The Detroit Free Press paints a pretty clear picture of the automotive lending landscape: auto loan terms are rising, with 1 in 5 loans now lasting longer than 6 years. At the same time, the average credit score for those taking out loans is dropping. Ominous signs for a car market that’s running on the hype of a perpetually increasing SAAR, right? Well, not according to some.
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.
Long-term auto loans, leasing and sub-prime financing all saw increases year-over-year from 2011 to 2012, according to a report by Experian, a consumer credit rating agency. While typically a dry and detail-oriented subject, the area of auto financing gives us some insight into the nature of the new car market and even the economy itself.
Your personal information is valuable.
When I liquidated vehicles for Capital One, we typically examined over 14,000 variables before lending out our money to a customer.
Any customer. A credit card. An automobile. A commercial loan. It didn’t matter. We needed to get to know the economics of you first.
All of the low rates and big profits were dependent on buying your personal information, and then crafting decision models and metrics to determine your personal risk.
Our success in auto finance generated low rates for our customers and low delinquencies for our investors. But they both could have been far lower.
Freshly minted college graduates usually aren’t the best credit risk – especially in today’s unpermissive environment when it comes to jobs. BMW thinks otherwise and declared that a good student needs a bimmer for graduation. On credit. Real credit. No more phony college credits. This is the real thing! (Read More…)
Dave Ramsey has done an awful lot of good in this world. Millions have been helped. Billions in debt has been eradicated forever. Plus now a lot of folks finally understand that consumer debt is little more than a barnacle of financial enslavement. When it comes to frugality and avoiding consumer spending traps, Dave Ramsey offers a lot of solid advice.
So having said that, will this article be another soulless puff piece about the virtues of Dave Ramseys methods? Hell no!. As much as I love the fact that he helps so many, I think his math is horrific and his conclusions are dead wrong. .
At least when it comes to cars.
Last night I sold a car. Not just any other vehicle but the ‘family’ vehicle. A 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid that I purchased three years ago for $6500. For 50,300 miles it proved to be a perfect fit for a family of four. My wife loved it. But with used car prices outperforming in a three year period what the Dow couldn’t attain in ten I decided to cash it in. The price three years and 50k later? $6450.
I wasn’t smart when I got that price last night. I was lucky.
Some of the world’s biggest automakers are relying on continued strong growth in the Chinese market in the face of sluggish US and European sales, but those plans are facing a challenge as Chinese sales have slowed this summer. Total vehicle sales grew 14.4 percent over July 2009 levels last month (sales grew 70 percent year-over-year in July 2009), the lowest rate of growth the Chinese car market has seen since March of last year. China’s government is doing its part, instituting a $443 subsidy for cars with 1.6 liters displacement or less in the beginning of July. But that doesn’t seem to be helping much, as the percentage of cars with 1.6 liter engines or smaller actually declined last month. What’s a growth-addicted automaker to do (besides slash prices)? The same thing they do in every other market: extend credit in hopes of boosting sales and upselling customers on more expensive cars.
Anywhere there’s a gold rush, competitors have to worry about getting caught on the bust-end of a boom-bust cycle. With the growth of China’s car market projected to roll all the way to about 20m units annually, automakers hoping to cash in on booming sales have to wonder whether their investments in Chinese capacity will actually be used efficiently. And, as the European market is learning, government consumer incentives can also inflate projections, only to create a collapse in demand after they are phased out. These factors have combined to create a bit of a panic about the possibility of a Chinese-market oversupply, as financial analysts start reigning in automakers’ rampant Sino-optimism.
“I don’t see anyone bleeding to death,” Sergio Marchionne told reporters and analysts a week ago, when asked what he thought of Chrysler’s current dealer body. He might be about to change his tune. The US Treasury will stop guaranteeing GMAC’s floorplan loans to Chrysler Group dealers on the 21st of this month, and the bailed-out lender has marked over 100 dealers to be cut off. According to the Detroit Free Press, these dealers had all survived Chrysler’s dealer consolidation efforts in bankruptcy, indicating that their sales business is relatively steady. But because of huge investments made with Chrysler Financial loans at the height of the real estate market, these dealers owe more than their dealerships are worth. Chrysler Financial is winding down its business, and it refuses to give up the first right to the property as collateral. Because GMAC is now a bank holding company and requires more collateral on loans than it previously did, it wants land and buildings put up as collateral that are already securing old Chrysler Financial loans. Of course those old loans were for renovations made as part of Chrysler’s “Project Genesis,” which dealers had little choice but to participate in. If those Chrysler-mandated investments meant certain dealers were not going to qualify for floorplanning, they should have been culled during bankruptcy. Which is why NADA is appealing to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne on behalf of the threatened dealers. And maybe if Marchionne takes a look into this meatgrinder, he’ll see a few dealers stuck between giant, bailed-out businesses, bleeding to death.