Nissan Motor Co.'s finance unit is arming itself with some of the same technology used by leading bank auto lenders.

Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. plans to pilot test the Credit Connection service from Credit Management Solutions Inc. in the fourth quarter,

Banks including Barnett Banks Inc., NationsBank Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co., already use Credit Connection.

The service lets dealerships get decisions on loan applications in under a minute; Nissan Motor Acceptance's current fax-based system usually takes 10 minutes to an hour.

Nissan Motor Acceptance said it thinks the new system will help it compete for loan business.

The company already finances about half of the 720,000 cars Nissan Motor Co. sells each year through its 1,100 dealerships.

In recent years, banks have been in a see-saw battle with nonbanks like Nissan's, according to data from the Consumer Bankers Association.

In 1995 banks provided about 42.1% of the $354.3 billion in U.S. auto loans.

Nissan Motor Acceptance hopes better application-processing systems will attract dealerships currently doing business with other lenders, including banks.

"Our overall strategy is to offer convenience, flexibility. and timely information," said Bill Bivens, senior vice president.

"This is another enhancement to what we already offer."

A dealership filing a loan application through the Credit Connection system inputs data on-line and transmits it to a credit bureau.

Using the credit bureau report and the application data, Credit Management's host computer in Columbia, Md., makes a decision and notifies the dealership, said Mr. Bivens.

Credit Management Solutions executives said Credit Connection can operate over existing communication lines or the Internet in either a character-based or Windows-based version.

Flexibility is said to be one of the system's major selling points.

Using Credit Connection, "the customer gets a quicker response ... the dealer can improve convenience to the customer, and we can offer an improved service to the dealer," said Steven LaMore, president and chief executive officer of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Barnett Dealer Financial Services Inc., a unit of Barnett Banks Inc.

"It's also less expensive for us if the application is entered at the dealership than at our own facilities," he added.

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