CHICAGO – United Airlines Employees Credit Union, based near O'Hare Airport has found a way to fight auto dealers' zero-percent financing offers and get dealers to help them out as well. The $3.8 billion UAECU rang up more than $2 million in auto loans in one day with what it simply calls its "Annual Car Sale Event." The promotion, which has been held on a Saturday in May for the last three years, takes over the credit union's large parking lot on the outskirts of the airport – creating an outdoor auto show of sorts. Marketing Director Jennifer Divelbiss said at the most recent event about 13 dealers put more than 400 cars to the credit union for several thousand credit union members. "The car sale has become an event that our members talk about and plan for," said Bob Bream, UAECU president and CEO. "That's a service our members will always remember about the credit union." UAECU is one of the largest credit unions in the country. Its 165,000 members are employees of United Airlines and its affiliates around the country. It has 16 service centers around the country, including three in the Chicago area. The rest are at airports and maintenance centers served by the airline. The event began three years ago as a one-time promotion cooked up by the marketing department. It was so successful, members clamored for it to return. "Members look forward to it every year," said marketing staffer Christine Cedusky. "We just took it on as an initiative for my marketing department," said Divelbiss. "We began organizing the event to make purchasing a vehicle easy, convenient and affordable. Now it's expected." Not that the credit union was unhappy about keeping the event alive. "It's the biggest money-making day (of the year) for the credit union," said Divelbiss. She said members have asked that it be repeated in the fall as well. The event gives credit union members a form of one-stop shopping. They can look at the offerings of 12 or 13 dealerships without spending money on gas driving from one dealer to the next. In addition, credit union employees are scattered across the parking lot, supporting members through the whole process of decision-making and financing. Several thousand members attend, according to Divelbiss. The credit union invites dealers with showrooms within a 10-mile radius of the credit union with each auto nameplate having one slot. The dealers pay a modest participation fee to help defray the credit union's expenses. All prices posted on the cars are the lowest available so haggling is avoided. "A lot of them (dealers) offer rebates or reduced pricing," Divelbiss said. "It's a very competitive day for the dealers, so they are offering their best deals." If a dealer doesn't have the car with exactly the right features for a buyer, they will ferry the right model over from their dealership immediately, Divelbiss said. Enough credit union staff volunteer for the day so that employees are available at the dealers' temporary "lots" to compute loan payments on the spot. The financial end of the transaction, of course, is handled by the credit union. "We expect all the financing," Divelbiss said. "The dealers do not get any financing and we expect to sell all (extended) service agreements." Members could get up to 100% financing on the new cars and free insurance quotations. Anyone who bought a car with a service agreement got a $50 gift certificate to an area restaurant chain. The credit union livens up the event with music and hot dogs and popcorn. "People come and spend all day," Divelbiss said. Dealers are willing to give up the lucrative financing business because of the sales volume the credit union generates. Cedusky said the dealers sold 108 cars at last May's event. "It's a very important day for the dealer," said Divelbiss. "Some of them are selling 20 or 30 cars." The credit union did OK, too. It made loans on each of the 108 cars sold. That translated into $2.2 million in new loan balances. In addition, it sold 64 vehicle service agreements, 57 loans with credit life insurance and 55 loans with credit disability insurance. To promote the event, the credit union sent a promotional mailing and an e-mail blast to approximately 27,000 Chicago area members. The event was also promoted in the credit union's newsletter and on its website. The three Chicago area service centers were emblazoned with six-foot long banners trumpeting the event. Since UAECU members are airline employees, with easy access to plane flights to Chicago, the credit union has members from as far away as Texas flying in and driving home with a new car. "It's a very unique situation," said Divelbiss.

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