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<p>PALO ALTO, Calif. – What he thought he had read was not what it said, and now Stanford Federal Credit Union members can buy and sell cars all within the cozy confines of their friendly neighborhood CU. He is Sam Tuohey, chief technology officer at Stanford FCU, who got the idea for what’s now the eCar Lot when he misread an item at another local credit union’s site about an upcoming auto auction. “I assumed incorrectly that this was an online auto auction, and I thought it was a great idea,” Tuohey says. It wasn’t, it was simply a live auction selling repossessed cars, but the idea was born and the top brass at the $380 million CU thought it was inspiration worth following up on for a number of reasons. “First, it’s a way for us to further promote that we’re in the car business,” says John Davis, SFCU’s president and CEO. “And it lets us provide a marketplace for our members to buy and sell vehicles.” Rather than repos at auction, the site (http://www.sfcu.org/eCarLot/) sells members’ cars, although, of course, anyone can contact the sellers. At this writing, five vehicles had been sold since it debuted in March, and there were six more listed, ranging from $3,000 for a 1993 Ford Escort to $25,998 for a 2002 Chevy Silverado. The CU’s Information Services and Marketing departments put the program together. Members e-mail the photos of the cars they want to sell and the information is posted. “This is version 1.0,” Tuohey says. “The next version is already written, and it will better automate the back end process for us. “But for the first couple of months, we want hands-on administration so we can avoid any potential misuse. So far, there hasn’t been any abuse, for instance, postings by dealerships, non-members, graffiti artists, etc.” Tuohey says the eCar Lot resides on a Sun Solaris machine served by Netscape enterprise software. “The database is so small that a flat file suffices for now,” Tuohey says. “When it grows to dozens, we’ll migrate it to the MS SQL, which is what our other databases are on.” To get the site started, the CU partnered with Enterprise Car Sales to put six vehicles up for sale. Members now are responding by offering vehicles themselves, and can use such online resources as links to Kelley Blue Book, CarFax for the car’s history, a car loan calculator, current credit union loan information, and, of course, an online loan application. Members are especially encouraged to “virtually kick the tires” by using the CarFax service, and the $19.95 fee for checking out a car’s history is waived if the purchase is financed through the credit union. “Our eCar Lot is truly a virtual marketplace,” Davis says. “Similar to the way that credit unions put borrowers and savers together, we now put buyers and sellers together for their mutual benefit.” The eCar Lot is just the latest innovation for a credit union that shares a history of innovation with the illustrious university that serves as its sponsor. Stanford FCU hosted one of the first-ever Internet banking transactions, and Stanford itself, of course, is considered a birthplace of the Internet. Recent innovations include the introduction of wireless banking (Tuohey says they did that in three weeks for less than $10,000) and enhancements to the electronic statement program that have resulted in more than 8,000 members (one-third of all checking accounts) now using it instead of getting paper statements. Aggregation is coming up next, and the 50,000-member credit union has even produced its own MCIF and profitability server. “When a project is huge and there is an organization out there that can do it better, we’re not too proud to partner,” Tuohey says. “But much of our e-commerce stuff is homegrown.” -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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