One of our clients is an independent dealer with three successful stores in the Southwest. He is also an experienced pilot who uses that skill to give back to his community. As a volunteer for Angel Flight West he flies critically ill patients from their homes to distant medical centers where they can receive life-saving treatment. There is no charge to the patient or medical center. But a few years ago his plane had reached the end of its service lifespan. He needed a new plane, but his best choice for the job it had to do, a Cirrus SR22, cost over $450,000. This was a huge expense despite his success in the car business. So rather than going to a bank to finance his not-for-profit volunteer work, our client took out a loan from his Portfolio ARC to acquire the new aircraft. Now he tries to fly at least one mission a month for Angel Flight West, plus uses the plane to shop distant auto auctions where he can get the best deals for his customers. Seeing how useful his Portfolio ARC was to his personal and business life, he refocused his attention on selling VSCs and warranties, resulting in more profits for his dealerships and more wealth in his Portfolio reinsurance company.
Dealer Success Stories
The personal wealth that Portfolio dealers earn in their Affiliated Reinsurance Companies (ARCs) is a vital and valuable wealth asset outside what the dealership earns for them.
This wealth changes life for the Portfolio dealer.
Portfolio dealers have used their ARCs’ wealth to achieve a number of goals. Their choices witnessed below range from the routine challenges of marketing, to the unexpected and tragic events of life, to keeping the family in the business, to creating financial independence for business and personal reasons, to recruiting, rewarding and retaining key managers in the organization.
And more. It’s business. It’s personal. It’s life.
The following stories are true, but we protect our dealer clients’ privacy by omitting their names and other identifying details. (If you are a dealer principal, you can contact us if you would like to speak with any of our dealer clients for more information about their experience with Portfolio)
Keeping Wings on an Angel
— volunteer pilot and independent dealership owner
“When you see the problems these people are struggling with, it make your own problems seem like nothing,” he says. “Almost all of them have unbelievably great attitudes.” “It is humbling and very rewarding to help them. This has almost become the reason I get up and go to work each day, so that I can afford to do these flights.”
All in the Family. For the Long Run
A Portfolio dealer who owns nine franchises in California is also the proud father of four daughters whom he has kept in the car business, along with their extended families. He knew that giving them a strong incentive in the business was best handled by having the daughters share ownership in a Portfolio reinsurance company, so he set up one for them and a separate ARC for himself. The growing wealth shown quarterly in the daughters’ ARC board meetings has led them to become better managers. Now everyone pays regular attention to F&I penetration rates, claims, and other factors that affect ARC profitability, just as much as store profits and CSI. And the board meetings have become enthusiastic and fun gatherings with everyone giving input on goals and strategies. When the day comes to ease out of the business, he will turn it over to them, confident that they have the experience with the big picture of getting the most out of being in the dealership business.
— a daughter of the dealer principal
“We are tight family with a lot of loyalty to Dad’s dealership business. Still, I will say seeing the steady profitable growth in our Portfolio reinsurance company keeps us focused even more on making all the stores the best they can be.”
All in the Family. Overcoming tragedy.
There is a Chrysler Dodge Ram Jeep store that has served the upstate South Carolina area for over 32 years, starting under the leadership of its original owner. But in early 2003 he died in a motorcycle accident. His family bravely decided to keep the dealership going. His wife retained ownership, though she had little experience in the business, and her eldest son, at the age of 25, immediately took over running the store. Recognizing that life can be unpredictable and knowing she needed to start getting the most out of owning the dealership, she chose to create a Portfolio ARC that same year. Since then it has provided both business capital in periodic loans to the dealership plus a future retirement account for her. She and her son were a successful team, with the dealership being named the #1 CDRJ store in the Carolinas in 2008. That same year they bought the franchise with help from their Portfolio ARC. All the good news of 2008 ended with another heartbreaking event. In September her son died in a fatal car accident. Again the family pulled together and persevered. The younger sons took over as dealer principal and new car manager, both having recently attended Northwood University. The mother remained the beating heart of the dealership, providing a willing ear and trusted voice to her sons. After 13 years her ARC has provided her a valuable source of retirement income, and is in runoff. The sons now enjoy the benefits of their own ARC growing with 100% of the premium from the Portfolio products sold in the F&I office.
— former dealer principal, and wife of the founder
“When people ask me how we have overcome these tragedies, I say it comes from our faith, the love in our family, and honoring my husband’s legacy, which was always about ‘service to others.’ That’s what keeps us going.” “But I must add that this is a business too, and having our Portfolio reinsurance companies as a personal wealth asset and source of loans played a extremely valuable role along the way. It was one of the best decisions I made in those early days as a dealer principal.”
Find and Retain the Best
Owning and running 9 dealerships is no easy task, and 10 years ago this large family-owned group needed a top talent to take over managing the stores. They wanted someone truly special who would understand the family’s vision as well be a first-class GM. A nationwide search pointed them toward a long time top Ford executive. Recruiting at this level goes beyond salary and benefits. Fortunately, the auto group had been a Portfolio dealer for some time, so they enticed the Ford exec to join them by setting him up in a Portfolio reinsurance company where he could share the profits and build a personal wealth asset for his future. He has been a superb fit with the group. He continues in his key position, and the auto group is enjoying immense success in their market. He couldn’t be happier with the ultimate “employment benefits” that come from owning a Portfolio ARC.
— GM of 9-dealership family auto group
“I dearly love the car business and the dealer group I help manage. I don’t even entertain offers that come knocking on the door to make a change in my career, given my Portfolio stake in the business. My current deal is creating more wealth for me than any recruiter’s offer out there.”
Financial Independence to Sell More Cars. And More
Our client’s family has been in the franchised car business for over 36 years in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Our dealer client was running their Hyundai, Chevrolet and Buick/GMC stores a number of years ago when we first called on him. The Buick/GMC store was the top producing store in South Carolina. All the stores were self-insuring their warranties, VSCs, GAP, and ancillary products. When he found out that the Portfolio reinsurance program could take him from paying corporate tax rates on the underwriting profits from the self-insured products, to paying full rate on only the investment income, he switched to Portfolio. And taking the products’ liabilities off the stores’ books seemed a safer bet. He started three Portfolio reinsurance companies. His reinsurance companies’ profits grew steadily. A few years later, to better take advantage of local market demographics he decided to open a BHPH operation. He knew how to sell cars, and wanted to sell more. BHPH would give him access to customers that the franchised stores did not. He borrowed outside financing at 9% to start them up. Then the 2008 recession hit, and financing sources dried up. He needed a way for his business to not be at the mercy of outside lenders. The dealer’s decision to create Portfolio ARCs saved the day. With four years of earnings from the ARCs affiliated with the franchised stores, he was able to pay back all his outside financing, plus take out $3.5 Million in loans from his reinsurance companies to create his own captive finance source. Today the ARCs continue to be his source of finance for his captive. From the beginning he was able to lend that money out to consumers at the market rate for BHPH, and pay his reinsurance companies a healthy return on the loans. It has turned out that the returns from the loans are enough to cover claims from franchised stores’ F&I products and other expenses of the reinsurance company. Now he is happily scaled down to the Buick/GMC store and three BHPH locations. He is also an active benefactor in his community, most notably providing a 3-year, $350,000 commitment to the local public schools’ Business and Marketing Academy. He credits Portfolio with making him financially independent.
— Low Country SC franchised and independent dealer
“Portfolio has enabled me to build millions more in personal wealth for my family and my future. Portfolio’s structure and results are exactly what their people represent. They help make wealth and understand our business.” “Plus I now have more options to give back to our community, and my priority there is to help kids understand how to succeed in business.” “I would tell all dealers to sign up with Portfolio now, without reservation.”
Going Solo in Colorado
True entrepreneurs are known for their independence and vision of a new future. This Portfolio client owned and ran 6 stores with a partner in the Colorado Front Range region. They started on Portfolio about 10 years ago, which helped make both of them wealthy dealers. Ambitious, with a vision, and only in his late 30s, our dealer wanted to run his own store. And he loved the Kia franchise model. With a loan from his Portfolio ARC he bought his partner out of one of their Kia stores and struck off on his own. It is now advertised as the region’s Kia Superstore. Now he has a second Kia store in another Front Range city, again buying and capitalizing it with a loan from his Portfolio ARC.
— Colorado Kia dealer
“It’s so much easier and more profitable to borrow money from my own Portfolio reinsurance company. It gives me the power to move quickly on opportunities that I see.“
The Simple Freeway Sign
Sometimes vital marketing decisions impose a big cost on the dealership. That’s what the owner of a Ford dealership discovered for his store in the Los Angeles area. Surrounded by tall commercial buildings but ideally situated on a busy freeway, his dealership needed to become more visible to generate traffic in the store. The answer was a large digital sign advertising the location and deals of the day. Not being in the sign business, the dealer was shocked to learn that such a sign would cost $150,000. This is not the kind of cash the dealership has lying around looking for a place to be spent. But his marketing team insisted that it was a necessary expense. So he made a loan from his Portfolio ARC to get it done. His business has doubled in the past seven years since the sign went up.
— Los Angeles-area Ford dealer
“Although I get regular quarterly reports from Portfolio about the money in my ARC, I sometimes forget I have this financial asset I can use for the unexpected. Getting the loan from Portfolio’s management team was pretty easy, and helped me build my business.”
The Big Picture
The Industry-Wide Value of a Portfolio Reinsurance Company
Let us not forget. The 2007-10 Great Recession caused shockwaves throughout the retail automotive industry. Chrysler and GM were on the ropes. RV manufacturers closed down. Leisure purchases like motorcycles and powersports took a nosedive. The credit markets had dried up for both consumers and business owners. Auto purchases plummeted with the declining fortunes of America’s middle class. People kept their cars longer. Uncertainty ruled the day, and dealers had few good options to weather this downturn in the economy.
Except Portfolio dealers. No other F&I product provider is telling this story.
By accessing the personal wealth in their ARCs they were able to shore up their businesses, keeping valuable employees, keeping the lights on, and marketing their stores as aggressively as they could. They were not dependent on the credit markets. They could take cash out from earned premiums as dividends. They could make loans from their ARCs to finance necessary expenses. Many Portfolio dealers were actually able to expand their businesses during these tough times. To put numbers on it, during 2007-2010 Portfolio dealers took out loans totaling $178 Million, and dividend cash totaling $136 million.
$314 Million- nearly one-third of a billion dollars in capital– was injected into automotive retail for some (not all) of the 500-600 dealerships affiliated with Portfolio reinsurance companies during these challenging times.
Business is cyclical. We hope there will never again be a downturn like those recent years that put so many dealers out of business, or hanging on for dear life. But we responsibly encourage prudence.
And prudence is getting out of your current reinsurance program, or retro, or factory program, and into Portfolio. Now.