Is the pressure off at last?

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog incorrectly identified the average amount financed, via finance companies, per new and used vehicle in January 2011. It was $19,200.

Auto loan and lease customers are financing larger amounts, Equifax reports.

That’s a good sign F&I departments will again be able to make money the old-fashioned way — by arranging financing and sharing in the profit.

Equifax said the average amount financed via finance companies, including captives, was $19,200 per new and used vehicle in January 2011. That was up $481 from a year earlier and the highest level for January since 2006, when it was $20,950.

The increase shows lenders are more willing to lend and consumers are more willing to buy spend. F&I departments are still working hard to make money in other ways, such as selling more extended-service contracts. That’s still always a good idea. But maybe some of the pressure is off — for a change.

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