DETROIT -- Skip Davenport and Dennis Nesselhauf, two dealers on opposite ends of the country, know firsthand what the continued survival of Ford Motor Credit Co. as a captive finance company means.
Davenport, the third generation of his family running D&D Motors in Greer, S.C., praises Ford Credit for continuing to lend to dealers and car buyers even as credit markets seized and the U.S. economy went into free fall in 2008.
That wasn't the case at Ford's domestic rivals. As the recession deepened, GMAC Financial Services and Chrysler Financial pulled back. General Motors, no longer majority owner of GMAC, even began advertising a retail financing promotion with credit unions.
Despite the stability of Ford Credit's relationship with parent Ford Motor Co., it wasn't business as usual for the Blue Oval.
Even as Ford Credit eliminated 20 percent of its U.S. work force, the finance company increased floorplanning with Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealerships and started advertising directly to car shoppers.
For dealers, many of whom were struggling, more help came in the form of dealership reviews offered by Ford Credit. In March, the lender established a dedicated position to handle such reviews, increasing the number of checkups. In some cases, Ford Credit tried to match dealers with another lender if it couldn't fulfill a loan request.
Davenport's D&D Motors accepted the offer to review its balance sheet. As a result of Ford Credit's recommendations, the dealership tightened bookkeeping and put additional operating capital into the store.
"The stability that Ford Credit has provided us through this turn has been huge," Davenport said. "It's so important for the manufacturer to have a captive finance arm."