Colonnade Provides Insight Into The VSC Industry

By: Jeff Hatch

January 23, 2019

A new report from Colonnade Advisors details the significant interest among investors and consolidators in the vehicle service contract industry. The following is an excerpt from the appendix of the whitepaper, which provides an in-depth look at the trends and growth drivers behind this expanding market. 

Strong Macro Trends are Driving Acquisitions and Investments in the VSC Industry 

U.S. consumers spent an estimated $35 billion on VSCs in 2018. VSCs are typically marketed at three points in the life cycle of an automobile:

(i) at original sale (the new vehicle segment – extended warranties),
(ii) near or after expiration of factory warranty primarily via direct-to-consumer sales (the end-of-warranty segment) and
(iii) at resale (the used vehicle segment).

The VSC market benefits from high new and used car sales and increasing penetration rates. Consumers value VSCs as they have limited funds to pay for repair bills and they are owning vehicles longer. Dealerships focus on VSC sales to enhance margins. F&I products provide increasing incremental profitability and represent 25% of total dealership gross profit, compared to 15% in 2009. We expect these dynamics to continue.

The VSC market size has grown by 6.9% to $35 billion since Colonnade’s last whitepaper in August 2017. The growth is attributed to three trends:

1) the increase in attachment rates on new vehicle sales,
2) the increase in used car sales and
3) the increase in vehicles out of the OEM warranty period.

Retail Market for VSCs in 2018 Compared to 2017

New car sales ultimately drive sales in the VSC market. New car sales were 17.3 million units in 2018, a slight increase from 2017. However, VSC attachment rates, or the percent of new vehicles sold with a VSC, have increased significantly in the last year causing the new vehicle VSC market size to increase by 5.9% to $16.2 billion.

Used vehicle sales are at an all-time high level and are driving the purchase of VSCs. Older vehicles have typically outlived OEM warranties and have higher maintenance needs, factors that have a positive impact on consumer demand for VSCs. There has been an influx of late-model off-lease vehicles returning to dealers which are older, higher mileage and outside of the manufacturer’s warranty, thereby increasing the need for VSCs on used vehicle sales. Colonnade estimates that 42% of used vehicle sales through franchise dealerships and 20% of used vehicle sales through independent dealerships have a VSC attached. The estimated franchise attachment rate increased from prior Colonnade analyses based on surveys completed by Baker Tilly and NIADA.

The number of vehicles post-OEM warranty has increased to an estimated 87 million vehicles from 86 million in 2017. These vehicles were post OEM warranty and less than twelve years in service, the “sweet spot” for aftermarket VSCs. Year 2017 represents the fewest vehicles in the sweet spot in the last seven years, as a result of the low number of new vehicle sales during the recession. Our research indicates that longer vehicle life coupled with continued high levels of new car sales post-recession will generate a continued growing market for post-OEM sales of VSCs.

Increasing Number of Vehicles Off OEM Warranty

Of the 276 million vehicles on the road, 48% are eligible for a VSC. This group includes new vehicle sales, used vehicle sales and post-OEM warranty vehicles that are less than twelve years old.

Increasing Consumer Demand for VSCs 

Consumer demand for VSCs is increasing as the vehicles on the road are older and higher mileage vehicles have heightened maintenance needs. U.S. consumers are holding on to their cars for longer than ever, partially due to the higher quality of vehicles.

The average age of passenger vehicles on the road was 11.7 years at the end of 2017, up from 9.6 years in 2002. One of the reasons for the increase was the 40% drop in new vehicle sales in 2008 and 2009. The record number of new vehicles purchased in 2015 and 2016 will slow the rate of increase, resulting in an average estimated age of 11.8 years in 2020, according to IHS Automotive.

Length of Ownership

Vehicle owners are increasing their length of ownership. New vehicle buyers now own their vehicle for 6.6 years compared to an average of 4.3 years in 2006, according to IHS Automotive. Used vehicle buyers now own their vehicles for 5.5 years compared to an average of 3.3 years in 2006. This trend is due to longer loan terms and the higher quality of vehicles. By using longer-term loans, consumers can reduce monthly payments and afford more expensive vehicles. Over 85% of new vehicle and 53% of used vehicle purchases are financed, and six to ten-year loans are becoming more popular. As a result of the extended terms, borrowers are not in a net equity position until their fourth year and frequently beyond the manufacturer's warranty. To increase a borrower's ability to pay on loans, lenders include the value of F&I products in loan-to-value calculations as a borrower is more likely to stay current on a functioning car. These trends create the opportunity for higher VSC penetration.

The increasing number of older cars is creating more vehicles that need repairs and maintenance; repairs generally become more expensive as vehicles age. Many consumers are unable to afford repairs as the growth in costs is outpacing wage growth and 40% of Americans do not have $400 in emergency funds. These trends are driving demand for VSCs.

F&I Focus at Dealerships 

Despite improved auto sales, dealership margins remain under pressure, and F&I products provide meaningful incremental profitability. Dealerships have become more dependent on F&I products, as they represent 25% of total dealership gross profit compared to 15% in 2009. This trend will continue as dealership margins on vehicle sales may be squeezed in coming years. In addition to increasing vehicle sales margins, F&I products improve long-term profitability by enhancing customer loyalty and retention by setting the stage for repairs, routine servicing sales and subsequent car purchases at the dealership.

Growth in the number of older vehicles is a positive trend for aftermarket repairs. However, dealerships will face strong competition for these increased repair revenues. Longer periods of ownership take consumers farther away from the selling dealership service lane to less expensive non-dealership repair facilities. Dealers seek to counter this trend by selling VSCs and prepaid maintenance plans to increase the likelihood of drivers returning to the dealerships.


Click on the following link to read this report in its entirety: https://coladv.com/wp-content/uploads/VSC-White-Paper-January-2019-Final.pdf

Filed Under: Colonnade, contract, industry, market, service, vehicle

Tips To Avoid Issues With Your Vehicle Service Contract

By: Jeff Hatch

September 25, 2018

A vehicle service contract (VSC) is a smart choice for customers interested in protecting themselves from the high costs of vehicle repair. You just need to make sure you know what you’re getting and what to expect in the event that the unexpected happens. Prior to purchasing or filing a claim, here are a few things to consider to ensure that there are no surprises down the road.

  • Make Sure You Aren’t Currently Under Warranty – Check to see whether the coverage of your service contract overlaps with a manufacturer’s warranty. A vehicle service contract might not be right for you if you are already covered. However, if your warranty is about to expire or you are looking for supplemental coverage then purchasing a VSC makes a lot of sense.  

  • Know What Your Vehicle Service Contract Covers – Not all vehicle service contracts cover all repairs. Take time to read the inclusions and exclusions to be sure that you’re getting the coverage you want and know when coverage might be denied. For instance, if a contract states that only mechanical breakdowns will be covered, problems caused by normal wear and tear might be excluded.

  • Be Aware Of The Length Of Your Coverage – It happens to the best of us. You think you’re covered, only to find out that your plan has already expired. Make sure your coverage is up to date. And if the service contract lasts longer than you expect to own the car, find out if it can be transferred when you sell the vehicle.

  • Perform Regularly Scheduled Maintenance – Under the contract, you may have to follow all recommendations for routine maintenance, such as oil and spark plug changes. Failure to do so could void the contract. Find out if the contract prohibits you from performing routine maintenance yourself or from taking the car to an independent dealer for work. Also, be aware that unapproved modifications or installing wrong parts could void your service contract as well.

  • Keep All Service Records And Receipts – Create a file to keep track of all the repairs that were performed on your vehicle and be sure to include all receipts. This will come in handy if you ever have to put your vehicle service contract to use. Your claim could be denied if you are unable to show that the vehicle was properly maintained.

Have questions about one of our vehicle service contracts? Don’t hesitate to contact us. Visit warrantech.com, call 800.833.8801 or send us an email at info@warrantech.com. We’re happy to help!

Filed Under: contract, coverage, maintenance, repair, service, vehicle, Warrantech

Tips For Choosing The Vehicle Service Contract That’s Right For You

By: Jeff Hatch

April 11, 2018

So you are finally purchasing that vehicle you’ve always wanted and are overcome with an enormous sense of bliss. Your first thought is to fill out the paperwork as fast as possible so that you can grab the keys, hit the road and show your new car off to all your friends. However, as thrilling as ownership can be, you still have some important decisions to make. 

Do you have enough money to take care of it? What happens if something goes wrong? This is a major purchase and it would be a huge mistake for you to get caught up in the excitement without taking some time to think about what you will do once the inevitable happens and your car needs service. 

That’s where a vehicle service contract (VSC) can help – by alleviating the maintenance and repair costs that come with owning a car, truck or SUV. So which VSC do you choose? Here are a few things to consider, so that you can take care of business and get back to enjoying your new ride.   

How Long Do You Plan On Owning Your Vehicle?

If you only intend on having the car for a few years, a long-term contract probably isn’t on your radar. However, if you plan on driving your vehicle for a long time then you definitely want a VSC. It’s a great complement to an older vehicle that’s no longer under warranty. 

What Does The Plan Include?

Not all people share the same driving habits, so you’ll want a plan that is tailored to the way you drive and the type of vehicle you have. Make sure you know what the plan covers, and be sure to consider the number of miles and length of coverage. Also be aware of the deductible to determine if it fits within your budget.  

Are You Focusing Too Much On Price?

“You get what you pay for” is a good rule of thumb, and a cheaper contract usually comes with a higher deductible. The price might look good on paper, but if the VSC doesn’t provide the coverage that you need, then it’s going to be worthless to you. 

Have You Read The Contract Carefully?

Don’t make assumptions. One of the biggest mistakes customers make is signing a service contract without getting the specific coverage they want. And the last place you want to be when you find out that you’re not covered for benefits such as roadside assistance is when your car breaks down and leaves you stranded in the middle of nowhere. 

Are You Rushing Through The Process?

Take your time. See something in the contract that you don’t understand? Get clarification and make sure that you are comfortable with what you’re signing. 

Did You Get All Of Your Questions Answered?

Be proactive. You definitely don’t want to be in a service center at a later date asking defensive questions like, “What do you mean that’s not covered?” Find out now. 

Have questions about one of our vehicle service contracts? Don’t hesitate to contact us. Visit warrantech.com, call 800.833.8801 or send us an email at info@warrantech.com. We’re happy to help! 

Filed Under: contract, customer, maintenance, plan, repair, service, tips, vehicle, VSC

The CPO Playbook

By: Jeff Hatch

January 24, 2018

Make the Right Call for Your Certified Pre-Owned Program By Getting Your Entire Team on the Same Page

How do you build a top-tier certified pre-owned marketing program in your independent operation?

You build it from the ground up.

That means you start with the basics – a good partner to help you with your program and train everyone on their role in the process.

When Peyton Manning was quarterback of the Denver Broncos, he would yell “Omaha” as he waited for the snap.

Manning’s voice made the entire stadium tense up in anticipation of what was coming. Most important, his teammates snapped to a state of mental preparedness. When the snap came, they could react without thinking. 

The offense has the advantage over the defense – the offense knows what’s about to happen.

Every player knows his responsibilities and if any of them fail to carry out their assignment the play won’t work. Because they have a plan, the team moves in unison, beginning at the sound of the quarterback’s voice.

That can happen in your store. You can make is so everyone knows what to do when you call the play. 

When your staff knows which part of the playbook is being used and what everybody’s assignments are, the store becomes a team.

Manning was able to get buy-in from his teammates because they all knew the situation. Some plays are designed to get one tough yard and some are after a big gain. 

When everyone knows the situation and the goal of the play, they can carry out their duties with a more dedicated commitment.

So why are you calling the play for a CPO program?

Even if you know the answer to that question it might not be obvious to your employees.

The answer, really, is easy – to keep up with the competition.

The popularity of certified pre-owned is not showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, CPO sales set records for six consecutive years, and when the final numbers are tallied for 2017, they’re expected to break the record again.

Certified pre-owned vehicles are becoming more desirable even though fewer than half of all customers know what CPO entails. 

According to Autotrader’s 2014 CPO research study, 60 percent of car buyers said they’d like to look at a CPO unit while making a used car selection, but only 48 percent actually knew what it means for a vehicle to be certified. 

Those customers most likely don’t know the difference between warranties that come with a vehicle and extended service contracts that are purchased.

That leads to several conclusions about how to maximize the value of a CPO program.

Customers have heard of CPO and feel it is a better option. They also know it’s usually backed by a warranty for some period. 

The statistics tell us that to get the full value of a CPO program dealers should not rely on what customers think they know about certified pre-owned. A full presentation and explanation allows salespeople to create a need for the program.

For example, at Auction Direct USA, one of the nation’s most successful CPO dealerships, salespeople walk customers past an education wall that teaches them about Auction Direct, NIADA and their partnership in the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program. 

Sales is about giving enough information to allow customers to arrive at the conclusion you want them to. That definition requires your salespeople to have knowledge of what the dealership’s program includes.

With that knowledge your salespeople can provide customers information that allows them to consider the value of the CPO program when weighing your dealership’s vehicles against the competition’s. 

The economy continues to grow, allowing more people to be able to buy a vehicle. That alone is going to create a spike in business.

To capture more than their share of that market, independent dealers must be ready to compete for every deal. 

Analysts agree a majority of used vehicle buyers are interested in at least learning about CPO.

That means if you do not have a CPO program, you are left fighting for the scraps among the minority of customers who don’t know about or are not interested in CPO. And it allows new car franchises and sophisticated independents to dine on the more lucrative segment of customers who are searching for certified pre-owned vehicles. 

You need to let your team know why the CPO play was called. The people who represent your programs to the public need to know it will allow the store to stay competitive and will make marketing to the entire spectrum of the used car business viable. 

Once the people who will make your program a success know why you are setting up a CPO program, the next question to answer is, “Why that one?”

So how do you choose which program to bring into your dealership family?

Factory programs are fantastic – but they’re not an option for independent dealers. OEMs only certify their branded vehicles exclusively through franchise stores.

Even if independents could get in on the factory CPO programs, they have their issues.

Just a few years ago, for example, the margin for CPO vehicles was as much as $2,500 more than for other inventory. Today, according to research by iseecars.com, it’s more in the $750-$1,200 range.

That’s still a good return, but when you add in the average price of reconditioning a used vehicle to factory CPO specifications – including expensive items such as factory floor mats and four matching tires – most of that profit for OEM programs goes to expenses that don’t increase the customer’s satisfaction with the vehicle.

Indeed, factory programs are so stringent with their qualifications that they only certify their brand at a factory store. Which is why some new vehicle franchises have begun to use independent programs to certify their non-factory inventory. 

Without a factory program what are you left with?

There are three main ways to certify a vehicle. OEM programs are one. Independents can also self-certify through a service contract company. 

Or they can find an independent organization willing to certify the dealer’s CPO process.

The best-known national certified pre-owned program for independent dealers in the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program, sponsored by NIADA – an organization with more than 70 years of history whose mission includes promoting ethics in the used car industry. 

When NIADA wanted to bring its reputation and expertise to the CPO world it looked for a partner with the ability to certify pre-owned vehicles as well as experience and financial wherewithal to back those vehicles with a strong warranty. 

The exhaustive search for a program administrator led to The Amynta Group and its wholly owned subsidiary, Warrantech. 

“The best thing about that is it’s the same administrator General Motors and Mazda use for their extended service contracts and CPO, giving independent dealers’ customers the same service a new vehicle franchise would give,” said Warrantech’s Natalie Suarez, director of NIADA Certified. 

As a result of NIADA’s partnership with The Amynta Group, Suarez said, “we are able to provide a high-level, complete marketing program for independent dealers.” 

NIADA’s program, Suarez said, “is designed to give customers the kind of service in the event of a breakdown that’s usually reserved for new car dealerships, elevating the independent dealer in the customer’s eyes.

“And the more repeat and referral business dealers can generate, the less they spend on conquesting new customers.”

One of the first car salespeople in America was a man named Eddie Rickenbacker, who was best known as America’s most decorated flying ace, earning the Medal of Honor in World War I. He also raced in the Indianapolis 500, helped design a vehicle that bore his name and founded Eastern Airlines. 

Rickenbacker always said he learned while selling cars that you had to find your advantage and move continually towards that advantage, a philosophy that allowed him to survive countless dogfights over France. 

“The one thing I know for a fact is every lot has the same vehicles and the prices are pretty much the same, so if you want to differentiate yourself from the pack, you better provide something no one else does,” longtime auto dealer and advertising pioneer Bob Catterson once said. “If you can’t do something special the only other choice is price, and price prohibits sales, not makes them.”

Calling the NIADA CPO play for your store creates that competitive advantage over other independent dealers – and it allows you to compete with new car franchises for their used vehicle customers.

NIADA adds to that advantage with CPO partners that include some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Carfax, eBay Motors and SiriusXM Radio, adding credibility with customers and making your inventory more visible on search engines. 

Not to mention The Amynta Group, which has earned an A rating on A.M. Best’s rating system as one of the most stable companies in America and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. 

Once all the people in the store know their part in running the play, it is important for everyone to flawlessly execute his or her assignment.

As legendary coach Vince Lombardi once said, “You can’t coach a player who hasn’t been trained.” Before they can execute the plan, your staff must be trained. 

Whoever is responsible for certifying vehicles must understand how important it is to properly communicate the condition of each vehicle to management.

If it costs too much to bring the car up to CPO standards, management needs to know. And the certifying technician needs to know that not certifying a vehicle also has a cost to the dealership. 

The technicians who inspect the vehicles need to be shown the deeper importance of their work to the sales process.

In the CPO process, credibility is extremely important. Customers must believe in the concept of the inspection process. If customers do not believe there has been an actual technician touching the car, they will doubt the value of the warranty and that will negate any certification advantage. 

Sales must use the NIADA certification checklist in the sales process. 

The sales department should leave a copy of the checklist in the glove compartment of the certified vehicle. The salesperson will pull the checklist out during the walkaround or demo ride and go over how the inspection affects the customer’s ownership experience. 

The tech’s role is to check every box individually to give validity to the checklist. He or she can help sales even more by adding extra details, such as writing the actual numbers for tire tread and brake pad width.  

When the behind-the-scenes people who help sell vehicles realize how much the little things they do help the profitability of the store, their work ethic is increased.

Salespeople have the job of being enthusiastic about the program.

W. Clement Stone once said, “A positive attitude increases the likelihood of a good outcome.” That means being committed to the belief that what the store is providing the customer has value helps accomplish the task – in this case, the task is maximizing profit and sales volume.

How did Peyton Manning always perform at a high level and get his teams to perform with him when he called his plays?

The team started from the ground up, making sure everyone knew the play, their role in the play and the goal the play was meant to accomplish.

If everyone does their job, from the inspection process to sales and finance, having a great CPO option allows independent dealers not only to keep up with the local competition but to be competitive with dealers across the country via the Internet.

When you have the advantage, you become a difficult team to compete against. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Carr is a longtime auto industry veteran in sales, management and training and a regional training manager for Warrantech Automotive, Inc. administrator of the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program. For more information on the NIADA CPO program, visit www.niadacertified.com/dealers

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 edition of Used Car Dealer magazine and can be found online at: http://bit.ly/2DyhBHN 

Filed Under: Carr, contract, CPO, dealer, dealership, extended, independent, NIADA, service, team, William

The 3 C’s: Tips for Purchasing a Vehicle Service Contract

By: Jeff Hatch

January 04, 2018

Purchasing a vehicle service contract can be a confusing and intimidating process. There’s a lot to consider and, in some cases, a lot of money involved. That’s why we’re here to help take the guesswork out of the decision-making process and make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for. It’s easy. All you have to do is remember the three C’s of service contracts – cost, coverage and commitment.


Cost

First, you’ll want to determine if the car is worth the added investment. Do you plan on putting a lot of miles on it? Does the particular make and model have a history of needing frequent repairs? 

You’ll also want to keep in mind that just because a plan is cheaper, that doesn’t mean that it’s better. In some cases, a company might sell you a less expensive plan that doesn’t provide the same level of coverage. Look for a good service contract that can offer you exceptional long-term savings and value. A few things to consider in association with the cost of your plan include: 

24-hour technical assistance and access to qualified service professionals 

Value-added extras such as discounts on hotels and restaurants, rental car benefits, locksmith services and 24-hour roadside assistance 

Paying in advance could save you money later at the time of service 

In some cases, a service plan can pay for itself in just one repair


Coverage

Next, consider the vehicle type and the best type of coverage for it. For instance, if you have a vehicle that you intend to keep for long time, you’ll want a plan that takes high mileage into account. At the opposite end of that spectrum, if you simply want to protect your vehicle’s appearance, a supplementary protection plan is probably in your best interest. Warrantech has several options you can choose from that encompass a wide variety of services:

CustomEdge Plus – Provides you with the flexibility to pick your plan, length of coverage, miles of coverage and deductible

RepairMaster Service Drive – Complete coverage for cars, trucks and SUVs

MileEdge – Perfect for unpredictable, high-mileage vehicles, this plan covers costs associated with an automobile breakdown

SecureEdge – Covers costs to repair or replace any breakdown of parts, except engine, turbocharger/supercharger, transmission, transfer case and drive axle components

OwnerEdge – Offers powertrain vehicle protection

PowerEdge – For motorcycles, scooters, ATVs, snowmobiles and other recreational vehicles 

CampersEdge – For motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, pop-ups and slide-ins


Commitment

Finally, keep in mind that as the owner of the service contract, you are responsible for fulfilling the terms and conditions outlined within. As such, you’ll want to: 

Read the contract paperwork carefully and make sure you understand the coverages and exclusions

Follow all the manufacturer’s recommendations for routine maintenance. Failure to comply with these requirements could void the contract

Register your plan online if the provider has a website page that allows you to do so

Keep your contract paperwork, receipts, maintenance reports and contact numbers in a safe place where you can easily access them. This will make ownership and claim submission simple and easy

To learn more about our vehicle service contracts, visit warrantech.com 

Filed Under: commitment, contract, cost, coverage, service, vehicle, Warrantech

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