Today’s automotive dealerships are governed by a dizzying array of automotive-retail regulations. In addition, they also must deal with regulations for employers, small businesses, advertisers, general retailers and finance organizations.

These rules address a broad range of issues, including environmental, taxes, finance and a host of other consumer protections.

Dealing with compliance can be overwhelming, but there is a silver lining. Today’s dealers can tap into a plethora of services to tackle compliance. The key to making it easy, however, is identifying a platform that leverages a methodical, common-sense approach.

Agents and product providers have stepped up their business models and product offerings to include more services around compliance. Utilizing these is an objective and cost-effective way to improve dealership compliance. Here are key considerations in evaluating product providers:

  • Beyond in-store engagement, what compliance services do they provide? Do they see compliance as important enough to include a head of compliance on their corporate leadership team? What compliance certifications do they have?
  • While providing in-person compliance training, third-party audits and one-on-one coaching can be invaluable to cultivating a compliant environment within the dealership, your agent/product provider can’t be in your dealership all the time. However, this should not prevent them from helping manage your dealership’s compliance initiatives. Find out if your provider offers an easily accessible compliance-management system with video training, online modules and quizzes to ensure comprehension. Ask for sample forms and templates that can be used in your business.
  • An online compliance-management system should include tools to help prevent regulatory violations, address non-compliance before it becomes an issue and align dealership-compliance initiatives with profitability goals. The system should give a broad spectrum of employees access to video compliance training, online modules and quizzes, in addition to risk assessments and analysis, process documentation for dealership departmental core processes, online compliance video training, ongoing reporting and scoring, compliance webinars and a top-down approach.
  • You can tell a lot about a company based on its corporate leadership team. Typical are organizations where vice presidents lead the sales, technology, finance and marketing/advertising arms of a company. You can’t make a profit without selling something. You can’t sell anything without making people aware of it. You can’t operate in today’s digital world without a sophisticated technology platform. You can’t ensure profitable operations without someone overseeing the books. Companies that value ethical and compliant operations also see compliance as an essential function of a business. Someone must oversee procedures to ensure regulations are followed. You also can’t effectively provide guidance and input to clients without a strong compliance platform. So, ask yourself if your provider has a compliance executive on its leadership team.

Compliance-Certified

Certifications demonstrate expertise and credibility. You wouldn’t work with an accountant that doesn’t have CPA on his or her business card or a dentist without D.D.S. certification. With compliance it’s no different. In the auto finance industry, there are two certifications you should ensure your provider and its representatives have secured:

  • AFIP: Founded in 1989, the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals is the nonprofit, non-aligned sanctioning body for in-store sales and financial services personnel and select lender and aftermarket vendor personnel in the U.S. AFIP-certification curriculum focuses solely on the federal and state laws that govern in-dealership financial services.
  • NAF: The National Automotive Finance Assn. specifically designed the Consumer Credit Compliance Certification Program to address challenges faced by consumer finance companies in maintaining legal compliance in an environment characterized by ever-changing federal and state regulatory requirements. Compliance professionals receive a deep working knowledge of the federal laws and regulations that govern consumer credit along with an overview and general examination of state consumer credit law. This is important for dealerships as they are considered participatory creditors when they set up auto loan financing in the dealership. Therefore, all credit and lending regulations apply to dealerships and lenders.

You may feel like today’s complicated regulatory environment is impacting your business, and it may be overwhelming to determine the first steps to get ahead on compliance. That’s understandable.

But it is crucial to embrace the challenge and identify a compliance platform that will help maximize profitability while significantly increasing compliance standards across the entire dealership.

John Stephens is executive vice president-EFG Companies.