<p>BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. – When members of $330 million City-County Federal Credit Union (CCFCU) in Brooklyn Center, Minn. need to go car hunting, their first stop now is CCFCU's Auto Resource Center, a new CUSO operation created last August. The Auto Resource Center is designed to be a one-stop shopping site for members looking to buy, sell or lease a new or pre-owned vehicle. In the seven months since its opening, the credit union's car business has skyrocketed. "We're averaging maybe 25 new and 10 used car sales per month, and financing more than 90 percent of them," said Bryan Bennett, CCFCU's executive vice president/CFO and the employee who pushed to create the new service. "The word-of-mouth on this has been fantastic." In the past, CCFCU members looking to purchase a new or used car could visit a network of area dealers who offered members competitive pricing, typically selling vehicles for $49 over invoice. Those interested in leasing could work through CU Fleet, a Wisconsin-based leasing CUSO owned by about 30 credit unions. This system worked reasonably well, although members often had a difficult time locating quality used cars, and had to go through the typically-stressful process of wheeling and dealing with sales staff. Bennett and others thought they could fill a niche for members by acquiring and selling quality used vehicles, plus enhancing their other car programs, and the Auto Resource Center was born. The Center offers members two main benefits. First, those looking to purchase a new vehicle can now have the credit union do the work for them. CCFCU formed a second, more extensive car dealership network, and will now haggle with the dealers on a member's behalf to obtain the best price. "Members realize that in most cases we can negotiate better than they can, so they like this option," said Bennett, adding it also eliminates the dickering process for members, which many find nerve-wracking. The second major benefit of the Center is that it carries an inventory of up to 10 quality pre-owned vehicles, hand-selected by CCFCU auto specialist Andy Bryce. All of the vehicles are late models – right now typically 1999, 2000 or 2001 models – with less than 21,000 miles and carrying the original manufacturer's warranty. In addition, members can "order" a specific used car, and the Auto Resource Center will try and track it down. So far, members seem thrilled with the new service. "We're received numerous calls and written correspondence from our members, thanking us for offering this," said Bennett. To Bennett's knowledge, the Auto Resource Center is a unique credit union offering. One reason might be because of all the work involved; Bennett said CCFCU had to meet numerous stringent requirements from state and local governments regarding the sale of vehicles. "You have to be patient and persevere, because you have to jump through a lot of hoops," he acknowledged, adding it's worth the hassle. "This is another way to fill our members' needs, and show them how far we'll go on their behalf."</p>

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