Big banks lean into car dealership loans in the middle of rebound in cars and truck production

Car dealerships took pleasure in strong margins throughout the pandemic, however a scarcity of brand-new cars and truck production moistened loaning activity.

Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg

Big banks see a chance to grow their company with cars and truck dealerships, as car stocks are rebounding in the wake of the pandemic, and 2 rivals are taking out of the marketplace.

Capital One Financial and Fifth Third Bancorp both stated just recently that they’re leaving the floorplan financing company, which offers funding to car dealerships.

But car financing executives at JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and TD Bank stated in current interviews that they’re sticking to the sector, which franchise dealerships remain in strong shape. They see chances as dealerships tap their line of credit to fund brand-new automobiles for their lots, purchase other dealers and purchase facilities upgrades to help with electrical lorry sales.

“This is a core business of ours,” stated Cynthia Caine, who heads Wells Fargo Commercial Auto. “We are leaning in to actually expand some of our offerings and our value proposition.”

Auto dealerships’ earnings are narrowing a bit in 2023 after a couple of record-setting years, when the pandemic-driven lack in brand-new automobiles increased costs even as sales remained suppressed.

As producers crank up production once again, brand-new cars and truck costs have actually moderated. But production stays listed below historic levels, which has actually made it possible for dealerships to continue charging raised costs to customers.

Gross earnings on brand-new automobiles are “still relatively strong” even if they have actually softened this year, stated Charles Arnold, nationwide sales executive for JPMorgan Chase’s business dealership services group.

“The outlook is still very good,” Arnold stated. “I think we’re very bullish.”

The rebound in cars and truck production is driving more company to banks, which assist dealerships fund brand-new stock from producers. Volumes in floorplan financing have not gone back to historic standards, lenders state, however they have actually gotten better meaningfully from their pandemic-era lows.

“There’s still a bit of a supply shortage out there,” stated Andrew Stuart, the head of TD Auto Finance. He discussed that he likes the “symbiotic” relationship that TD manages providing to dealerships who can likewise point customers to TD for retail car loans.

JPMorgan, Wells and TD — together with Bank of America, Ally Financial and other floorplan loan providers — might get more customers following the exit of Capital One and Fifth Third. Auto Finance News reported on their exits in April.

Adrienne Gutbier, a Fifth Third representative, stated the exit became part of the bank’s efforts to “continually review our ability to deliver best-in-class solutions to our clients.”

“Due to changes in the industry, Fifth Third has decided to no longer support the dealer floorplan product,” Gutbier stated, including that the bank “will continue to support dealers — at the local level — in all other facets of a commercial banking relationship.”

In a declaration, a Capital One representative stated it chose to leave the sector in the very first quarter and “will be winding down that work this year.” 

Fifth Third and Capital One both noted their exits from floorplan financing have no influence on their retail car financing. 

The 2 loan providers are amongst the local banks that are set to deal with harder capital guidelines from the Federal Reserve — an aspect that experts state is adding to a losing weight throughout the market.

McLean, Virginia-based Capital One stated just recently that it would offer some $900 million in business workplace loans. And Fifth Third executives have actually stated they’re on a “diet” with some organizations as they aim to construct more capital. The Cincinnati-based bank has actually likewise revealed it’s cutting down on retail car financing through dealerships in specific Western states.

The 2 banks’ exit from floorplan financing implies bigger loan providers will continue contributing to their share of dealership company, stated Erin Kerrigan, the creator of the car advisory company Kerrigan Advisors.

In some methods, that pattern mirrors what’s taking place in the car dealership market: combination.

Some dealerships, consisting of openly traded ones, are wanting to grow by purchasing rivals or broadening into brand-new areas. Others aspire to offer, partially due to the fact that the worth of their company is high following the pandemic boom in the car sector.

“The largest dealers are getting larger, and similarly, the banking industry serving auto retailers is consolidating,” stated Kerrigan, whose company offers deal recommendations to dealerships.

Sales of car dealerships leapt to 103 in the very first quarter of the year, up greatly from 72 a year previously and 66 in the very first quarter of 2021, according to a report by Kerrigan Advisors.

The uptick in M&A has actually improved acquisition financing amongst the banks that have actually stuck to the sector.

And though 2 banks are leaving the floorplan financing company, legal representatives who deal with the market aren’t seeing indications of a significant pullback in credit accessibility. But they likewise state the care banks are showing throughout their company — monitoring their charge card or workplace loan portfolios, for instance — is encompassing the car dealership area.

Some loan providers are taking “a harder look at their portfolios” and increasing the costs that they charge dealerships for floorplan loans, stated Stephen Dietrich, a legal representative at Holland & Knight who deals with dealerships. But that’s absolutely nothing like the huge pullback by loan providers throughout the 2008 monetary crisis, when banks quickly notified dealerships their relationships would quickly end.

“Nothing like that is happening,” Dietrich stated. “We’re just starting to see perhaps a little bit more attention to the portfolios than there was before.” 


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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