The casual observer would find it difficult to calculate the time and effort contributed by the men and women behind the annual Industry Summit. The three-day conference takes all year to plan. The agenda must be plotted out, presentations crafted, panelists prepped for debate, signage and booths installed and erected, rooms and travel booked, and thousands of meals prepared.

Barring unforeseen complications — of which there are always a few — the event itself is a relative breeze. Paris Las Vegas comes alive with the reunions of friends and clients, the pleasant buzz of conversation, the scratching of pens and the clinking of glasses. There is no better place to be, especially when times are good, as they certainly are now. But no matter the economic climate, Industry Summit always goes well. Our secret? Talent, and plenty of it.

I have often said that we have a distinct advantage over organizers who labor to produce educational conferences in any other industry. Our speakers are, for the most part, trainers, and trainers are excellent speakers. They love the stage and they know their audience just as well as they know their material. They are, without exception, witty, well prepared and engaging.

For the purposes of this issue, I would like to highlight the efforts of Greg Goebel, who joined Industry Summit four years ago and continues to deliver the best special finance training money can buy. He brings with him his annual Special Finance Benchmarks, a lengthy report that calculates, analyzes and scrutinizes tens of thousands of subprime auto finance transactions. This is real data entrusted to Goebel by the hundreds of dealers with whom he consults, plus, for the first time, reams of additional transactional data from ProMax Unlimited.

I was handed a copy of the new report in Las Vegas. At 10 o’clock that night, exhausted from the day’s festivities, I poured myself a cup of coffee, hoping to drum up enough energy for a quick skim. The caffeine helped, but it was the numbers that kept me up past 2 a.m.

Starting with the obvious, as Goebel points out in the story that begins on Page 30, one can still make money in F&I. He calculates F&I income at more than $1,000 per copy, new and used. Yes, the benchmarks only break down transactions in the 75th percentile, but it proves the gold standard is still well within reach.

The data also proves that dealers who serve the subprime market are not resigning themselves to used-car sales. They’re taking their slice of the 15% of SF sales represented by new units, along with an average down payment of $2,552 and a total gross profit of $3,775. And what value do you ascribe to the ability to capture those customers and stand by them as they improve their credit standing?

Finally, this year’s benchmarks reflect the hard work that lays ahead as dealers continue to adapt to the digital age. One of the themes that ran through this year’s conference was the need for new strategies for converting leads — online and phone — into appointments and sales. This topic was addressed in no less than three educational tracks, including Special Finance. How do your conversion rates compare to those listed on Page 30?

Please enjoy the report and Goebel’s analysis, and let us all look forward to another year of growth in every tier.