What do car dealers think about outside lenders?

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A Citizens Financial Group subsidiary came out on top in a J.D. Power ranking of car dealers' satisfaction with noncaptive auto lenders. However, noncaptive lenders as a whole — primarily banks and credit unions — still lagged other categories of vehicle lenders, the research firm found.

Citizens One Auto Finance received a score of 935 out of 1,000. It was followed by TD Auto Finance, which scored 927, and Ally Financial, which scored 899.

Car shoppers can now apply for credit online before visiting a dealership, so dealers value quick and accurate communications with lenders and fast closing of contracts.

The dealer-lender relationship "becomes more important as vehicle sales slow and more buyers may seek to secure financing outside of the dealership,” Jim Houston, senior director of automotive finance intelligence at J.D. Power, said in a recent news release.

“Credit analysts and sales personnel perform some of the most important functions for dealers looking to match customers' purchase with the right financial transaction," Houston said. "When these teams are available, knowledgeable and empowered, they improve dealer satisfaction and enhance the lender’s value proposition.”

On the whole, dealers were the happiest with floor plan lenders, which received an average score of 948, compared with 871 for captive mass-market lenders and 840 for noncaptive lenders. Floor plan lenders, which include some banks, help dealers buy cars to sell to shoppers. Captive lenders refer to in-house arms of the auto companies, and noncaptive lenders are made up mostly of banks and credit unions. Captive and noncaptive lenders finance retail purchases.

Audi Financial Services and Volkswagen Credit each scored 993 among floor plan lenders, followed by TD Auto Finance with a score of 983. Among captive lenders, Volkswagen Credit scored 961, followed by Subaru Motors Finance with a score of 940.

The study was fielded in April and May this year and was based on evaluations by dealership personnel of 16,870 retail credit and 2,117 floor plan providers. The survey gauged factors like providers’ offerings and application and approval process.

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