Nissan captive, other lenders step up after Sandy

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

Based on an unscientific round of calls, F&I managers at Nissan and Infiniti dealerships may have the best post-Hurricane Sandy finance offer: Current customers whose cars were totaled are eligible for employee pricing on new vehicles on top of existing factory incentives.

Granted, it's a little soon to think about turning destruction into commercial advantage. And no doubt, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. and other lenders are moved by civic duty as well as business.

Still, Nissan's post-storm offer is eye-catching. Many other auto lenders, including several banks, mostly responded to the storm by waiving late fees for payments from customers in the damaged areas.

Dale Walker, director of consumer services and privacy for Nissan Motor Acceptance, said earlier this week that the captive learned through experience what disaster-struck customers need following hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and many other, smaller-scale calamities.

"This is not our first sort of event like this," Walker said by phone. "We try to be good corporate citizens."

Another offer came from Ford, a $500 cash incentive for storm victims. In addition, Ford Motor Credit Co. will allow qualified customers to delay one or two monthly payments.

Toyota Financial Services donated $1 million to the American Red Cross on top of offering a 90-day, deferred-first-payment option on replacement vehicles for customers in 13 states and the District of Columbia, designated disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ally Financial Inc. announced today that through Jan. 2, 2013, it will allow customers in areas affected by the hurricane to defer their first payment on a new-vehicle loan up to 90 days. The offer applies to all General Motors and Chrysler Group vehicles, including Fiats. That's in addition to a separate offer from GM and Chrysler of a $500 cash incentive for the same affected areas.

Sure, the finance offers are good for business, but customers -- and dealers -- probably appreciate the gesture, too.

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