SunTrust is expanding its auto-dealer financing business beyond the U.S. Southeast as vehicle sales rise.

SunTrust will offer wholesale and other banking services to dealers in Chicago, Boston and Dallas, the Atlanta-based firm said today in a statement. The company's lending to auto dealers is up 25 percent from a year earlier, the bank said.

Regional lenders including SunTrust and Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp are relying on gains in auto-lending businesses as revenue from mortgages declines industrywide. Sales of cars and light trucks rose 1.4 percent in May from the previous month, reaching a 16.7 million annualized pace, the highest since February 2007, industry figures show.

"SunTrust has a long history of serving auto dealers and we understand the business," said Beau Cummins, who oversees commercial and business banking.

Wes McKnight, who previously worked for EFG Companies, and Greg Buell, formerly of Ally Financial Inc., will run the Dallas-based finance team, according to the statement. Scott Worthing will head the Chicago operations and Michael Walsh will oversee the Boston team, the firm said. Both Worthing and Walsh previously worked for M&T Bank Corp.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, the firm's corporate and investment-banking unit, recently expanded to the same three cities, according to the statement.

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