Repo men thrive when credit is loose and new-vehicle sales are good. That's because new-car buyers are most likely to default early in their loans. So, the more cars sold, the more defaults and the more repossessions.
The American Recovery Association expects a wave of consolidation among repossession firms this year before new-vehicle sales -- up 16 percent through March -- can rebound enough to support the business.
In the meantime, companies are working hard to stay afloat. TCAR Recovery & Remarketing Services, for instance, is based in upstate New York but now operates in Maine and even as far away as Jacksonville, Fla.
"There's a retrenching going on," says CEO Chris Dunleavy, "no doubt about it."