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JIM HENRY

Has spring finally sprung for subprime?

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

There is good news for the ongoing recovery in auto lending, especially in subprime auto finance. Two of the largest U.S. dealership groups, AutoNation and Sonic Automotive, this week said auto lenders are "buying deeper" and financing more subprime deals, especially for used vehicles.

Partly as a result, both dealership groups on Tuesday reported higher finance and insurance revenues and higher overall profits for the first quarter of 2011 versus the corresponding period last year.

Retailers have complained for many months that subprime financing was first-in, last-out of the recession. The recession officially ended in 2009, but subprime continued to lag.

The AutoNation and Sonic results could be a profitable sign of spring in auto finance.

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