It is an honor to be recognized by our dealer partners and Bobit Business Media for six Dealers’ Choice Awards,” says Arden Hetland, president of American Financial, which also won awards for Compliance, F&I, Sales, Special Finance, and Service Training. “We take great pride in our trainers, curriculum, and development solutions for our partners. We would like to thank the industry for these distinguished awards.”

F&I Financing

Also new to this year’s program was F&I Financing, a category designed to honor companies that finance the purchase of F&I products. PayLink Direct won the inaugural Diamond award while Line\5 took home the Platinum and Universal Lenders, home of the ZERO Plan, finished in third place. “Thank you to everyone who voted in this year’s Dealers’ Choice Awards. We are honored to receive the Diamond award for F&I Financing. At PayLink Direct, we pride ourselves on providing our clients with the tools they need to drive service contract sales and grow their businesses,” says Rebecca Howard, the company’s CEO. “To have dealerships nationwide recognize the value of our interest-free payment plan program and our exceptional customer service team is extremely gratifying.”

2018 Dealers' Choice Awards Winners

New-Vehicle Leads

  • Diamond: Dealer.com
  • Platinum: Autotrader
  • Gold: Cars.com

Used-Vehicle Leads

  • Diamond: Cars.com
  • Platinum: CarsDirect
  • Gold: Autotrader

Special Finance Leads

  • Diamond: CarsDirect
  • Platinum: Auto Credit Expres

Digital Marketing

  • Diamond: Dealer.com
  • Platinum: eBizAutos
  • Gold: ELEAD1ONE

Digital Sales and F&I (NEW)

  • Diamond: Darwin Automotive
  • Platinum: Axiom
  • Gold: AutoFi

Website

  • Diamond: Dealer.com
  • Platinum: eBizAutos
  • Gold: Dealer eProcess

Mobile Media

  • Diamond: eBizAutos
  • Platinum: Dealer.com
  • Gold: Automotive Mobile Solutions

Social Media Management

  • Diamond: Naked Lime
  • Platinum: Ally
  • Gold: Cartifex

Reputation Management

  • Diamond: CDK Global
  • Platinum: AutoPoint
  • Gold: Dominion Dealer Solutions

Direct Mail

  • Diamond: ProMax
  • Platinum: Strategic Marketing
  • Gold: Action Integrated Marketing

Virtual BDC

  • Diamond: ELEAD1ONE
  • Platinum: AllCall Multi-Channel BDC
  • Gold: Dealer’s Greatest Assets

Inventory Management

  • Diamond: vAuto
  • Platinum: DealerSocket
  • Gold: MAXDigital

Hiring and Recruitment

  • Diamond: Auto Careers Online
  • Platinum: GSFSGroup
  • Gold: Hireology

Sales Training

  • Diamond: American Financial & Automotive Services
  • Platinum: Joe Verde Group
  • Gold: Ziegler SuperSystems

F&I Training

  • Diamond: United Development Systems (UDS)
  • Platinum: American Financial & Automotive Services
  • Gold: Reahard & Associates

F&I Product Training (NEW)

  • Diamond: American Financial & Automotive Services
  • Platinum: National Automotive Experts (NAE)
  • Gold: RoadVantage

Special Finance Training

  • Diamond: DealerStrong
  • Platinum: American Financial & Automotive Services
  • Gold: NCM Associates

Compliance Training

  • Diamond: American Financial & Automotive Services
  • Platinum: United Development Systems (UDS)
  • Gold: Mosaic Compliance Services

Service Training

  • Diamond: DealerPro Service Solutions
  • Platinum: American Financial & Automotive Services
  • Gold: CDK Global

F&I Products

  • Diamond: RoadVantage
  • Platinum: National Auto Care (NAC)
  • Gold: ECP

Service Contract

  • Diamond: CNA National
  • Platinum: AUL
  • Gold: Protective Asset Protection

Service Contract Reinsurance 

  • Diamond: Portfolio
  • Platinum: CNA National
  • Gold: SouthwestRe

F&I Desking Software

  • Diamond: ProMax
  • Platinum: Reynolds and Reynolds
  • Gold: CDK Global

F&I Technology

  • Diamond: StoneEagle
  • Platinum: MaximTrak
  • Gold: F&I Express

CRM

  • Diamond: Reynolds and Reynolds
  • Platinum: ProMax
  • Gold: ELEAD1ONE

DMS

  • Diamond: Reynolds and Reynolds
  • Platinum: CDK Global
  • Gold: Dealertrack

Data Mining

  • Diamond: ELEAD1ONE
  • Platinum: DealerSocket
  • Gold: Dominion Dealer Solutions

Online Auction

  • Diamond: Ally SmartAuction
  • Platinum: Manheim
  • Gold: eBay Motors

Traditional Auction

  • Diamond: Manheim
  • Platinum: ADESA
  • Gold: America’s Auto Auction

Prime Captive Finance Company

  • Diamond: GM Financial
  • Platinum: American Honda Finance
  • Gold: Ford Motor Credit

Prime Non-Captive Finance Company

  • Diamond: Ally
  • Platinum: Chase
  • Gold: U.S. Bank

Subprime Finance Company

  • Diamond: Capital One
  • Platinum: Wells Fargo
  • Gold: Regional Acceptance

Biweekly Payments

  • Diamond: US Equity Advantage
  • Platinum: SMART Payment Plan

F&I Financing (NEW)

  • Diamond: PayLink
  • Platinum: Line\5
  • Gold: Universal Lenders

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