Almost as fast as the images flash across the screens, on-line processing is moving across the F&I world.
No longer a novelty, applications and pre-approvals via the Internet are changing the way dealership business managers do their business.
More significantly, the electronic revolution is dramatically widening the number of providers available to F&I managers.
Smaller service-contract and lending institutions, many partnered with dealers themselves or regional banks, now can offer their wares - cheaper lease rates, longer-term contracts, sub-prime financing - to dealers thousands of miles away.
F&I developments over the past spring and summer alone would have been unimaginable a year or two ago. Some examples:
DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, itself only seven months old, launched the Giggo.com website that reaches out for all brands' F&I business. It bagged the newInc. national website as the exclusive F&I contractor.
Bank One concluded a pilot in the high-volume New York-New Jersey market for its new website, Carsdirect.com, and served notice, as it prepares to roll out nationwide, that it intends to dominate in F&I growth ahead through on-line transactions at its base of nearly 10,000 dealers.
Motor Insurance Services and Autobytel.com Inc. set up a service-contract partnership - the first such linkage between an e-commerce company and a single automaker.
Prime One Capital, a full-service vehicle and finance lender, went online with a full list of its off-lease inventory targeted at rental agencies, local and national dealers and consumers.
DealerTV, a private digital broadcast system owned by World Interactive Network, debuted at Braman, Miami. This brings F&I services, along with inventories and the full service menu, "inline" to customers inside the dealership.
Dealers who seek desirable fleet vehicles now can do so on-line with the Pennsylvania Auto Dealers' Exchange, York, PA. Over 500 fleet vehicles from RSA, First Union and GE Capital were moved on the Internet May 26 and June 23 in the industry's first live Internet sales.
GMAC, not to be outdone, began CyberLot Outlet sales of its vast off-lease pool on www.manheim.com on a 24-hour basis.
Online connections for providers to dealers are expedited by the fact that big and small dealers are wired now for e-mail, in tune with customer growth in computer usage.
"When we asked 40 dealers in our New York-New Jersey pilot of Direct.Cars.com to participate, we were surprised when 38 came in right away," says Phoenix-based Keith Kendrick, chief of e-commerce for Bank One's Finance One.
He adds, "Our website is being readied for a fall rollout nationally, and we're expecting a comparable response from all our dealer clients. F&I is on the cutting edge for this retail reform in selling vehicles."
Similarly poised is Dallas-based Giggo, whose director, Jeffrey L. Danford, forecasts that 40% of all new auto loan originations will be done online by 2005.
Mercedes-Benz Credit, which joined withFinancial to form /Chrysler Financial, had pursued outside dealers previously and Giggo has for a partner on-line giant Yahoo! with more than 60 million users worldwide.
In teaming up with Autobytel, a national sales lead generator,Insurance Services will integrate service-contract data with information available on Toyota and Lexus inventories and prices.
Toyota and Lexus dealers sold about 257,000 service contracts last year. Autobytel reportedly is seeking similar links with other automakers.
Two of the largest Internet used-car buying sites, AutoConnect.com and AutoTrader Online, merged their vehicle listing bases in a move with decided F&I impact.
AutoConnect is affiliated with America Online, Lycos and Yahoo!
Auto analyst Chris Denove of J.D. Power and Associates, says the merger of nearly 1.5 million listings from dealers and consumers would create the "dominant search or locator system for vehicle shoppers."