Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chrysler expands lease offers under new pact with U.S. Bank

Chrysler Group has taken another step toward reviving its leasing business by signing an agreement to offer leasing through US Bank. The automaker announced the arrangement in an e-mail to dealers today. Dealers now can offer customers two leasing options: U.S. Bank and Ally Financial.The company is offering leasing only on select models using either finance source: the Chrysler 300 and Town & Country; the Dodge Charger, Grand Caravan, Journey and Nitro, and the Jeep Wrangler and Liberty.

“Starting today, your customers now have a choice of finance sources to lease select vehicles. Special lease rates and residuals are now available through US Bank,” the e-mail said. It is signed by Fred Diaz, Ralph Gilles, Michael Manley and Olivier Francois, CEOs of the Ram, Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler brands, respectively.

“While Ally remains our preferred lender, this new relationship with US Bank will now give your customers a choice in lenders and will continue to allow you to write your leasing deals at the most competitive rates and residuals available in the market today,” the message said.Ally has financed about 50 percent of all Chrysler Group’s retail sales so far this year, according to a company statement. The move comes a month after Ally Bank announced it was opening leasing to a wider range of customers. Ally lowered the FICO score threshold for lease customers to 620 from 660. A 660 score is on the lower end of prime credit, while a 620 score is on the upper end of subprime.Chrysler has gradually been rebuilding its leasing business after it collapsed during the credit crisis of 2008.

In 2006, when Chrysler Financial was still Chrysler’s captive finance company, leases accounted for about 22 percent of the automaker’s new-vehicle sales transactions. After Chrysler Financial left the leasing business in 2008, along with most of Chrysler’s lenders, the percentage of leases plummeted to under 1 percent of all sales by mid-2009. Leasing has slowly come back since then, accounting for between 4 and 6 percent of Chrysler sales now.

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