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Detroit News

Credit unions closed about 25,000 vehicle sales for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC in less than a month through their "Invest in America" campaign.
The campaign with GM and Chrysler is proving successful since its nationwide launch Jan. 7, said David Adams, president of CUcorp, the marketing company for about 7,800 credit unions across the country.

The program made $80 billion available in low-cost auto loans to new and current credit union members, on top of discounts on new vehicles. The program was created in part to address consumer difficulties getting loans from the finance arms of GM and Chrysler.

Adams said of the 25,000 GM and Chrysler vehicles consumers bought through the credit union program, 90 percent were financed with credit union loans (the rest took advantage of the program's discounts but were financed by a third party). It amounted to a $12.5 billion sales boost for the two automakers of which $10 billion was financed through credit unions, he said.

He could not say how many of them were incremental sales. Nor could Anant Kamat, Chrysler senior manager of U.S. retail incentives. But Chrysler is pleased with the program's early results and the ability to give consumers an option "to get affordable rates to purchase a car," Kamat said.

Jim Press, Chrysler vice chairman, said Monday that 90 percent of customers need credit and sales have been directly impeded by their inability to get it.

"Invest in America" began in December as a pilot program with GM in four states, offering loans with about 4.5 percent off the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Shortly after, a separate contract was reached with Chrysler and the two took the offers nationwide this month.

Adams said there has been interest from Ford Motor Co. but nothing has been settled. Ford's wholly owned captive finance arm Ford Motor Credit Co. may not be as interested in offering third-party financing, he said.

Based on early results, the program could finance as many as 1 million sales and the six-month contracts with the automakers could be extended, Adams said.

Credit unions normally do about 1.5 million vehicle loans a year.

Their share of the auto lending business increased to 21 percent in December from 14 percent in March, Adams said. "And market share continues to build."
He said about 1,000 credit unions are actively promoting the program in
these early weeks, with more joining daily.
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