Ally Financial has scrapped the functionality in its direct lending platform that allowed consumers to get preapproved for specific vehicles within dealers’ inventories.
The feature, called Clearmatch, was piloted in March, with plans to roll out the product to dealers on a regional basis starting in late April. Instead, Clearmatch has been removed from Clearlane, Ally’s direct lending service, Jeff Danford, Ally’s senior vice president of auto finance, told Auto Finance News without much explanation.
“There was no specific end date,” he said. “We wanted to assess the learnings to determine how best to move forward to meet the needs of our dealers and help them serve their customers.” For now, Ally has no plans to restore the functionality to the platform. “We’re reengaging dealers and [deciding if] it’s an activity that they find valuable or not,” he said. “We don’t have a timeline as far as bringing that back, and we’re studying that right now, but it was a step toward digitalization.”
Meanwhile, Clearlane is considering other enhancements, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to better anticipate consumer loan qualifications, Danford said. Ally is also working closely with dealers to make the platform transcend the labels of direct and indirect.
“[Clearlane] is trying to stay in front of the fact that consumers’ expectations around how [financing] information is available are evolving,” Danford said. “We want to stay abreast of that, but we’re not looking nor do we believe that the franchise dealership model is becoming obsolete. That’s not the consumer desire.”
Although Ally does not break down data into direct-versus-indirect lending categories, Clearlane’s originations are a drop in the bucket compared with Ally’s $9.6 billion second-quarter volume.
“While [Ally] is interested in gaining learnings in changing customer behaviors and expectations, it’s not material or meaningful in a financial way compared with the overall portfolio,” Danford said. “It’s simply not large enough to be that impactful today.”
Clearlane, which launched in April 2017, allows consumers to refinance their loans, pay off leases, and purchase new vehicles. Ally and several undisclosed lenders provide financing on the platform.