As the virtual dealership becomes closer to reality, some people wonder where the finance and insurance office will go.

It’s a puzzler for a couple of reasons, including skepticism that F&I, particularly the selling of additional automotive products and services, doesn’t lend itself to a full digital experience.

Still, as the online dealership experience expands, F&I staffers must ready themselves for an alternative to what typically has been face-to-face selling, say F&I product and services providers.

“We’ve got to be prepared as F&I professionals to provide services over the Internet,” says David Duncan, president of Safe-Guard Products International.

Potential website tools of the future include an F&I menu in video form and an active chat line.    

“You will need some sort of instant chat, some form of communications, because selling doesn’t begin until the first ‘no,’” says Bob Corbin, president and CEO of IAS.

Good F&I people overcome objections, he says. But to do so, there must be a dialogue, digital or otherwise.

It will be hard for computer software to replace an F&I staffer who is well-trained, knowledgeable, versed in car-buying regulations and adept at overcoming customer objections during sales presentations.

“A computer function is not going to do all that,” Steve Amos, president of GSFSGroup, says at an F&I Management and Technology conference.

Then again, “E.T. used a bunch of kids’ toys to put together a device so he could phone home,” Amos says, referring to a 1982 movie about a lost alien. “So anything is possible.”