RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — While credit unions have played a major role on the auto lending side for some time, it's only been fairly recently that the industry has been making a strong concerted push to stake out a national presence on the remarketing end, according to Evan Etheridge, national sales director for Credit Union Direct Corp.

As part of its ramped-up educational and training efforts, CUDL hosted its inaugural national remarketing conference in March, in cooperation with Manheim, its preferred provider for managing the remarketing portfolios of participating credit unions. About 70 officials representing more than 35 credit unions attended the event. Another is scheduled for next spring at Manheim's DRIVE Center in Atlanta.

And CUDL has recently instituted its Credit Union Days at the Auctions, where they are inviting credit union executives to attend a Manheim auction, witness how it works and discover how their growing number of vehicles can be remarketed on the wholesale end of the business.

Special events have already taken place in Portland, Ore., and Salt Lake City. Credit Union Days at the Auctions are planned for Sept. 12-13 in Los Angeles, Sept. 19 in Statesville, N.C., and Oct. 18 in Seattle. In addition, Etheridge said similar hands-on regional events are planned for other parts of the country in the months ahead.

On top of these, Etheridge will wear his educational hat when he leads a workshop at Auto Remarketing's upcoming National Remarketing Conference and Used Car Expo. The 2006 event will be held Nov. 1-3, at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina.

Presenting workshops in two separate time slots, Nov. 1 at 3:00 p.m. and Nov. 3 at 10:00 a.m., Etheridge will share his knowledge of how credit unions will expand their role and become even more important to the remarketing industry in the future. Jon Schrock, director of national accounts for Manheim, will join Etheridge for this interactive workshop.

According to Etheridge, CU Direct is the largest indirect point-of-sale lending network for credit unions in the U.S. Working with more than 7,800 dealers and 580 credit unions in 44 states and representing more than 17 million members, CU Direct has generated as much as $15 billion in auto loans in one year. Expanding on that loan-generation figure and how that business has exploded, Etheridge said that credit unions funded just a little over $7 billion in auto loans in 2004, whereas they funded $14.8 billion in auto loans last year.

"In many respects, at our NRC workshop, I will be introducing the credit union industry to the many professional remarketers attending the conference," Etheridge explained. "We will be introducing participants to the size and scope of the credit union industry and the fact that we as an industry represent 18 percent of the auto loan market share nationwide.

"Once attendees have a good understanding of the national presence that credit unions have, we will introduce them to what we're trying to do within our industry with regards to our remarketing efforts," he added. "At the same time, and possibly most importantly, we will convey our attempt to aggregate credit union vehicles geographically so that we can have a similar presence as some of the larger remarketers."

With regard to the takeaway value of his workshop, Etheridge continued, "I want attendees to walk away with a solid understanding of how credit unions can and will play a much larger and strategically important role in the remarketing industry in the future. Right now, credit unions play a major role on the front end of the auto lending side, but we have yet to harness that ability on the back end, which is what we'll be focusing on and trying to do through developing our remarketing program."

Etheridge pointed out that as credit unions have captured market share on the auto lending side, especially as they've been successful in having a presence at the point-of-purchase at the dealership, CUDL executives have expressed the need for the industry to develop a corresponding boost on remarketing side. As that happens, Etheridge said he believes credit unions will enjoy higher returns, increased efficiencies and better lien placements, just to name a few of the significant benefits.

Most credit union vehicles that will need remarketing, Etheridge said, will be repossessed units, somewhere right now in the neighborhood of 75,000 vehicles nationwide per year.

"This is not to say that credit unions have not been strong on the back end of the business," Etheridge said. "But traditionally, we have not worked together cohesively to remarket our vehicles.

"In the past, an individual credit union might have two or three or four cars that they'll run through the remarketing cycle at any given time, whereas larger financial institutions, leasing companies or captive finance companies might have hundreds of vehicles.

"So, what we're attempting to do is educate our credit unions on the benefits of professional third-party remarketers, and we feel we've done that with Manheim," Etheridge continued. "Now, we want to aggregate our vehicles geographically to run them in a way that makes the most sense and get a better lift and really move the marketplace."

For the foreseeable future and into 2007, Etheridge said he and others within CUDL will blow the educational horn and tout the many benefits of boosting the industry's remarketing initiatives. "As a leader in the auto lending arena, we feel it's very important to continue to take a proactive stance on the training level. As we do that, we'll be able to add tremendous value to our industry," he concluded.