BUFFALO, N.Y. — First Niagara Financial Group is on the move, announcing yesterday that it is entering the auto finance market with a new slate of financing options that will be made available to dealerships across the Northeast.

The new program is immediately available across New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. The company expects to be in Pennsylvania in the second quarter.

More than 400 new car dealers have already agreed to participate, said officials, and the company expects that number to grow to 1,500 dealers by 2014.

“This is a considerable growth opportunity, complementing our extended market presence across the Northeastern United States,” said Andrew Fornarola, senior vice president of First Niagara. “Our sales team is comprised of seasoned in-market professionals with strong, existing relationships in the dealer financing business. Combining them with our team of highly trained and experienced underwriters, we’ll differentiate ourselves through the exceptional service that First Niagara customers have come to expect.”

Two credit underwriting sites are located in Buffalo and Albany, N.Y. The program’s initial phase created 22 new jobs, 16 in Western New York, five in Albany, and one in New England. First Niagara expects to expand the team to more than 50 members within three years.

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