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News Now

CU System
CUs auto loan workout options aid struggling members
EUGENE, Ore. (3/23/09)--Northwest Community CU has seen its auto repossessions double in the past two years, but says it is still happy to lend. To help, it is providing its members with several loan workout options. Northwest is allowing members to skip two loan payments per year, and hundreds of members have taken advantage of that offer. The credit union also sent direct mailings to members last fall letting them know they have options. “We’ll find ways to make things work,” Matt Purvis, Northwest vice president of marketing told News Now. Some other options Northwest offers include interest-only payments for several months, no payments for several months, or reduced payments. So far, 120 have taken advantage of the modifications. “We’re promoting this,” Purvis said. “We’re telling members, ‘Don’t wait. Come in and let’s talk.’” During the first half of 2007, Northwest averaged about 28 repossessions per month. In 2008, that figure jumped to 66. Of those 66, more than half were voluntary. There are 32 additional auto loans--totaling about $500,000--pending in Northwest’s rework file. From last fall to March, Northwest altered more than $2 million in auto loans. But those loans made up only 1% of the credit union’s auto loan portfolio. Modifications are “a lot of work, and use a lot of people,” he said. “The numbers are holding steady,” Purvis said. “We haven’t seen it tail off yet, but we’re looking forward to that day.” Layoffs and a slow motor home and wood products industry have rippled across the region. Northwest was originally created to serve wood products workers. “It’s very slow,” Purvis said. “It’s never been what it was.” Many defaults have resulted from layoffs or significant pay cutbacks. Often two-income families have lost one income, making it tough for members to pay their bills on time. Northwest watches local and regional news for industry cutbacks and keeps in touch with members whose jobs may be in danger. And although auto lending is slow, the credit union keeps expanding its portfolio. “We’re very active in commercial loans and are promoting Invest in America,” Purvis said. Invest in America is a national program by that offers auto loan discounts to credit union members through General Motors and Chrysler. “We’re trying to raise our profile and let people know we’re investing in communities,” he added.
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