One man's revered tradition is another man's rut.

A prime example is the time-honored credit union tradition of the summer auto loan promotion.

Certainly, it is one that had a lot of solid rationales behind it. Unless you live in Florida, who wants to trudge to a bunch of different auto dealerships in the dead of winter? And American's love affair with their cars is one that includes the joy of the road trip, also typically a rite of summer, when school is out and a road unsullied by snow calls one's name.

But cars die in fall, winter and spring, too, and consumers are doing more of the initial car-buying legwork—and sometimes even making the purchase—online instead of having to "trudge" anywhere.

Where once there may well have been a reason for the car-buying season, today, not so much.

And yet, when am I most likely to see an auto loan promotion from a credit union? Ah, summer.

In this week's special report on auto loans, a number of experts suggest this time-honored tradition has, in fact, become time-worn.

To win this key, bread-and-butter business, credit unions will have to get increasingly creative and stop locking themselves into seasonal assumptions.

It's entirely too easy to fall prey to "conventional wisdom." For one thing, it usually gets to be "conventional" because it appears to be logical, and "wisdom," is, of course, supposedly smart.

But even the wisest of men can get lost, particularly if they're not using a map, or the map they're using is outdated.

When Credit Union Journal asked CU Direct to put together some historical trend data on auto sales, the number of sales during warmer seasons was stronger than in cooler seasons—but the difference was only 3% to 5%.

Digging deeper, three of the top four months for car sales were not during summer: March, May and December.

As credit unions head into yet another rite of summer—strategic planning season—it might be time to recognize a potential rut.

Learn more about how and why credit unions can't afford to continue in this fashion here.

Editor in Chief Lisa Freeman can be reached at