COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.-Don't just send the coffee mugs to the F & I team, get out of the office to solidify relationships with auto dealerships being swayed by an increasing number of captive and bank offers.

Several sources urged credit unions to become more visible with dealers to battle a trend that could eventually eat into the indirect pipeline. Bill Vogeney, EVP/chief lending officer at the $3.6-billion ENT FCU, said this is particularly important as the economy improves, despite the "equity" credit unions built up during the recession by trying to help car sales and being consistent lenders. "When times are good, auto finance managers really don't care. It's all about 'how many deals can I get approved and how much can I make on this deal.' Credit unions might have the toughest time right now for auto loans. Any equity we built up with the dealers seems to have dissipated as market conditions are improving and credit standards are dropping. Loyalty doesn't mean as much when the dealer has more choices to get a deal done."

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