NEW YORK — A key financing partnership for Ally Financial Inc. could be at risk as part of Chrysler Group LLC's review of its lending programs.
Ally, which is owned by the U.S. government, is the preferred lender for Chrysler's dealer inventory and has an exclusive arrangement to provide a portion of its customer financing as well.
Chrysler is reviewing its financing arrangements as part of a plan to increase sales this year, said Gualberto Ranieri, a spokesman for the Auburn Hills, Mich., auto maker.
"Chrysler is talking to a number of financial institutions," Ranieri said. He declined to name specific banks or say whether Chrysler is looking to replace or split up its preferred arrangement with Ally.
A spokeswoman for Ally declined to say whether Chrysler has notified it of changes it plans to make to its existing agreement.
"We have had a very constructive relatonship with Chrysler and its dealers since 2009 and are focused on continuing to support the dealer community and auto industry as a leading finance provider," the spokeswoman said in an email.
Chrysler is talking to several banks, including Wells Fargo & Co., Santander Holdings USA Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., about potential partnerships, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Chrysler also was exploring forming a new financing joint venture with several banks, including Ally.
Representatives for JPMorgan and Wells Fargo declined to comment Wednesday. A representative of Santander didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne told Bloomberg that the company hasn't determined whether it would work with more than one party but has received "a number of expressions of interest from financial institutions."
Ally, formerly owned by General Motors Co., has an agreement with Chrysler that extends through April 30, 2013, to provide "wholesale financing" to the auto maker's dealers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and other regions to buy inventory, according to the lender's regulatory filings.
Chrysler also is required to reserve for Ally a certain portion of incentivized financing, which typically carries lower rates for borrowers, to car buyers.
The deal has automatic one-year renewals "unless either we or Chrysler provides sufficient notice of non-renewal," Ally said in its annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday. If Chrysler tells Ally of plans not to renew their deal by April 30 of this year, the agreement would end April 30, 2013, the filing said.
The volume of auto loans Ally made under incentive programs through its preferred partners has shrunk in recent years, but still accounted for 36% of its new loans and leases in North America in 2011.
Incentivized loans through Chrysler accounted for 6% of Ally's consumer originations in the fourth quarter.
Ally financed 29% of Chrysler's North American retail sales, including leases, in 2011, its filing said. It financed 38% of retail sales for GM, also a preferred partner of Ally. Not all of that volume was the result of its preferred relationships.