WASHINGTON – Since neither the Fed nor FTC have shown any interest in taking the bull by the horns-auto dealers’ aggressive 0% financing offers-and require dealerships to disclose more information to consumers about the hidden costs of the deals, NAFCU has decided to take a different route to get the word out to members. The association has designed a sample newsletter article on how to educate members about shopping for an auto loan and a statement stuffer for credit unions to use to help inform their members about all the details surrounding 0% financing deals. What’s more, said NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker, the association feels so strongly about the value of consumer education as a tool for learning the whole story about 0% financing, that it is not restricting access to the sample newsletter article or statement stuffer to NAFCU members. Any credit union by simply going on to NAFCU’s Website-www.nafcunet.org-can access the statement stuffer on “zero zero” deals, as well as the sample newsletter article. Credit unions can copy and paste all or part of both items in their own newsletter. “They’re free to use them as they want,” Becker said. “We want to be assured that consumers are educated and have the right information when they shop for a car,” he added. The article, written by NAFCU Associate Director of Membership Chris Sanyer, discusses how the low dealer rate may not be the best deal and how a member can find the best deal. “Your best deal could come from skipping the low dealer rate, taking the dealer rebates, and financing your vehicle with (name of credit union).” It continues with an explanation of how a member can do this. The statement stuffer called “The Real Deal: What You Should Know About Car Loans and Low Dealer Financing Rates,” provides a side-by-side comparison that shows that 0% financing might not be as affordable or attractive as it might seem at first glance. Becker said NAFCU decided to put the sample newsletter article and statement stuffer on its Web site for any credit union to use “so credit unions will be able to get the information into their members’ hands as quickly as possible.” He explained the importance of consumer education as a tool to making auto buyers aware of the hidden costs of 0% financing deals the dealers don’t proactively divulge. “If we talk the members through the effect of the 0% financing deals, they will in turn ask the dealer to walk them through the numbers,” said Becker. For example, the trade association president said, a member can ask the dealer, `If I don’t take the 0% financing, what will my rebate be instead?’ Becker said this is the type of question any car dealer can answer “in an instant.” Becker emphasized that NAFCU’s concern over dealers’ 0% financing deals is not sour grapes. “We need to educate consumers so they’ll consider all their options when they go to shop for a new vehicle,” he said. He feel so strongly about the value of consumer education on the issue that he wrote a Letter to the Editor to The Wall Street Journal in response to an article that ran in the Nov. 26 issue of the newspaper – “Some Car Buyers Should Take Sellers’ Rebates, Not 0% Deals.” In the article, staff reporter Karen Lundegaard made the point that when faced with choosing between the 0% financing deals (which are limited to three-year loans), a four-year loan for 3.9%, or a five year loan at 5.9%, for the best deal offered by the auto dealership, “none of the above” may be the right one. “In many instances, buyers are finding that they may be better off taking a cash rebate in lieu of subsidized financing. That’s because they often can find cheap financing on their own,” Lundegaard wrote. She advised consumers to find out the kinds of loans that are available from independent lenders and to check with their bank, credit union, or online lenders. In his Letter to the Editor, Becker “applauded” Lundegaard’s article, and wrote that, “Education and homework are the consumers’ best tools in finding affordable financing.” He also gave NAFCU’s Web address and suggested that readers interested in seeing a daily comparison of credit union interest rates can go to the site for the information. – ekingoff@cutimes.com