F&I product and training company JM&A Group is expanding its virtual F&I pilot program to its largest partner yet.

Hall Automotive Group, a division of 80-store MileOne Autogroup, will pilot the program in which JM&A employees sell F&I products via Skype to consumers in dealerships, starting with an initial 90-day phase.

Bill Baker, president for Hall Automotive Group, said the process supports dealership employees overburdened from staffing shortages resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. F&I office staffing fluctuates within the group depending on a store’s volume, Baker said. Some dealerships have up to six managers, while others operate with just one.

“You could have absenteeism brought on by potential exposure to COVID. This is another way for us to be prepared for that and be able to backfill when absences occur,” Baker said. “This is able to help us in busy stores that get backed up and small stores that aren’t covered.”

Through the first phase of the pilot, JM&A Group will manage and conduct MileOne’s Virtual F&I operations while training employees to sustain the virtual program. Next, JM&A Group will turn the reins over to the MileOne F&I manager.

Starting with two stores, the pilot will be rolled out across the Hall Automotive Group division’s 15 rooftops. The program, which launched in September 2018, aims to capture F&I sales from customers who want more control over the process without sitting in a dealership office. Hall Automotive Group has worked with JM&A for more than 20 years, a partnership that was extended to the MileOne group following its acquisition, Baker said.

“We tracked their testing progress as they worked on this in smaller environments, working out the kinks,” Baker said. “Starting last fall, we got more serious about this opportunity.”

Virtual programs were far from popular ahead of the coronavirus pandemic but are increasing in necessity thanks to physical constraints placed on retail environments. JM&A began sharing its findings from its Virtual F&I pilot in April for free to dealerships looking for best practices amid the outbreak.

Based in Towson, Md., MileOne represents 27 automaker brands at stores throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina.

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