SAN FRANCISCO AND FORTWORTH, Texas — Ally’s reaction to General Motors internalizing its leasing program came up at the end of GM Financial’s fourth quarter 2014 earnings call. Daniel Berce, the captive’s president and CEO, said the decision shouldn’t have surprised executives with GM’s former captive finance arm.
“That’s about increasing customer loyalty,” Berce said of GM’s decision. “Lease is a very important product from a loyalty standpoint, and having that customer data and relationship in-house and within control of the GM umbrella was extremely important. Taking that profitability in-house was another factor to consider.
“I don’t think bringing it in-house should be a surprise if you look at our ramp of penetration through 2014,” he added, noting that the firm started out the year with about a 15% share in GM leases. It finished 2014 with just less than a 50% share of the OEM’s lease business.
GM Financial doubled its lease origination volume from a year ago to $7 billion. For the December quarter alone, lease origination volume totaled $2.1 billion.
GM’s decision to end its leasing relationship with Ally Financial and U.S. Bank was announced shortly after the end of last quarter, with GM Financial officially becoming the OEM’s exclusive subvented lease provider for Buick-GMC on Feb. 3.
“Cadillac will follow closely after that [in March], then Chevy,” Kyle Birch, executive vice president and COO of North America, to F&I and Showroom at last month’s 2015 National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention & Expo in San Francisco. “By mid-year, we’ll have full lease exclusivity with all GM brands.”
Birch noted that GM Financial spent a lot of time and investment last year bringing its systems online in anticipation of the November 2014 rollout of its prime APR product. The company also rolled out last May a floorplan financing product; Berce noting during the company’s investor call that he has “pretty modest aspirations” for the product in terms of market share.
“We don’t have any plans at this point to supplant other providers,” he said.
But developing score cards and adding auto decisioning systems for its prime business weren’t the only infrastructure investments the company made last year. Under the direction of Will Stacy, senior vice president of digital and technology services, GM Financial is also working on systems that will drive a better connection between customers, GM and the OEM’s dealers.
“We’re trying to build integration tools with GM so you can apply for credit in an easier way through their sites and through their dealer’s sites,” Stacy told F&I and Showroom at the NADA’s annual convention. “So the idea would be, we’d offer an application or widget that goes on dealership sites so you can apply for a GM Financial loan through one of those 4,200 websites that GM and Cobalt host for their dealers, as well as a beefed up the customer experience for current and future customers with native applications on iPhones, Androids and customer portals.”
The goal, Birch added, is to create touchpoints that will allow customers to interact with the captive finance company however they want, whether through its chat features on the captive’s website, self-service portals or mobile connectivity. “We want to make sure when we have a customer on the books that we’re touching them at the right time to drive them back to the dealers,” Birch explained.
The investments made in the company’s infrastructure were partly responsible for the decrease in pre-tax earnings in the December quarter, which fell from $225 million in the year-ago quarter to $120 million, Birch noted. The company’s acquisition of Ally Financial’s international operations was another factor.
Full-year earnings for the captive were $537 million, down from $556 million in 2013. For the December quarter, the company posted earnings of $59 million, down from $121 million in the year-ago quarter.
Full-year consumer loan and lease originations totaled $21.4 billion, $6 billion for the December quarter alone. Prime originations for GM vehicles totaled $493 million for the year. Outstanding balances of consumer finance receivables totaled $25.7 billion for the year.
The company also added 81 dealers to its commercial lending business, bringing the captive’s total dealer count to 487.
Birch also noted stable credit metrics, with consumer finance receivables 31 to 60 days delinquent accounting for 4.2% of the captive’s portfolio as of Dec. 31, 2014. Accounts more than 60 days delinquent were 1.7%.
Annualized net losses were 2.2% of average consumer finance receivables for the December quarter, up from $2.1% one year ago. For the year, consumer net losses were 1.9%.
GM Financial also reported having total available liquidity of $9.3 billion as of Dec. 31, 2014. That total consisted of $3 billion of unrestricted cash, $4.8 billion of borrowing capacity on unpledged eligible assets, and $0.5 billion of borrowing capacity on unsecured lines of credit and $1 billion of borrowing capacity on a junior subordinate revolving credit facility from GM.
“2014 was a good year for our company,” Birch said at the NADA convention. “Every quarter we had improvement in volume and credit losses. The biggest thing for us in 2014 is we spent a lot of time and investment on bringing all of our systems together, understanding that we were going to get in the prime business from an APR perspective.”
Asked if the company would venture into F&I products for GM, Birch said, “We’re not doing that right now. The products out there right now are GM-based and -backed. We helped in some of the rollout of those products. Now that’s being handled internally by GM. We would expect at some point in our future, and I can’t tell you when, but there’s a natural evolution for those types of products to come back to the finance company.”