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NEW ORLEANS – Outside around the Big Easy, Mardi Gras revelers were enjoying the parades and festivities, but inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center credit unions were making their own value statement at the National Automobile Dealers Association’s 2005 annual conference. The four-day event Jan. 29-Feb. 1 drew more than an estimated 28,000 attendees including more than 600 exhibitors spread out over more than 353,000-square feet of floor space, and among them was the two-story, 30 X 40 feet America’s Credit Unions booth organized by Credit Union Direct Lending. It was the second year credit unions had a presence at the premier annual event for U.S. automotive dealers. The user-friendly booth was specially designed to include features that allowed CUs ample space to have face-to-face meetings with dealers. Last year CUDL President/CEO Tony Boutelle called credit unions’ participation in the NADA Convention “a learning experience.” He explained that, “It was such a new thing just being at the NADA Convention last year, dealers and industry participants looked at us more as a curiosity. Now they see us more as a serious player in auto financing, and the dealers are interested more now in learning how they can do business with credit unions,” he says. CUDL SVP Jerry Neemann agrees that, “Dealers are definitely aware of credit unions’ value proposition. In fact, many dealers and representatives of their state councils came by the (America’s Credit Unions) booth to find out when CUDL was going to be active in their state.” Credit unions currently hold a 17% share of the auto financing market. CUDL reinforced its message by giving away CUDL “Car Loan Cub” stuffed bears to dealers who visited the booth. The bear was dressed in a t-shirt that displayed the CUDL name on the front and America’s Credit Unions on the back. In addition to wanting to reinforce the statement for dealers that credit unions are serious about being partners with them, Boutelle also wanted to be sure credit union attendees had time to attend the various educational sessions that were held during the conference and to hear about auto lending issues from the dealer perspective. So the America’s Credit Unions booth was manned by CUDL staff which freed up CUs to visit with other exhibitors and attend educational sessions. On Sunday night, Jan. 30, CUDL hosted a VIP riverboat party which more than 230 credit union representatives and dealers enjoyed. To cap off the four-day event, CUDL raffled off a trip to the Master’s golf tournament (last year they raffled off a 2004 Harley Davidson Fat BoyT.) This year’s grand prize winner was Edward Carroll Jr. from Fred Anderson Toyota in Raleigh, N.C. Boutelle said CUDL is committed to continuing to have a booth at the NADA annual convention. He said the indirect lending CUSO is even considering buying the booth it currently leases. -

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