With Ally Financial’s IPO now making the rounds on the New York Stock Exchange, the former financing arm of General Motors has its eyes on taking more of the subprime market, a move benefiting dealers once the last ties to the U.S. federal government have been severed and sold to the stock market.
As fears of increasing auto loan delinquencies are giving some lenders pause, Capital One Auto Finance president of financial services Sanjiv Yajnik calls said increase a return to “norm,” with pent-up demand and greater competition will maintain availability of credit.
Months after TTAC started to relentlessly bleat about the glut of money flowing into the auto loan sector, the mainstream media is finally taking notice. Automotive News is finally expressing some worry over the factors that we’ve been discussing for some time: car loan terms are getting longer (to help keep payments low), subprime lending is increasing and an expected rise in interest rates could put an end to the new car market’s exuberant performance.
Over at Autobytel, Juan Barnett (better known as DC AutoGeek) takes a look at the history of auto financing, originally intended as a way for the common man to be able to afford an automobile some 90 years ago. The most striking thing is how attitudes have changed so dramatically over time.
Initially, bankers were calling for a ban on financing of personal automobiles, fearing that it would lead to financial imprudence. How times have changed.
In a 2008 letter to the Security and Exchange Commission, a collection of automotive finance companies argued against a proposed federal rule that would have made 60 months the maximum term for an automotive loan. The group said “[that the] 72 month term has become the industry standard,” and that it was critical to the American economy to allow banks to determine independently the risk as it relates to automotive loans. They argued that any mandated term limit would cripple the automotive industry. They were probably right.
8 years to pay off a car? A report by the Wall Street Journal claims that in Q4 of 2012, the average car loan stretched out to 65 months, or just over 5 years. Loan terms were being stretched out over increasingly longer terms too, with credit firm Experian reporting that nearly 1 in 5 car loans had terms between 73 and 84 months long, with some stretching for as long as 97 months.
March was the 5th straight month of a SAAR above 15 million vehicles. Industry analysts have explained the strength of the market in a number of ways. The need to replace older vehicles is one (new car sales were hit hard during the recession as consumers held on to their vehicles for longer. This also caused used car prices to skyrocket, something TTAC has been documenting), while others have cited increasing fleet demand, and the desire to replace vehicles damaged in Hurricane Sandy.
But one factor that is just starting to get attention outside of TTAC is sub-prime financing. Sub-prime lending, which involves giving high-interest loans to customers with poor credit scores, is driving the SAAR in a big way, by letting buyers with poor credit purchase new cars. In turn, the sub-prime bubble is being driven by Wall Street, whose clients cannot get enough of financial instruments backed by sub-prime auto loans.