The GrooveCar Direct program is an effective way to reach members during the auto shopping phase, and appeal to them as a guide throughout the entire process before they even reach the dealership. However, it would be wise not to completely ignore the credit union's relationship with local dealers, who play a crucial role in the auto loan process.

Credit unions can benefit from a strong relationship with auto dealers, even if they do not have an indirect lending program. This can be done in several ways, all of which together create a mutually profitable situation for both parties.

1: Meet with the Finance Managers of dealerships.

Schedule meetings with the finance managers of local dealerships. These meetings could be formal in-office meetings or informal sit-downs at a coffee shop. Once the alliance is established, the credit union can reinforce successful partnerships by maintaining a reasonably quick response time and fair rates for funding. Being straightforward and ethical never fails to help establish trust either. Of course, the credit union must maintain contact and sustain the relationship.

In addition, lenders should focus on building relationships not just with the finance and insurance manager, but also with staff throughout the entire dealership. If the credit union is only focusing its relationship building efforts on one person, opportunities will surely be missed.

2: Help educate dealers about new regulations.

With the constant regulatory and compliance changes within the auto lending sector, lenders should ensure that their portfolios meet Consumer Fair Lending criteria. Lenders who go above and beyond to educate dealers about updates through on-site workshops, regular email communications or some other means are always appreciated.

3: Be generous with gifts.

Lenders who make initial contact with a dealership should leave some promotional gifts behind; a branded coffee mug, screen cleaner, breath mints or hand sanitizer, for example. This puts that financial institution in the dealership’s line of sight every day. If they see it on their desk every day, they may be more likely to call and use the credit union’s services in the future.


To truly develop a reciprocal beneficial dealer-institution relationship, it is most important to remain engaged with the dealers. Using these methods, a credit union can build great rapport with dealership staff. Having credit union representatives show their face to the dealers they serve will build strong bonds and help members get exactly what they need.

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