Harter will succeed Peter Kidd, who will retire in the spring after 17 years with Fifth Third.
Harter worked at Fifth Third from 2004 to 2010 in areas including business banking and dealer services.
"I am pleased that Craig is returning to Fifth Third to lead our automotive division," Fifth Third Bank consumer banking head Howard Hammond said in a statement Monday. "His extensive background in banking and auto will be a huge asset for us and I look forward to seeing him continue to grow that area of the business."
Though Fifth Third's retail banking operations span just 11 states, the company is among the nation's largest indirect auto lenders and works with dealerships in more than 40 states.
Harter has a bachelor of science degree in business management and more than 30 years of experience in banking and automotive lending, according to Fifth Third. His career also includes time at Bank One and RBS Citizens, and he serves on the TransUnion Auto Advisory board.