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Last August, Cornerstone Community Financial started offering Auto Financial Group’s driving sense product to provide members with financing options as the Big Three auto makers announced lease program terminations.The program helped provide a lifeline to the Auburn Hills, Mich., credit union’s auto lending. The driving sense program allowed the credit union to end up with $22. 7 million in new vehicle auto loans at year-end 2008, an 80.2% growth over 2007. Without the program the credit union said they would have had $10.9 million in new auto loans, a 13.1% decline over 2007.“We have never seen a better time for the driving sense product since the inception of AFG’s business in 1999,” said President Richard Epley. “It is a product that provides dealerships with a valuable financing option to keep customers coming in, credit union members with lower payments and credit unions with a higher yielding loan-a combination of features that is simply unmatched in the current marketplace.”Driving sense allows credit unions to offer lease-like benefits of a balloon loan and to build a vehicle for their members, compare payment terms with conventional loans, offer members lower payments and flexible two- to six-year terms and actual ownership of the vehicle and several end-of-term options.During the months of August and September 2008, Cornerstone closed 52 new vehicle loans with the driving sense program, which brought in approximately $1.1 million in auto loans to the credit union. The fourth-quarter total, plus August and September of new vehicle loans equaled $11.7 million, which meant that 51.8% of the credit unions year-end total of new vehicle loans of $22.7 million was totaled in the last five months of the year.In terms of the paper that is coming in on the loans, 42% of the credit unions indirect loans were A+ (730 and higher credit score), 20% were A (a credit score between 680-729), 17% were B (a credit score of 640-679) and 21% were C or lower in paper. The loans that were C or lower were originated prior to implementing driving sense. The credit union does not go below B paper on the driving sense loans.“We are seeing excellent paper since we implemented this program, and I would feel safe saying that 92% of our paper on the driving sense product is A+,” said Mary Pittenger, vice president of lending at Cornerstone.–[email protected]

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