Auto repossession: a sign of the times

TUMWATER – Officials at O Bee Credit Union, in Olympia, find themselves selling used cars, a consequence of South Sound’s slower economy.

Over the past year, O Bee has seen an increase in repossessed vehicles, including some owners voluntarily returning their cars to the credit union because they are unable to make the payments, Bruce Cramer, president and chief executive of the Tumwater-based credit union, said Thursday.

When the economy is stronger, O Bee typically repossesses eight to 12 cars a year, but so far this year that number has climbed to 37, he said. Cramer called the current recession one of the most challenging he has experienced in his 40 years working at credit unions.

Although repossessions are on the rise, it still is a small percentage of the 2,600 car loans the credit union does annually, Cramer said.

In addition to the rising number of bad car loans, total statewide credit union car loans are down, said David Bennett, spokesman for the Washington Credit Union League, a credit union trade association based in Federal Way.

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