“Primarily [the loan applications are] just from the West Coast now, and we anticipate that as the relationship [with AutoGravity] grows, we’ll see a movement more toward the bulk of our dealer groups, which is in the Midwest,” Craig Harter, BMO’s head of U.S. indirect auto, told Auto Finance News.
The AutoGravity partnership, announced Wednesday, marks Chicago-based BMO Harris’s first move to enable customers to shop for cars and apply for loans online. With AutoGravity, the lender expects to strengthen its dealer relationships, Harter said. “This helps us provide customers to our dealers, so it really helps us out as far as that relationship that we have with the dealership,” he said. “This is just another way for us to provide an opportunity for the dealership to get their cars out and sell them to the public.”
Separately, BMO Harris added seven states, primarily in the northeast, to its 22-state footprint of which the bank conducts business in. Harter anticipates moving into four or five additional states next year. “We contracted a few years ago, but now we’ve entered growth mode,” he said. “We partner very closely with our dealer finance group, so as they expand into other states, we’re usually right behind them, or vice versa.”
AutoGravity is a platform that connects car buyers with lenders and dealers. It provides consumers with prequalified finance offers for vehicles from partnered dealerships listed on the AutoGravity site. Buyers can use their computer or smartphone to browse local inventory for new or used vehicles, shop by monthly payment amount, and apply for financing directly through the platform. AutoGravity has attracted nearly 3 million users nationwide.