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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — Car dealers and credit unions have come a long way since the days of suspicious feelings surrounding who would ultimately get to close the deal with members.CUDL, which administers a point-of-sale and indirect auto lending network for credit unions, can attest to the affinity that has since developed over the years as the CUSO approaches the sixth year that it has been invited to attend the National Automobile Dealers Association convention Jan. 24-27 in New Orleans. Considered to be the largest gathering of its kind in the country, more than 25,000 attendees flock to the conference each year. CUDL has 696 credit unions and more than 9,500 dealerships in its auto lending network.“Now, more than ever, credit union financing is playing a much bigger role,” said Joe Greenwald, vice president of marketing at CUDL. “[The NADA convention] is a very important conference because it’s a great opportunity to educate [dealers] on the availability of credit union financing in the auto marketplace.”There was a time of contention brought on by credit unions frustrated that they could not provide financing at the point of sale, Greenwald recalled. Other times, dealers would lose the deals because members opted to go directly to the credit union for financing. Eventually, both sides would start working together to create deals to benefit all parties, he added. The relationship has since matured in large part to a credit union presence at the NADA convention.CUDL typically sends 20 of its representatives to the conference. Last year, more than 1,100 attendees visited the CUSO’s two-story booth. Greenwald said NADA is not only an opportunity to connect with established contacts but to work with new partners to come up with new financing solutions. In past years, CUDL has exceeded its projections on the follow-ups it makes after the NADA conference, Greenwald noted.For the 2009 convention, CUDL is taking a back-to- basics approach, reiterating the original message of highlighting the importance of credit union financing.“What’s going on in the economy now has led to up to a great reduction in leasing and other financing sources such as [through] banks and other captive lenders,” Greenwald said. “Credit unions, we believe, are far more responsible in their auto financing. In order to sell cars, dealers obviously need to do financing. Now is a great time for credit unions to participate in the auto lending space.”To that end, CUDL recently partnered with Manheim Automotive Financial Services, a provider of vehicle remarketing services, to offer the MAFS Advantage program. Developed specifically for credit unions, it connects them with 15,000 independent dealers that MAFS serves nationwide. The program provides real-time access to dealers’ financial performance at vehicle auctions and offers services such as inventory financing, wholesalers and rental dealers, insurance services and a receivables funding program. MAFS Advantage already has been rolled out in California, North Carolina, Utah, Washington and Oregon. CUDL said it plans to expand the program through 2009.“We believe that over time, credit unions and dealers have matured,” Greenwald said. “There was a time when there was antagonism for a variety of reasons. I believe we have closed a very significant gap to where many dealers and credit unions have good alliances.”–[email protected]

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