SAN DIEGO (12/3/09)--California Coast CU is offering reduced auto loan rates for members who purchase or refinance “SmartWay” vehicles, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers to be more environmentally friendly. The SmartWay designation signifies the vehicle has greater fuel efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. California Coast is the only credit union in California and among only six financial institutions nationwide that have partnered with the EPA to provide loan rate discounts for the SmartWay program, the $1.8 billion-asset, San Diego-based credit union said. The program has been popular with members of the credit union. Many are surprised to find their vehicle qualifies under the EPA’s SmartWay guidelines, said California Coast. “When you think of environmentally friendly vehicles, you usually think of hybrids,” said Rene’ McKee, California Coast’s vice president of marketing. “But our members are pleasantly surprised the loan discounts are not just for hybrids and that actually hundreds of foreign and domestic models qualify.” California Coast’s SmartRate Auto Loan program rewards its members with loan rates starting at around 4% annual percentage rate, and encourages them to help protect the environment. The program is for new, used or refinanced vehicles. Prospective buyers can check the credit union’s website to see if their vehicle qualifies.