Even though I've been steeped in retail automotive recently, I haven't taken my eye off my other love...credit unions.
For the last year I've been working in a very innovative customer care unit for Houston based Group 1 Automotive, an International Fortune 500 Automotive Retailer with 151 dealerships worldwide(3rd largest in US). I've spent time seesawing betweem CUs and retail automotive for the last 15 years - even sold Volvos for a year for my present boss at Group 1.
My first awareness of credit unions came when I was hired to support the preferred dealer program for Credit Union Acceptance Corporation, a Houston based indirect lending CUSO.
Back then, in 2004, credit unions and car dealers, for the most part, were very strange bedfellows - seemingly working together to facilitate a smooth transaction for the credit union member, but harboring a deep resentment for each other.
But then came the recession, and for the first time ever, credit unions and dealers mostly came together. They had to...they needed each other, because it was a different lending environment.
Many might say that we are returning to the same advsarial environment, but I don't think so. Maybe the recession prompted a realization that the two could work together.
While I have seen no hard research that proports that, I believe we can point to some interesting anecdotal examples.
1. The largest auto retailer in the US, AutoNation, has been working very closely with credit unions for several years now. In fact, a pioneer in auto lending for credit unions, Ron Frey, is now Chief Strategy Officer for AutoNation.
2. The one and only automotive trade publication, Automotive News, seems to be endorsing a "get along" strategy in a recent series of articles. Take a look and see if you don't agree, none of them negative to credit unions...10/17/12 Can't beat the credit unions? Join 'em 3/20/13 Dealers and credit union: Strife or synergy? 12/26/13 FandI managers, credit unions make sense 3/14/14 Credit unions 36% auto share is significant
In fact, for the first time that we know of, Automotive News is staging a webinar this month in direct support of CUs and dealers working together. It's called Building a Profitable Relationship With Your Local Credit Union. And it includes a couple of FandI directors and CUDLs Marci Francisco.
Maybe we've reached a point where CUs and dealers can work together to provide win-win-wins for themselves and the member.