ONTARIO, Calif. — Credit unions are competing aggressively in the automotive marketplace, financing 25% of all originated auto loans so far this year, according to a recent report from CU Direct (CUDL).

During its recent quarterly auto lending trends webcast, CUDL reported that credit unions are now the third largest lender type, with its share of auto originations reaching 20.1% in February 2015. That’s compared to 18.5% in the same period of 2014.

The indirect channel has been driving much of that growth, with indirect loan amounts in 2014’s fourth quarter up 21.9% from the same period in 2013. Additionally, balances were up 15.8%, or $31.7 billion. The indirect channel also drove an increase in credit union membership, which grew by 3.1 million members over fourth quarter 2013 levels.

The borrowers flocking to credit unions are mirroring those who go to banks — credit union borrowers were 64% prime, 24% nearprime and 13% subprime during 2014’s fourth quarter, compared to 66%, 21%, and 13% for banks and 69%, 18% and 13% for captives, respectively.

CUDL also noted a 1% increase in system-approved applications improved look-to-book ratios by 3% for credit unions in 2014, while the finance sources also realized historically low delinquencies and charge-offs: a 0.74% delinquency rate and a 0.56% charge-off rate in the indirect channel. Credit union 60-day delinquencies also remain the industry’s lowest — 0.37% in 2014’s fourth quarter vs. 0.40% in 2013.

CUDL also examined the performance of credit unions that use CUDL to connect with dealers and customers. Those credit unions outperformed their peers, officials said, with CU Direct credit unions ranking No. 2 by auto originations year-to-date in the beginning of 2015, just below Wells Fargo Dealer Services and just above Ally. CU Direct credit unions have originated 152,844 auto loans since the start of the year, a 19.7% increase over the previous year.

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