Automotive finance data signals good times for the market

Published: June 10, 2015 by Melinda Zabritski

Nowadays, whenever you hear news about the automotive industry, a negative tone tends to pop up. Whether it’s the increase in lending to subprime consumers, or the lengthening in loan terms, the stories lead one to believe that the industry is headed toward another “bubble.”

However, that’s not necessarily the case. When we look at the data, the automotive finance market actually demonstrates a strong industry as a whole.

Yes, it’s true that subprime lending is up. But, lending has increased across all risk tiers. In fact, loans to super prime consumers have actually seen the largest increase in volume compared to last year, approximately 8.5 percent. To take it a step further, the market share of loans to subprime consumers has decreased from a year ago.

At its bare bones, what it means is that consumers are not only purchasing cars, but they are taking out loans to do so. Furthermore, given the percentage of loans extended to each risk tier, we see that lenders have not opened up their portfolios to increased risk. Both of which are positive indications of a strong market.

We’ve also seen a steady increase in the length of loan terms. However, before anyone comes to any rash conclusions, it’s not as ominous a sign as it may seem. As cars and trucks have become more expensive to purchase, the easiest way for consumer to keep their monthly payments affordable has been to extend the life of their loans. That said, it’s critical for consumers to understand that by taking out a longer loan, they may need to hold onto the vehicle longer to avoid facing negative equity should they trade it in after a few years.

An alternate route many consumers have taken to keep their monthly payments affordable has been leasing. In the first quarter of 2015, we saw leasing account for 30.2 percent of all new financed vehicles – its highest level on record.

At the end of the day, consumers are continuing to purchase vehicles and that’s a positive sign for the industry. By gaining a deeper understanding of current automotive financing trends, lenders will be able to use the data and insights to their benefit by better meeting the needs of the marketplace and mitigating the risk of their portfolios. And if they do that, the good times can continue to roll for the industry.

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