For quite a while, auto-retailing e-contracting was beginning to look like it was a proposal for the future – and always will be.

“We’ve talked about it forever,” Nick Stanutz, a senior vice president at Huntington National Bank, says at a recent auto financing conference. “But there’s not much demand at the dealer level.”

Still, in what may be a case of creating demand rather than responding to it with a new product, some automotive lenders and information technology companies are rolling out their versions of e-contracting.

Ally is the latest to do so through Clearlane, its recently launched auto-finance marketplace built on a digital transaction management platform. Beginning in June, SmartSign allows customers to sign and submit financing documents online or via mobile devices.

“A digital-signing capability is a strong addition to Clearlane that will add efficiencies and time savings for both our customers and our network of lenders,” says Tim Russi, Ally’s president-auto finance. “Being able to sign and submit financing documents online will help alleviate stress and increase customer satisfaction.”

Once again, a particular youngish consumer age group pops up as a driving force related to a new initiative. Russi expects SmartSign particularly will resonate with Millennials in their 20s and 30s who now comprise “a large consumer demographic in the automotive market.”

The technology is expected to speed up auto financing and buying by eliminating the need to print, sign and scan documents to complete transactions, says Ally. It cites Forrester Research, which estimates general e-signature transaction volumes will exceed 700 million this year.

“Taking paper out of the vehicle-buying process improves the customer experience, reduces dealer overhead costs and expedites funding cycles,” says Stephen Bisbee, eOriginal’s president, who also touts the system’s accuracy and security.

Ally launched Clearlane in April. It connects consumers with more than a dozen finance providers to finance and refinance vehicles.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com