Wells Fargo looks to expand tie with GM dealers
Wells Fargo, already the perennial No. 1 in used-vehicle lending, is gradually growing its new-vehicle business, says Dawn Martin Harp, president of Wells Fargo Dealer Services. And that's bringing more dealers into the company's fold.
Last year Wells Fargo signed deals with General Motors -- which began offering some new-car loan incentives through the lender as it phases out its preferred lender relationship with Ally Financial -- and with Tesla.
Wells Fargo was the No. 2 auto lender overall in the fourth quarter last year, behind Ally, according to Experian Automotive. For the quarter, Wells Fargo ranked first in used-vehicle loans and ninth in new-car loans.
Harp spoke with Special Correspondent Jim Henry last month at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando.
2012 was so good, some lenders worry business can only go downhill. What's your outlook for 2013?
2012 was a very good year for us and we are looking for a great year in 2013.
How is business with GM? Are you looking for more automaker relationships?
The GM relationship is going strong. We are absolutely open to other relationships. For instance, in 2012 we signed up with Tesla.
Are you signing a lot of dealers?
We have continuing relationships with dealers, and clearly we have also expanded. About 1,600 new dealers came as part of the GM relationship, and we are enjoying deepening our relationships with them to handle their other products.
So the relationship with dealers isn't limited to incentives?
We are not limited to going after just the subvented business. … We are absolutely exploring other business with them, commercial and indirect lending.
Is it oversimplified to say you're more interested in new vehicles right now? Your reputation is for used cars.
We love used. But, yes, we're doing a lot more new.
How many offices do you have?
We have 53, soon to be 54 branches.
When you say "branch," do you mean literally inside a branch bank?
Some are. Some are in the same building as a branch bank, but they're a completely separate business. But a majority of those are bricks and mortar.
Does your background in data and analysis help you now?
Absolutely. For instance, there is a tremendous amount of analysis going on around Gen Y, the Millennials -- looking at every channel with regards to what they want.