Auto-credit worries appear over

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

Hopefully this isn’t wishful thinking, but strong 2012 U.S. auto sales seem to indicate once and for all that consumer credit won’t be a drag on another year of improving sales in 2013.

This may be oversimplifying the timing, but roughly speaking credit was harder to get in 2009 and 2010, even for some prime-risk borrowers. In 2011, prime-risk credit came back and subprime began to improve. In 2012 subprime came back, and today there are few worries about credit availability, except maybe for the riskiest subprime customers.

“I do think it’s a little bit in the rearview mirror. People who need an auto loan at this point, they’re all able to get one,” said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford Motor Co. chief economist, in a conference call for analysts and media last week. )

“I really don’t see automotive credit contracting at this juncture,” she said.

Can somebody please knock on wood?