The F&I business appears perched on the precipice of change, and while there’s still some reticence from auto dealers, industry insiders say the trends are clear and resistance, ultimately, is futile.

Besides some return-on-investment upside for retailers, the main driver in the coming revolution is the growing number of tech-savvy car buyers who are losing patience with the time it can take to close the deal.

“The consumer doesn’t want a 4-hour buying process,” says Bob Carter, senior vice president-Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

John P. Stephens, senior vice president-dealer services for F&I product provider EFG Companies, sums it up this way: “People are thinking, ‛Root canal or buy a car? Which way do I want to go?’”

But much of the time needed to select the right vehicle already has been squeezed out of the process by a consumer base increasingly adept at researching models and negotiating price online.

That has refocused the time-shaving target squarely on the F&I department, where the more mundane task of securing a loan and sitting through a blow-by-blow presentation of vehicle-protection plans has today’s car buyer impatiently checking his watch.

Service providers are responding, with new online features that allow consumers to secure a trade-in price for their existing vehicles, select add-on warranty plans and all but wrap up loan agreements before they event set foot in a new-car dealership.

Dealertrack, for example, has rolled out a new online financing program that enable buyers to enter their credit scores, get back specific lending offers from their dealer and use that information to calculate more precise monthly payments. Dealers can offer loans from single or multiple credit providers and paperwork can be submitted right online for processing.

Once the buyer arrives at the dealership, sales staff can access all the credit and vehicle information on their tablets in order to seal the deal right on the sales floor. Dealertrack says it already has processed more than 3 million e-contracts for loans, and the new ability to finalize the process with an iPad presentation promises to improve the overall customer experience.

Dealertrack’s Jason Barrie, senior director-F&I, says the new digital-retailing tools help sell cars, because the process builds trust between the consumer and dealer.

“We’re seeing a 13% increase in leads in the first 30 days when digital retailing is installed,” he says. “(And) we’re seeing a 30% lead-to-sale close rate from these leads as well.”

Dealertrack works with 22,000 dealerships in the U.S. and has 1,500 lenders patched in through its credit network.

“Our strategy is taking a lot of the activity that traditionally goes on in the F&I department – calculating the payment, being able to understand what the options are for the consumer – and driving that down to the website experience for the consumer,” Barrie says.