FCA was operating with Chrysler Capital through a private-label agreement with Santander Consumer USA formed in 2013, while most major competitors have their own captive units. Stellantis has continued the arrangement.
A Stellantis spokesman wrote in an email last week the automaker expected Santander would continue to serve dealers and customers "at the very least through the end of the existing contract with SCUSA." That deal ends April 30, 2023.
"SCUSA has been an important partner to Stellantis, and we are open to a mutually beneficial relationship beyond the term of the existing agreement," the spokesman wrote.
Santander said it was looking forward to "conversations with Stellantis about long-term mutually beneficial opportunities beyond 2023.
"In July, Santander said Chrysler Capital saw a penetration rate of 34 percent in the second quarter, down 3 points from the previous year. It reported $4.6 billion worth of Chrysler Capital loan originations during the second quarter, up 2 percent over the prior year.
Santander has been in competition with rival financiers, which Kelleher said has benefited dealerships.
He believes a potential Stellantis captive unit, "depending on how aggressive they want to get," could end up doing more than half of the automaker's deals.
"I think that the way it was set up at Chrysler Capital and, ultimately, the competition across the market, Ally being the other major player, and then the credit unions, we found ourselves in a very competitive environment that I think served our products well," said Kelleher, who owns David Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Glen Mills, Pa.
Steve Wolf, dealer principal at Helfman Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Houston, said Chrysler Capital has been a worthy partner. But Wolf believes having a captive arm would give Stellantis a lot of flexibility with incentive programs and marketing.
"I think they'll be able to be more competitive in the marketplace, quicker to react to changes," Wolf said.
It appeared FCA was ready to establish a finance operation several years ago.
Just a few weeks before CEO Sergio Marchionne's July 2018 death, he made it known that FCA was looking to launch a captive.
Marchionne said the company would make it happen either by acquisition, or by building a finance company from the ground up. This was expected to happen as early as 2019. Then Marchionne died, and FCA started making headlines on the merger front with Renault and PSA.
The game plan didn't pan out in the FCA era, but Stellantis is close to delivering. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares appeared open to the idea of a U.S. captive during a January interview with Automotive News. He said then that "if sales finance in the U.S. is something that can help to improve the profitable business that we have in the U.S." the company will consider it and "we'll look for a solution, and hopefully, we'll be able to find one."
Mike Koval Jr., Ram brand CEO, said he thinks this is an inflection point for the new company.
"Until now, we were the only major OEM in the U.S. without a captive," Koval said. "And so I think this is an incredibly important development for our company, and I think [it] will allow us to provide an even better experience for our dealer partners as well as our customers [and] will allow us to focus more so on maintaining and growing loyalty."
Jamie Butters and John Huetter contributed to this report.