With the big three US automakers impacted by the recent recession and becoming very unsteady – closing dealerships, factories, laying off workers, discontinuing lines, and possibly even filing chapter 11 – consumers are faced with a conundrum; To buy or not to buy, that is the question. The only way for automakers and dealers to get out of this mess is to move cars. However, will consumers want to purchase a car from a company that may not be around long enough to back their warranty, let alone provide service after the warranty has expired?
For those risk averse consumers that still want to take advantage of these “fire sales”, a great way to get that warranty back is to purchase an extended warranty agreement on their vehicle. These warranty agreements are backed by warranty insurers like Mercury Insurance, a.k.a. Certified Car Care, Great American Insurance, or Federal Insurance, a Chubb company. An extended warranty essentially replaces or broadens the manufacturers warranty coverage so that consumers do not have to bear the full burden of repair costs to their vehicles. Just as with any other insurance, each company’s coverages and benefits are different. Edmunds’ offers a great description of warranty coverage and how to shop for it. Here’s an excerpt:
Do you have to pay the bill up front and get reimbursed? Does the company whose plan it is offer any payment to the repair facility via a credit card over the phone so you don’t have to pay any out of pocket expenses? How easy is the plan to use at the repair facility that will be dealing with it? Being on the phone, on hold, waiting to get authorization could cause a major delay in getting your vehicle repaired in a timely manner. Will a representative from the auto warranty company have to come out and inspect the vehicle? That will also add delays to the repair process.
The automakers misfortune could become an opportunity for warranty insurers. Assuming premiums remain reasonable, and there’s no reason not to, warranty insurers could see their business quadruple. For those insurers that have automated their systems for application and claim processing, they will be in good shape to keep up with the large increases in demand and processing requirements. The departments that cover these types of policies are no where near the size of the bread-and-butter departments like General Liability. Those insurers that can keep up with the demand with automated functionality for application entry, quote, and issuance, as well as claim submission and adjudication, should become very profitable. For those companies whose systems are not ready for the bubble, it could become a nightmare threatening the viability of the company due to reputation and service damage. Once they cannot keep up with the demand, those requests will dramatically decrease and potentially go away completely.
This can also be another opening for frontline agents. When consumers come in to request auto insurance, agents could seize the opportunity for the up sell and offer warranty insurance to cover that newly purchased US auto, or any auto for that matter. Most consumers will expect to hold on to vehicles longer, making the warranty insurance coverage a very attractive option. Agents are probably already representing carriers that offer this coverage and could easily add this arrow to their quiver.