LAS VEGAS – If credit unions ever doubted the importance of dealer relations to the success of indirect lending, all they had to do to realize just how key a factor it is was to come to the 2004 National Automobile Dealer Association Convention and Exposition and network with the more than 30,000 dealers and top-level industry executives who attended the premier annual auto industry event. When Ray Springsteen, vice president of marketing, Service CU, Portsmouth, N.H. observed that credit unions' first time presence at the January show through the America's Credit Unions booth "gave us the opportunity to enhance our relationships with dealers and improve credit unions' image in the dealers' eyes. Just being there had a huge impact," he echoed other credit union attendees' reactions to the show. With indirect lending becoming increasingly important to Service CU – the CU averaged $100,000 indirect loans a month in 2001, and in 2003 it was averaging $2 million a month – Springsteen said the credit union "wanted to be part of something like this event." The vp of marketing said the conference allowed attendees to immerse themselves in everything related to the auto industry for four days. Attendees had the opportunity to choose from among 25-30 breakout sessions on various topics related to the industry as a whole and auto lending. "So I feel it made me a more effective partner with the dealers since I gained a better understanding of their terminology. I got to hear dealers' questions and their thoughts about the issues they face. I was allowed to see things through the dealers' eyes," he explained. It was also an opportunity, he said, for dealers to learn about credit unions and the Credit Union Direct Lending (CUDL) program even though CUs didn't have to be CUDL members to attend – in fact some CU attendees aren't involved in indirect lending and went to network with those that do. Springsteen said some dealers still have the impression that credit unions are small time players in auto lending, "but they were so impressed" by the booth and the other activities that CUDL organized like the special nighttime helicopter ride over the Las Vegas strip and the VIP party that was held before the show formally began for invited dealer guests and credit union participants Lou Ebaugh, avp for indirect lending, State Employees CU, Lansing, Mich. also wanted "to be part of the process of forging relationships between dealers and credit unions. The booth was spectacular, it made a visibility statement, and the dealers were pleasantly surprised by what they saw. Visibility is key in indirect lending. The dealers have to know we're there and we want them to offer our members a quality buying and borrowing process." Springsteen also had the chance to observe other auto lenders, and he said it was interesting to learn something about their dealer strategies. "Understanding my competitors makes me a smarter lender. It's important for me to know who I'm up against," he said. One of the biggest benefits Springsteen went home from the show with was having the opportunity to show eight of the credit union's top New Hampshire dealers who attended the conference, "credit union cooperation in action that was displayed by the booth. Getting time to spend with our top New Hampshire dealers was fantastic especially at this type of event." Especially, he said, since Service CU is planning on holding an auto tent sale soon, "so the NADA show gave us an immediate reason to follow up with them when I got back. With the car buying season here coming up from April to June, it's important that we increase our relationships with the dealers." Some of Ebaugh's dealers from Michigan were also at the show, and he said "it was a wonderful opportunity for them to see us there on-site participating in the process. "As dealers and credit unions work together, they need to see each other in situations where they can interact, like the NADA show. The dealers see we're there to help facilitate a relationship that allows our member and their customer to achieve a quality product," Ebaugh said. Callahan & Associates President/CEO Chip Filson said if credit unions needed reassurance their presence at the NADA show was noticed, they only had to look at Automotive News on the third day of the event. The newspaper ran a full-age ad on the back cover of its convention daily from Chrysler Financial. The ad showed a tired looking F&I dealer with his head resting on his hand looking frustrated at his situation. The tag line of the ad read: "When your credit union's out of reach?" with the time of Tuesday 12:35 pm prominently displayed. Filson opined that there were four levels of learning for credit unions that attended the show – from other CUs; from dealers; the show floor; and the breakout sessions. Credit unions, for example, who attended the show but which aren't involved in indirect lending, had the chance to network with those CUs that have programs. Attendees also had the opportunity to network with each other on various topics, the most popular of which Filson said was dealer relationship management strategies. Filson described CUs' presence at the NADA show as a "breakout effort" for credit unions in the auto marketplace. CUDL President/CEO Tony Boutelle said the company plans to have an America's Credit Unions booth at the 2005 NADA convention. He's in the process of surveying credit unions that attended this year's event for their feedback on the booth and their suggestions for possible changes. He also has some ideas of his own on what he'd like to do differently, but he said he has absolutely no regrets over how the booth went over this year. -

Continue Reading for Free

Register and gain access to:

  • Breaking credit union news and analysis, on-site and via our newsletters and custom alerts.
  • Weekly Shared Accounts podcast featuring exclusive interviews with industry leaders.
  • Educational webcasts, white papers, and ebooks from industry thought leaders.
  • Critical coverage of the commercial real estate and financial advisory markets on our other ALM sites, and

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.