Auto financing will emerge stronger from the current economic woes, predicts Mark Pregmon, chairman of the Consumer Bankers Assn.'s finance committee.

The credit crisis, the recession and the curtailment of consumer spending “came so viciously,” he says. But he invokes the memory of Joe Ballow, the association's chairman who died recently. “Joe was optimistic and resilient and so should we.”

As far as silver lining, Pregmon says “we're seeing better desking of deals” and consumer credit quality “is the best we've seen in 15 years.”

Lenders are being more diligent in verifying incomes and salaries of potential borrowers, he says. “When I started, you did that automatically.”

He adds: “Make sound credit decisions and know your customer. It's not sexy, it's just a return to basics.”

Many lenders are positioning themselves as trusted advisors to dealers, says Pregmon, who also is an executive vice president at Sun Trust Banks Inc. “Auto dealers that are viable are the ones we should get close to.”

Good dealers need lenders and lenders “need good dealers,” says dealer Russ Darrow of the Wisconsin-based Russ Darrow Group. Pregmon says smart lenders will help valued dealer clients “get through tricky times.”

That's essential now as getting financing for customers can be tough, says Randy Dye, dealer principal of Daytona Dodge Chrysler in Daytona Beach, FL.

Days of easy credit are gone, but he frets about a wide swing in the other direction as creditors get tough.

“You don't want to buy paper like you did in 2005, but you don't want to go the other way either,” Dye says.