The credit unions just supply the funds for the leases, then CU Xpress and its partner, Fusion Auto Finance of Hurst, Texas, develop and manage the lease programs. Jacobson, a former car dealer, says he partnered with Fusion because it has experience.
"We can get the cars on the road, but we needed someone who could service the lease and dispose of the car at the end of the lease at the highest value," he said. "Fusion has specialized expertise."
CU Xpress Lease also insures the leases against losses that occur if it overestimates the residual value, the vehicle's value at the end of the lease. Lessors can lose thousands of dollars at auction if the residual value is set too high.
The company maintains a 50,000-square-foot building to resell off-lease vehicles to wholesalers and in June began retailing off-lease vehicles over the Internet.
"We're seeing better prices than you can get at auction," Jacobson said.
Between CU Xpress Lease and GMAC Financial Services -- now the preferred lender for Chrysler Group dealers -- Westbury Jeep-Chrysler-Dodge is amply supplied with lease programs, says General Manager Donnelly.
And even after Chrysler Financial bowed out, his business was humming along.
When leasing plunged in 2008, his store's volume dipped to 2,400 from 2,800 in 2007. But in 2009, volume went back up to 2,700 new units, Donnelly said.
Leasing is currently 25 to 30 percent of Westbury's volume, Donnelly said. But he says that before the credit crisis, lease volume was artificially high because of incentives. Cutbacks during the credit squeeze brought the market to a more realistic equilibrium, he said.
During that rocky period, credit unions came to his rescue.
"They had plenty of money to lend. We could lease, we had balloon notes, though there were no banks out there lending," Donnelly said. "The credit unions came to us with open arms."