Lenders Race to Process Online Auto Apps
Speed is the common denominator for some shoppers when they hit the dealer lot for quick financing and even quicker closed deals.
Much of that velocity comes online well before the trip to the dealership thanks to credit unions and other lenders striving for rapid pre-approvals and an application process that zips past traditional paper channels.
According to some industry estimates, 94% of all auto purchases begin online and a growing number of shoppers are starting their journey right at their dealerships as they shop and compare pricing on their mobile devices. A study released by the Filene Research Institute last year on how members choose their auto lenders revealed an overwhelming preference for electronic information, with their credit union's website being their top choice followed by email.
“The number of users doing online research on a mobile device increases every year, so it is imperative for businesses like CUDC to keep up with the trends and utilize adaptive technology in order to display content optimized for different devices,” said Marsha Marrier, director of marketing at CU Direct Connect, a Centennial, Colo.-based indirect lending CUSO that serves more than 35 credit unions.
Earlier this year, CUDC partnered with advertising agency Carbon8 to revamp the CUSO's website. Some of the new site's features include mobile-friendly versions to access information from any device at any time, links to online auto and credit resources and an improved pre-approval auto loan application, the CUSO said.
RouteOne LLC, a web-enabled credit application portal, said it speaks the language of auto finance. On average, the company's calls are answered within 20 seconds from time of dial, its call center is located domestically within the U.S., and it is staffed by personnel with long-term retention rates that understand the auto finance business, said Todd Mason, chief product and marketing officer at RouteOne in Farmington Hills, Mich.
“We spend our time focusing on how to make the credit transaction smoother and more streamlined for both the dealer and the finance company,” Mason said. “RouteOne has had zero minutes of unscheduled downtime during dealership business hours in the last three years. We are a high-availability provider that invests in the infrastructure needed to meet the needs of dealerships and finance sources.”
RouteOne's online portal allows dealers to create and submit credit bureau inquiries, submit applications for customer credit to more than 1,100 finance companies, check vehicle valuations, complete the contract via electronic means, and manage and report on the dealership's compliance posture, according to Mason.
Credit Union Auto Finance's electronic receipt of applications within its loan origination system has improved its response time to dealers, said Leslie Seiling, vice president of the indirect lending CUSO that is wholly owned by the $727 million Summit Federal Credit Union in Rochester, N.Y., and serves 11 credit union partners.
“The relationship (with RouteOne) has increased our application volume and helped us return answers to the dealers more quickly,” said Seiling, who did not want to provide specific dollar indirect lending portfolio figures.
Credit unions comprise approximately 70% of the total finance company footprint within RouteOne, Mason said. The firm's revenue is driven primarily through transaction charges to the finance company for credit applications submitted by the dealer, he explained. While the core RouteOne system is free of charge to dealers, there are also some ancillary products offered to dealer customers that are subscription based, but are completely predicated on dealer choice, he added.
Speed may come through online channels but creativity can be an added bonus in wooing car shoppers. The $380 million Financial Center Credit Union in Stockton, Calif., used what it described as Internet meme-style messaging, bleeped language as part of its Eye Candy auto loan postcard campaign to court members in the 20-30 and 31-45 age ranges. The campaign which, recently won CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council's 2014 Diamond Most Edgy Award, achieved a 4% response rate and grossed $4.7 million in auto loans.
By using e-contracting through the Automotive LOS from Fiserv, auto dealers have been able to realize same-day or next-day funding and approval of contracts, a significant improvement over the paper-based contract process, according to the company.
In 2013, Automotive LOS was used by dealers and lenders to process more than 13.6 million credit applications – an increase of 16.5% over the previous year, Fiserv said. More than 4.6 million contracts were funded, of which nearly 900,000 were e-contracts. Last year was the first full year that e-contracting capabilities were integrated into the company's end-to-end solution for automotive loan origination, the company said.
“Captives and their dealers realized the role that technology can play in reducing costs, improving customer satisfaction and facilitating faster decision-making,” said Kevin Collins, president of lending solutions at Fiserv. “This led to the impressive volume gains and growing adoption of e-contracting processes.”