In the face of the credit crunch caused by the mortgage industry, the finance companies faired very well this year in the eyes of the dealers and achieved some of the highest scores. All categories, other than subprime, saw large increases in group averages. While subprime did see a very modest overall increase, it is important to note that the DCA voting closed just before many of the finance companies started making cutbacks in originations and support personnel. If the survey was held today, there might be some very different sentiments here.
Returning as a four-time Diamond Award winner, by the tiniest of margins but with the highest score of any company in this year’s awards (133.1), was Toyota Motor Credit.
American Honda Finance Corporation, who was barely edged out by less than one-tenth of a point, took the Platinum Award for the second year in a row. Making it a sweep for the imports, Nissan Motor Acceptance at 120.9 points claimed the Gold Award.
The number of write-in votes in this category declined this year. Those that were written in scored very high but failed to garner enough votes to qualify in the final rankings. This category included the most companies to rate above the category group average with eight finance sources making the cut.
This year’s Diamond Award winner (123.3), JP Morgan Chase, has been a favorite every year, but had never earned the top spot in this category until now.
Efficiency, professionalism and quick responses were the qualities cited the most by dealers voting for JP Morgan Chase.
Wells Fargo Auto Finance moved up a spot to claim the Platinum Award with a 122.5. Wachovia, a finance company that has never placed during the last four years, was squeezed out by less than one-tenth of a point to become the Gold Award winner. Five additional finance sources with outstanding products and service also rated above group average. They were, respectively, Citi Financial, Citizens, Capital One, Bank of America and Fifth Third Bank.
Dealers claim that Toyota is very effective in their advertising of their lease programs and have excellent customer service.
The Platinum Award went to American Honda Finance Corporation, scoring 130.3. As with the Captive Finance category, it became a sweep for the imports as Nissan Motor Acceptance retained their Gold Award for the second year in a row by the narrowest of margins over GMAC, who took 4th and was the only other leasing finance source to place.
This sector of the market sees more fluidity by the prominent players than any other category of the awards. The term “zero to hero” is often heard from the dealer body, and sometimes the opposite as well.
Wells Fargo Auto Finance took their second 2008 Dealers’ Choice Award with the Diamond Award (118.2) in the subprime category. It is a rare occurrence for a company to be ranked in the top two of both the prime and subprime finance categories, indicating that perhaps full-spectrum financing has finally arrived. This is Wells Fargo Auto Finance’s first Diamond Award in this category; previously they had only managed to rise to 4th.
Dealers responded by stating that Wells Fargo’s flexibility, advance structure and the terms available are what sets them apart. The fact that they give plenty of room for back-end products doesn’t hurt any, either.