Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. Vice President of Operations Mike McConnell has a seen a lot of change in the industry in the course of his nearly 32 years working within automotive sales and finance.
When McConnell initially joined the auto space, there was one computer in the office and everything was manual — from pulling credit scores to underwriting, he told Auto Finance News. “It’s amazing when I tell people that today, because they look at you really funny,” he said.
McConnell, who serves as vice president of operations for NMAC — a position he assumed in April 2016 — retired Aug. 31. McConnell has been replaced by Andres de la Parra, NMAC’s vice president of corporate planning and financial products.
Since his start in the industry, the internet made financing faster for customers and dealers, and the relationship between direct and indirect lending has narrowed, he said. These trends are set to continue, as technology reshapes auto finance, he added.
McConnell held multiple leadership positions at Nissan. He was regional vice president of the Mid-Atlantic region, overseeing 147 dealerships. He was also director of sales, regional financial services manager for the Mid-Atlantic region, and senior financial services manager for NMAC, according to his company biography.
McConnell spoke with AFN about his career, the state of auto finance today, and his biggest accomplishments in his role. Following are edited excerpts from the interview:
Auto Finance News: How has auto finance changed since your start in the industry?
Mike McConnell: I think the technology has changed quite a bit. If you are in sales finance, you know the terms of direct and indirect lending. When I started, the difference between those two were vast. Through technology and customer experience — how consumers go about shopping for a car and all those things — I think that line is now non-existent. I think the difference now between an indirect lender and a direct lender is extremely tight. Additionally, the way customers are getting information and going through the process of buying, financing, and trading in their car, and the way they communicate with dealers has really evolved quite a bit. Technology has accelerated in the last five years, and today, probably one of the No. 1 issues people are dealing with as a car company and a captive is the customer experience, and what the customer expects now, because most of the car-buying process is done online. When I was in the branch, when you did a loan, you pulled credit bureaus and you had faxes and all those things. Now, that’s gone completely away and a lot of the people are remote — not even in the office anymore as far as servicing their dealers.
AFN: How will technology continue to change auto finance?
MM: Really good dealers already know how they communicate to their customers, but I think the companies can use technology to make that customer process extremely fluid and very easy for the customer. Companies can also use technology to make the experience very positive for their brand loyalty in the repurchase cycle. … I think the customers are going to continue to have more and more information available to them; they know exactly what vehicle they want, what color, what options, if it’s available at the dealership, and what the price is going to be.
AFN: What are some of your — and NMAC’s — greatest accomplishments while you served in this role?
MM: A couple of things. With our team, what we have always tried to do from a sales finance and captive perspective is to try to make sure that sales finance was a spring for Nissan. I think we have accomplished that, particularly when looking at the feedback we have gotten from our dealers, our national dealer advisory board, our dealer subcommittee, and the National Automobile Dealers Association and J.D. Power surveys. If you look at how we’ve grown through the years and the things we have done, we feel like we are in a good place there. Some of the other accomplishments that I am personally most proud of are really being able to help a lot of people meet their goals, objectives, and sales from a career aspect. I had the privilege of working with a lot of people that are in leadership roles, helping them grow and helping them achieve some of the things they wanted to do. As a captive lender, to identify somebody early on as a talented individual, and then see them do things and impact their community, is extremely gratifying and a huge return for Nissan. As I look back on it, that’s what I’m proud of.
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