What’s Happening with Subprime Auto Loans?
Auto loans have shot past the $1 trillion mark in the United States and now make up a significant component of the overall consumer debt picture.
Subprime auto loans – which are riskier loans made to customers with poor credit – have helped to drive the market since the Great Recession. However, with auto loan delinquencies ticking up in recent months, investors have been searching for answers about the sector.
Are we in for some sort of subprime auto loan crisis, or is there another explanation for what is going on?
Subprime Auto Loans: a Shifting Market
The data and perspective in today’s infographic comes from consumer credit reporting agency Equifax, and it helps to explain what is potentially going on in today’s auto loans market.
Does the recent uptick in auto loan delinquencies represent the unhinging of the market, or is it just standard fare?
Auto Loan Segmentation
The auto loan market is surprisingly diverse, and it’s comprised of many different types of lenders.
Each lender has a unique set of criteria for their ideal customer. For example, banks want very little risk and typically only lend to customers with prime credit scores (620 or higher). Dealer finance companies, on the other hand, are willing to take on more risk in their portfolios, and usually key in on subprime customers.
In fact, there are six different types of lenders in the auto lending space:
- Banks: Depository institutions that loan money to third-parties
- Credit Unions: Member-owned financial cooperatives
- Captive Auto Finance: Financing arm of an auto brand (i.e. Ford Motor Credit Company, etc.)
- Dealer Finance Companies: Associated with a dealerships or dealer chains
- Monoline Finance Companies: Focus on auto loans through multiple dealers/platforms
- Independent Finance Companies: Offer auto loans and other loan types
Because they each approach the market differently, there is strong segmentation in the market. The following chart from Equifax shows a snapshot of loans made in Q1 of 2015 and their cumulative non-performance after 18 months on the books:
However, let’s look at this again by plotting the median credit score for new loans originated in Q1 of 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015.
After the financial crisis, banks tightened credit standards until performance improved. Monoline and dealer finance companies, on the other hand, continued to lend to high-risk borrowers – and it is these companies that are seeing non-performance rates shifting higher.
In other words, it is the market share and relative performance among lenders that are the change drivers for aggregate loan statistics.
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