The retail automotive industry has been under siege lately.Negative stories by the consumer-crusaders in the press, class-action suits by greedy trial lawyers, and headline-grabbing enforcement actions by State Consumer Protection Agencies, have become a daily fact of life.And most of the negative perceptions, most of the liability, and most of the compliance issues in the industry stem from F&I practices. NJ CAR strongly believes that a vitally important part of the solution to this situation is to professionalize the industry, beginning with F&I practices.Establishing ethical standards and formal professional education programs for F&I employees represents a major step towards improving the overall image of the retail automotive industry.And, just as importantly, it will improve compliance and customer satisfaction and reduce dealership exposure to lawsuits and compliance enforcement. Towards this end, NJ CAR has partnered with The Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals (AFIP), the leading national F&I professional certification organization, to create a customized New Jersey curriculum for a formal F&I certification course.AFIP has an established national reputation, with firms such as GMAC, JM&A, Auto One Acceptance, Reynolds and Reynolds, and Universal Underwriters using the AFIP certification course for employee training.NJ CAR has now joined with AFIP to develop course materials specific to New Jersey, which will be offered exclusively in New Jersey through NJ CAR. This NJ CAR-AFIP New Jersey F&I certification course offers the equivalent of a college-level course in federal and New Jersey laws and regulations governing F&I practices. NJ CAR members will receive registration forms for the NJ CAR-AFIP certification course early next week.The customized course materials for New Jersey are being printed now and will be ready to ship to registrants in early August.Participants will receive the customized self-study text, a 6-CD video lecture series, mentoring assistance through NJ CAR, and a two-day review and final exam program.Course review sessions and final exam dates have been set for the weeks of September 13 and September 20.Participants who pass the written exam will receive a framed diploma, personalized desk nameplate, business card logo, and a subscription to F&I Management and Technology. NJ CAR urges all members to join in this effort to establish professional standards and practices in the F&I field.The creation of industry standards and a formal certification program offers an antidote against negative publicperceptions, and it will alsoestablish credibility for the industry in countering new regulatory proposals in the State Legislature and the Division of Consumer Affairs.In addition, dealerships will benefit from having the assurance that their F&I staff are trained in compliance and appropriate practices, which will help to reduce conflicts, claims, and even lawsuits.