Stung by F&I “packing” charges at two Clearwater, FL dealerships, Sonic Automotive has undertaken a wholesale revamping of personnel and practices at all its 130 stores.
A sweeping review of employees prompted the Charlotte, NC-based megadealership to fire 200 staffers, many in finance and insurance and sales positions.
“We have instituted a zero-tolerance policy for the kind of F&I conduct alleged to have happened at the Florida stores, which dates back before our acquisition of them in the late 1990s,” says Jeffrey C. Rachor, executive vice president of retail operations for Sonic, the nation's No. 2 new-vehicle retailer.
The dealerships named by customers as having slipped unwanted products into vehicle purchase orders are Clearwater Toyota and Clearwater Mitsubishi. Law suits have been filed against both stores. Sonic is cooperating with the Florida attorney general.
Rachor says Sonic has also ordered three new measures at all its F&I departments:
“100% menu selling” in which F&I products and their prices are clearly presented to customers
Requiring staffers to watch and periodically rewatch special training tapes on F&I ethical practices
Submitting sales contracts to dealership controllers to insure full compliance with customer orders.
Rachor says the tough measures are to prevent any reoccurrence of “Clearwater.” He contends Sonic's positive reaction to the situation that drew widespread negative publicity has averted damage to sales at its Florida dealership in particular and Sonic dealerships in general.