A year after adding wholesale floorplan financial services to its retail lending portfolio in the RV industry, Ally Financial Inc.’s dedicated sales force — for the second year in a row — exerted a strong presence at the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
A bank holding company formerly known as GMAC Inc., Ally stepped into the RV market – an arena that some lenders had fled as the global economy sputtered – in June of 2010, convinced that the RV industry was underserved and that its clientele of lifestyle-oriented enthusiasts would yield consistent business growth as a niche business for years to come.
Now, the senior management of Ally — the world’s largest auto lender – reports that the Detroit-based firm has made appreciable inroads in the RV arena as it strives to position itself as a full-service company that works to “partner” with dealers and advise them in both good times and bad.
“We are a full spectrum lender — wholesale, retail, cap loans, mortgages,” says Mark Manzo, vice president of Alliance Sales. “A lot of lenders out there will do a good job at wholesale. Some will do a good job at retail. But we feel we have a full commitment to service the dealers in the RV industry on all their product segments, plus insurance as well as remarketing services.”
“We think bringing a whole suite of services is where our value proposition really shines,” Tim Russi, executive vice president for North American Operations, told RVBUSINESS.com. “While we launched in June 2010 on the retail side, last year we added our wholesale lending so we could start doing floorplan loans and other financing needs that dealers might have. As we approach the marketplace, we think that high value is added to the dealer. We want to sell as many products as we have available.”
In line with that full-spectrum approach, Ally is placing a special emphasis this winter on three basic services, the first of which is similar to programs Ally has offered before on the automotive side of the business.
“The first message we are pushing strongly right now is ADR – Ally Dealer Rewards — one of the things we launched this year,” says Manzo. “Nobody in the business has it. We launched it Nov. 1. The more business you do with us, the more we share in the rewards. For instance, once a dealer does a million dollars in retail business, we start to give a dividend back and will pay a dividend every month based on the new business. We also give a bigger reward if dealers wholesale with us.”
Ally’s also promoting an “Express” program, enabling dealers to send in an application from qualified buyers — mainly upper-prime buyers – without having to call in ahead of time for amounts of up to $125,000, and it can be used for product back to 2007. “Basically,” says Manzo, “what they do is check a list, meet the qualifications and send it in. We also give a rate discount off our standard rates for that.”
Another top-of-mind program for Ally is its “SmartAuction” online auction service, a dealer-exclusive wholesale online auction site.
“Nobody else in the industry has a focus on remarketing opportunities or alternative ways to handle used product like our online auction, where dealers can buy and sell used RVs,” explains Manzo. “They can also take a customer’s RV on consignment, put it on the SmartAuction and they don’t have to have it sitting on their lot.
“It’s pretty new to the industry,” he added. “Our biggest challenge is getting inventory on it. We are going to concentrate on helping dealers understand what it’s all about, and we are going to have a special promotion between now and March — no buy fee, no sell fee — so dealers can basically use SmartAuction for free.”
SmartAuction, Russi maintains, has the potential of increasing turns for many dealers. “If you (a dealer) make a mistake, you don’t have to live with it until someone walks onto your lot,” noted Russi. “You can get product to another dealer who may have a better opportunity to sell that individual piece.”
Contributing to the unique nature of SmartAuction, they add, is its dealer-only format and the ability for a retailer to flag – and be alerted about — specific types of units.
“The other thing that makes it unique is arbitration,” says Russi. “Often times with auction sites, especially online, if there’s a problem, dealers have to work it out with the buyer or the seller, depending on their position. We get in the middle and we handle that. Once they buy, they don’t have to negotiate. If there’s a problem, we get in and handle it and try to make it as hassle-free as possible.”