An F&I training firm has added a new dealership service by setting up a business development center at a Wisconsin dealership.

The customer creation and retention department is at Concours Motors, a six-brand Milwaukee dealership. Oak Career Training Services in Elmhurst, IL, set it up. Dealership employees staff it.

Oak CEO James L. Nerad says, "Customer loyalty and repurchasing is a prime focus of our F&I and sales personnel courses. But too often it's disorganized at dealerships, unlike sales and F&I.

"We believe it works better when it's structured as a dealer department, so that's what we designed for Concours."

The business development center handles customer contacts and follow ups. That includes efforts to sell extended warranty agreements to customers who weren't interested in such products at the time they purchased their vehicles. Another F&I role of the business center is contacting customers whose leases are about to expire.

Concours franchises include BMW, Mazda, Mercedes, Porsche, Saab and Volkswagen.

In another expansion move, Oak opened a Southwest office in Phoenix. It offers training programs for Arizona, California and Nevada dealers. David Evenson, a former general sales manager for a Milwaukee dealership, directs the new facility.

Started in 1996 by Mr. Nerad and Executive Vice President Tony DeSalvo, Oak is unique in that its sales course is approved by the Illinois Department of Education.

"This gives us a professional rating that is coupled with our accreditation by Northwood Institute," says Mr. DeSalvo. "Students who complete our sales course can earn four college credits, a rare award for any dealer school."

F&I courses are given monthly at Oak's Elmhurst facility with an unusual twist on the first day of the one-week sessions. It is devoted to legal issues, a subject usually introduced towards the end of an F&I session.

"Being honest and above-board is what we want our graduates to be," declares Mr. Nerad. "There have been a lot of media stories lately about legal abuses in F&I departments, and we don't want Oak alumni missing the boat when they get back to their dealerships."