Huntington Bancshares (HBAN) in Columbus, Ohio, has expanded its auto-finance business into its 17th state.

The $56 billion-asset company said Tuesday that it had brought its auto-finance division to Iowa after hiring a team of bankers there. Huntington said it has started processing loan applications and offering financing through more than 300 dealers in Iowa.

The company "continues to expand its auto finance business in key states and is pleased to welcome dealerships in Iowa as our new valued customers," Rich Porrello, director of Huntington Automobile Finance, said in a press release. "We look forward to building strong relationships with these Iowa automobile dealerships and believe they will want to be affiliated with a bank that offers consistent underwriting, rapid funding and superior customer service.

Huntington is among the top auto lenders among regional banks, doing business primarily throughout the Midwest and New England. Ally Financial in Detroit, Wells Fargo (WFC) and JPMorgan (JPM) are among the largest auto lenders among national banks.

Banks have been facing more competition in auto lending as specialty-finance companies, many of which reduced their lending during the recession and its aftermath, have returned to the business. Consumer demand, however, has picked up, and new car sales this year are on track to reach the highest level since 2007, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

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