George Angus has had over 100 articles published in news and trade publications. This
article is a recent example of George's reporting of information derived from researching,
training, and working with the leading F&I managers in the US and Canada.
By George Angus
I started in the automobile business in 1975 after serving in Viet Nam, then going to college. Over the past 15 years, as a
researcher, consultant, and trainer, I have been fortunate enough to work with the top dealers and F&I performers in the
country, observe and help develop their “secrets”, and share them through our training programs. I am amazed at the
technological advances and advanced business techniques employed today in the retail automobile business. The level
of professionalism, compliance, and the cutting edge processes I have been allowed to be a part of developing over the
past several years couldn’t have been imagined in the ‘70’s.
I know, I know, who cares about what happened 30 years ago? Well, I suggest that no matter how much things change,
there are some important lessons to be learned from history.
In 1978, I was a new F&I manager in one of the first mega-stores on the East Coast. We had 12 franchises on one huge
location and sold more cars than anyone in our region. I was in my late 20’s, and making more money than my older
brother who was a newly graduated doctor.
Life was good.
Then came 1979.
Jimmy Carter was the President. The prime lending rate in the nation went to 19 ½ percent
Gas lines caused gasoline prices to double in 6 months (If you could find a station with gas)
Our cars weighed around 4000 pounds and got 9-12 miles per gallon
New car sales virtually stopped. Not slowed, stopped.
The new car factories shut down for 60-90 days at a time
When you did get a deal, the trade appraisal was less than half of the book wholesale
We had cars in inventory for over 400 days (I still remember the service department bringing in new cars to undercoat
the because the frames were rusting from sitting on the lot for a year or more)
We laid off more than half of our sales staff and the half that stayed just barely survived.
Dealers were going out of business because they couldn’t pay the high rate of flooring costs
You couldn’t sell a car to anyone in 1979
The business was in deep, deep trouble
What was the result of 1979?
Dealers, all over the country, started looking for new profit sources, including something new called “F&I”
Dealers, even though they didn’t want to spend the money, started buying these fancy new Wang computers that
actually printed contracts instead of hand writing them
Dealers demanded and received flooring assistance from the factories
Salespeople learned “walk around” presentations and found out that a proper feature benefit presentation sold a lot
We got better at running our dealerships, analyzing the financial statement, and watching the bottom line
All of a sudden customers were getting on waiting lists to pay window sticker for some funny looking little cars from Japan
called Honda Civics, Datsun B210’s, and Toyota Corolla’s.
The “Big Three” came out, almost overnight, with new lines of smaller, more fuel efficient cars
GMAC, (give credit where it’s due), came out with a revolutionary new idea; 7.9, 8.9, and 9.9 percent financing on new
cars. Within two weeks, Ford and Chrysler followed with the same rates.
When these new sub vented rates appeared on TV and print advertising, we sold out our most of new car inventory in 10
days. All of a sudden dealers were paying over invoice for cars that had been in another dealer’s stock for over a year
By the end of 1979, we had a waiting list of 150 people willing to pay window sticker for the first Chevy Citations at 9.9%.
Life was good again.
As tough as 1979 was, (and it was a lot tougher than 2008), the result was a more efficient, professional, and much,
much smarter retail automobile industry. Once the lessons were learned from that trying period, we entered a whole new
period of success, profitability, and advancement.
Since we are a research and training company, I have access to an incredible amount of information about this business
and I am in the field with the top performers in the industry every week. The attitude, advancement, and intelligence of
the people in this business today are incredible and will certainly make the industry better. All the doom sayers left the
business in 1979. Good. We’re in the biggest and greatest business in the world. Life will most certainly be good again.
History will repeat itself. Probably sooner than we think.
George Angus is with Team One Research and Training, a research and training division of the Summit Group that
specializes in scientific, research based program development and training programs for the automobile industry. George
has trained thousands of F&I professionals and develops programs and techniques with the top performing F&I
departments in the country.
Team One can be reached at 1-800-928-1923 or on the web at www.teamonegroup.com