BMW Financial Services, Ford Credit and Hyundai Motor Finance Co. rank highest in their respective segments in a recent J.D. Power and Associates study of consumers who bought vehicles in the last seven months.

The 2008 Consumer Financing Satisfaction Study, in its 13th year, says BMW Financial led the luxury-loan segment by faring well in driving satisfaction, application-approval process, finance offering and payment and billing process.

Rounding out the next two places in the luxury-loan segment are GMAC and Honda Financial Services.

BMW also tops the survey among luxury-lease customers for the second consecutive year, while Ford Credit and Honda Financial finished second and third, respectively.

Consumers ranked Hyundai Motor Finance No.1 in the non-luxury-loan category for its product offerings. Ford Credit finished first in the non-luxury-lease segment on the strength of its application-approval process.

The study was conducted between May and September, mostly before the credit crisis overtook the industry.

In other findings, Internet use among new-vehicle buyers researching financing options increased to 64% of luxury customers, with 30% saying the Internet considerably impacted their decision.

While 55% of non-luxury customers used the Internet to research finance options, 26% claim the Web influenced their finance purchase.

Firms involving the customer in the finance-provider-selection-process fared well in satisfaction and intended loyalty, the study shows.

“Because customers who are more involved with the finance provider selection process tend to be more satisfied, it’s essential for lenders to proactively communicate with existing customers and reach out to potential new customers,” says Rich Howse, senior director-automotive finance practice for J.D. Power.

He says satisfying customers contributes to increased loyalty and advocacy, “both of which can have strong financial impact and is particularly important amid the current uncertain economic environment.”