WASHINGTON - Since the start of the decline in the economy, auto lending has been an area where credit unions have managed to see substantial growth.

According to data from Callahan and Associates, credit union market share has stayed around 20% since 2008. Prior to 2008, the average credit union auto market share was 13 percent. Over the past year, credit unions financed one in every five vehicle loans.

With high unemployment levels continuing through 2009, delinquency rates continued to climb through the third quarter of 2009. For all U.S. credit unions third-quarter delinquency rates were 1.69 percent, up from 1.59 percent in the second quarter. The total amount in repossessed autos for all U.S. credit unions also rose in the third quarter to $296.7 million from $289.5 million in the second quarter.

Roy Adams, creator of the Web site, www.repofinder.com, said that he has seen good and bad practices when it comes to selling repossessed vehicles.

Adams created the Web site as a free resource to credit unions and consumers. The site operates as a Yellow Page directory for credit union and small bank repossessions. Adams started the site as a hobby and spends his time searching the Internet for links to credit union’s that have repossessions for sale on their Web sites.

“Having a picture posted with the listing is a good thing,” Adams said. “Some credit unions I’ve seen have the link to the site that lists their vehicles at the very bottom of the page. If it’s hard for me to you find, then you know it’s also hard for members to find.”

Unlike other sites showcasing repossessed vehicles, Adams said that he doesn’t try to create a uniform way for credit unions to market and showcase their vehicles; he simply posts the links to direct consumers to credit union Web sites.

Adams allows credit unions to update their links on their own by filling out a form on the his site.

“It’s a hub for all credit union repossessions. There’s no shortage of people looking for deals right now. People want to go to credit unions to buy these cars because they trust credit unions,” Adams added.

Nick Connors, senior industry analyst at Callahan and Associates, said that with repossession numbers climbing, credit unions are looking to expand their remarketing and get more creative with the way they look to unload repossessed vehicles. He added that he has recently seen credit unions get more active in online remarketing.

“Members are more willing to go through the process and look through different vehicles in the comfort of their own home. They can pick out one or two that they like and then go look at the vehicle in person,” Connors said.

Adams agreed that the online space is going to continue to play a bigger role in credit union remarketing over the next year.

“Online is the smarter way to do it. Credit unions can make more money. At an auction you’re not going to get top dollar,” Adams said.

He added that there is not a lot of marketing involved in the process. Just having a visible section to the Web site for remarketing will bring in hits. Some frustration, Adams said, that credit unions have with remarketing is that they don’t want to dedicate an employee to it.

Like any Web site though, the vehicle site has to be updated and maintained regularly, and Connors said he has seen more credit unions becoming active in this process.

Another thing credit unions should be prepared for this year, besides finding new ways to sell repossessions, is competition re-entering the marketplace.

Connors said that Callahan has seen competition return to auto lending over the past few months, with news that the economy is picking up.

“This is something credit unions are going to have to deal with over the next year. They’re going to have to fight a lot harder to maintain these high market share numbers.”

Corbett noted that the Attorney General's Office has so far received more than 160 complaints from consumers throughout Pennsylvania, along with motorists in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Eagle Warranty claims to have approximately 65,000 customers across the United States.