Space Coast Drops ‘Expose the Truth’ Rate Markup Campaign
More than a month after launching a campaign aimed to educate consumers about rate markups at auto dealerships, Space Coast Credit Union confirmed Friday that it has scrapped the entire effort.
The $3 billion credit union in Melbourne, Fla., launched its “Expose the Truth” effort June 9 in several South Florida markets. The ads featured blindfolded members and the message, “only 21% know the truth, do you?”
Space Coast said Friday that it will not move forward with the campaign, which was scheduled to run until Aug. 31.
“The campaign is ending this week, and we sincerely regret if any of our valued dealer partners misunderstood our message,” the credit union wrote in a statement to CU Times on Friday. “We did not want to harm dealers. We have great respect and admiration for these local business people who have contributed to the growth of our communities, and we particularly appreciate the valuable service to our members.”
Instead, SCCU said it wanted to help members make informed decisions.
“The campaign was not about auto dealers or the people selling vehicles, though recent automotive media coverage has been misinterpreted that way,” the credit union said.
The ditched campaign came in the midst of criticism from the National Automobile Dealers Association, the trade group that represent 16,000 new and truck dealerships with about 32,000 domestic and international franchises.
“The SCCU campaign is nothing more than a rehash by another competitor of previously discredited arguments,” NADA wrote in a statement provided to CU Times by Charles Cyrill, public relations director at NADA.
Cyrill said the statement was made prior to SCCU’s confirmation that it was ending its campaign.
In one of SCCU’s Expose the Truth ads, two lines read, “Nation’s Largest Auto Lender Fined by National Government. Recently, Ally Bank, the nation’s largest auto lender, was ordered by the U.S. government to pay back $80 million to victims of rate markups. They were fined an additional $18 million in penalties.”
In December 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Justice ordered Ally Bank and Ally Financial Inc. to pay consumers “that were harmed by their discriminatory markup policy between April 2011 and December 2013,” the agencies said.
More than 235,000 African-American, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander borrowers were affected. Ally agreed to pay a settlement administrator to contact consumers who were due to receive compensation.
“Lenders use a part of that markup to compensate dealers for the valuable services they perform in arranging financing. Unfortunately, that creates incentives for dealers to charge higher interest rates and may be implemented in a way that results in illegal discrimination,” the CFPB and DOJ said.
Space Coast said while it does not engage in rate markups, it does pay dealers a flat rate for completed auto loan referrals.
“This fee does not change the interest rate the consumer pays for their loan,” the credit union said. “SCCU understands the need for dealers to be paid for their efforts in obtaining financing for their customers; SCCU simply cannot support the practice of rate markups. We have a responsibility to protect our membership through education.”
The credit union, continued, “It was not our campaign’s intention to implicate dealers in any way. We are sensitive to the dealers’ predicament imposed by some banks’ lending policies which promote rate markups. Dealers want to sell cars and earn a living. This requires a trusted indirect lending partner who offers a strong program, that is easy to understand and simple to use and access. We believe dealers should be fairly compensated for their role in facilitating the loan but we disagree with the approach taken by other lenders.”
Meanwhile, NADA said, “Unlike the SCCU, the National Automobile Dealers Association encourages car buyers to compare auto financing rates at all sources – their bank, credit union or other lenders as well as their dealer.”
“Despite the fact that dealer-assisted financing is always optional, a large majority of consumers still choose to finance their vehicles through dealers. It is unfortunate to see this type of misguided advice being given to consumers,” NADA wrote.
The SCCU campaign leveraged social media elements, including a Facebook page, Twitter hashtag and a YouTube video. In the video, consumers’ reactions were compared to being taken advantage of in a sales transaction to how car buyers feel when they’re victims of a rate markup. Through education efforts, SCCU said it wanted to save members $30 million this year in rate markups.