Gender Based Hiring Decisions? Really?

A sales manager recently started a peculiar discussion on a leading automotive industry message board and blog when he asked community members to provide feedback on their experiences with hiring female Internet Sales Managers and the work habits of these particular employees. The respondents were all too willing to navigate this veritable minefield. One vendor stated that “this should explain my thoughts when it comes to hiring women” and provided a link to his company’s webpage, which showed that only 3 of the 33 employees were men. Another came from a General Manager of a dealership, who wrote, “our female [Business Development Center] agents substantially out performed their male counterparts…I will not hire a male for this all important role ever again.”

 A Google search turned up similar articles and discussions on the topic of hiring women for sales positions at dealerships. One such article, posted on AskPatty titled “Women in the Car Business; Their Time has Come!” describes efforts that the author, as a representative of AskPatty, has undertaken to increase employment of women in the automotive industry. These efforts included aiding dealerships with hiring female salespeople “through sites such as Career Builders and Monster.Com” and paying “special consideration” to female applicants.

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful for businesses to make hiring decisions regarding new employees in ways that discriminate because of applicants’ race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), and national origin. This includes relying on stereotypes or assumptions based on applicants’ classification in one of the above-referenced groups. If your business shows similar hiring preferences, and employ more than 15 people, you may violate the law. You cannot claim, in defense of a preferential hiring practice contrary to Title VII that you intended to rectify past societal wrongs or wished to diversify your workforce. Constitutional law is quite clear; it is not the role of the private employer to craft “affirmative action” programs.

If your business is currently utilizing hiring practices that favor one class of person over the other, please seek legal advice on whether your practices violate state or federal law.  Your well-meaning intentions to diversify the composition of your staff to reflect the buying public could lead to serious legal troubles.   

*Image courtesy of Car Deal Expert*

Resources for Dealers Looking to DIY Post Videos to YouTube


There is a lot of buzz right now about dealerships using social media to connect with customers.  Whether you sell cars, boats, motorcycles, ATVs or anything else, your business can leverage social media by creating and distributing video for your own website and social media assets.  The process of creating and posting videos online can seem daunting at first, but luckily there are resources available to help you get up to speed.  I’ve previously shared an example of someone doing a great job making YouTube videos about automobiles here.  Above is the first in a series of videos created by Elise Kephart of Phone Ninjas (YouTube Channel: ElisePhoneNinjas), showing how to shoot, edit and upload videos to YouTube.  Ms. Kephart’s technique takes a different approach than the one I previously wrote about.  That video was meant as a one-to-YouTube’s audience communication, in a similar way a television ad reaches all viewers including those who have not expressed an interest in doing business with you.  These videos demonstrated by Ms. Kephart are used as a way to communicate one-on-one with a prospective customer who has an existing relationship with the dealership, or is a new customer who has contacted the dealership for information and a price quote on a particular vehicle.  For example, using Ms. Kephart’s techniques, a sales person can make a quick video of the vehicle of interest tailored specifically to the inquiring customer, post it to YouTube, and then send the link to video to the customer via email.  This is light-years ahead of the current process at many dealerships, which relies heavily on impersonal email templates generated through a Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) system to convey information to the customer and follow-up on the customer’s inquiry.

Here’s an example of a dealership that has used Ms. Kephart’s approach:


In the spirit of full disclosure, I do not have any type of relationship with Phone Ninjas or Ms. Kephart.  I became familiar with her work by frequenting sites such as Automotive Digital Marketing and Dealer Elite.  Do you have any tips on shooting, editing and uploading videos to YouTube?

Avoid Bundling and Packing When Selling Finance and Insurance Products

Pressures on margins have led many dealerships to renew focus on Finance and Insurance (F&I) sales as a way to add incremental gross profit to new and used vehicle transactions.  Many find the temptation to adopt sales tactics of yesteryear alluring and now are reviving techniques like bundling and packing to increase F&I gross.  While using these methods may increase F&I gross in the short term, using both can expose the dealership to costly liability.  For the purpose of this article, F&I sales include anything from traditional F&I products such as extended service contracts, insurance and so on to aftermarket products like paint sealant and accessories. 

 A quick refresher on what constitutes bundling and packing is in order.  First, packing occurs when your staff fails to itemize the payment for a vehicle absent any additional products and instead combines the base payment with payment for F&I products into a single payment.  Bundling, a derivative of packing, happens when all F&I products are combined into one price or payment quote when the consumer perhaps only wished to purchase one or two products. 

 

Here’s an example of each: 

Car payment without products:                                                               $200/month,

Additional F&I products (etch, service contract,etc):                   $100/month

 

Packing = Quoting customer $300/month without disclosing that $100/month represented products other than the vehicle itself

 Bundling = Quoting customer $100/month for F&I products without disclosing the price of each product separately

 Plaintiffs’ claims arising from bundling and packing will center on the dealership’s failure to disclose, the price or payment of the vehicle and the ancillary F&I products sold at the time of sale.  Without proper disclosure, Plaintiffs can initiate a multitude of claims alleging fraud.  First, Plaintiffs may allege that they were unaware they purchased anything other than the vehicle itself.  Or they may allege that the dealership staff predicated their loan approval and purchase of the vehicle on purchasing additional F&I products.  Yet another allegation could be that they intended to buy only one of the products but were told they could not purchase them independently.

Since these allegations center on lack of disclosure, the amount of disclosure you provide to the consumer will blunt claims of packing and bundling.  Your processes should center on providing consumers relevant information sufficient to make an informed purchase decision.  Here that means clear disclosure of the base price of the vehicle absent any F&I products and an itemization of the cost of each F&I product offered.  Unlike other compliance matters that may seem like a ‘sunk cost,’ improving your F&I processes in this manner may lead to increased gross.  Here are some best practices dealerships have adopted to disclose price and payment options to consumers:

Training:  Your staff should understand that either packing or bundling exposes the dealership to tremendous liability both from private plaintiffs (consumers) and state and federal regulatory agencies.  Federal agencies have shown a renewed interest in pursing claims of deceptive and unfair practices against dealerships.  Bad habits could lead to your dealership being the next subject of a press release of a regulatory agency.  Besides educating your staff on the dangers of bundling and packing, give your staff the training necessary to present payment options to consumers that will lead to incremental gross.  Many F&I consultants and trainers can help your staff develop skills to properly interview consumers to determine their individual needs, and tailor an F&I product presentation accordingly. 

Disclose Products Fully on Deal Paperwork:  Some F&I products and hard accessories, like running boards, leather seats, etc, that are physically installed on the vehicle by the dealership can be included in the sale price of the vehicle on the buyer’s order and retail installment sales contract.  However, other products should be fully disclosed on these documents and not aggregated into the vehicle’s sale price.  Disclosure requirements vary by state, so if you have a question of what can be aggregated into the price of the vehicle, please contact us. 

Use Forms Besides the Deal Paperwork to Further Disclose F&I Products:  Don’t rely only on the buyer’s order or retail installment sales contract for disclosure of F&I products purchased.  These documents have limited space to properly disclose the type of products sold and do not offer protection against consumers’ claims that they were never offered products that they later needed, such as GAP or Credit Life.  Instead, draft forms for each product sold or use the disclosure forms provided by the company your dealership uses for its F&I products.  Make sure that these forms have places where the consumer can acknowledge the price of the product, purchase of the product, and, in cases where the consumer has declined to purchase a particular product, a similar acknowledgement. 

Use a Menu to Present F&I Products:  If you aren’t doing so already, consider using a menu that itemizes products, their price, and provides base payment information for the purchase of the vehicle only along with payment options tailored to the customer’s choice.  This menu should have sections where customers can acknowledge that your staff presented the F&I products and their agreement to purchase particular products or their acknowledgement that they declined certain products.  Present menus to every customer who purchases a vehicle and retain the menu in the deal file.  Many DMS providers and F&I providers have menus that integrate with your DMS and offer compliance tracking too.

Review Deals for Compliance:  Your managers should review deals for signs of packing or bundling and address issues before they become problems.  Make sure deal forms are completely filled out, disclosure of F&I products are proper, and all of your customers are presented F&I products in a consistent manner. 

Please feel free to post any tips or best practices you may have in the  in the comment section.