DETROIT — Ally Financial increased wholesale credit lines by 40 percent in the first quarter to take advantage of the growing sales momentum realized during period.

"The flexibility in our credit line administration not only supports dealers, but also aligns with accelerated manufacturer production levels," said Bill Muir, president of Ally Financial. "We are seeing strong demand for increased inventory financing for both new and used vehicles as dealers seek to fully stock their lots and maximize their sales potential."

Ally attributes the market momentum to steady improvements in the economy, the ample availability of consumer credit, the interest in new and refreshed products coming to market, and pent-up demand from consumers looking to replace their aging vehicles.

The company also is increasing its U.S. underwriting team by 15 percent from year-end staffing levels to accommodate the greater volume of consumer financing applications. "Our consumer underwriting teams now work seven days a week, with extended hours Monday through Saturday," Muir said.  Strategic hires have begun in key cities across the country, including Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Costa Mesa, Calif., Detroit, Jacksonville, Fla., Pittsburgh, and Lewisville, Texas.

"It's a great time to buy a car or truck," Muir said.  "We have attractive retail financing and lease programs in the market, including incentivized leases on 38 models for five manufacturers."

In the U.S. market, Ally financed $9.7 billion in consumer auto sales in the first quarter of 2012, and had an average of $26 billion in dealer wholesale financing outstanding, up 10 percent from the same prior year period.