JIM HENRY

Auto lenders cite discipline with U.S. sales booming

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.

SAN FRANCISCO -- “Discipline” was the watchword for auto lenders in panel discussions and interviews in and around the National Automobile Dealers Association convention here last week.

Thasunda Duckett, CEO of Chase Auto Finance, repeatedly cited “prudence and discipline” in prepared remarks at a J.D. Power panel and in an interview afterward.

Other competitors hit the same note. “The industry does seem to be showing some discipline,” said Dan Chait, president of World Omni Financial Corp., in a panel discussion at the American Financial Services Association Vehicle Finance Conference here just before the NADA convention.

“There is a lot of rationality,” said Jason Kulas, CFO for Santander Consumer USA in the same panel. “The competition seems rational; performance seems stable.”

Those assessments are pretty boring considering the party going on in sales. Just about everybody expects U.S. auto sales to approach or even exceed 17 million light vehicles this year. The last time U.S. sales broke 17 million was in 2001, when 17,177,789 units were sold. The all-time sales record was 17,402,486 in 2000.

Unlike then, though, dealerships better not count on auto lenders making exceptions to their own rules to capture volume just for the sake of capturing volume. That point in the business cycle will come, but maybe not in 2015.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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