Where are the beefs about auto loans?

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

With Memorial Day earlier this week, it's a good time to note that auto loans barely made the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's list of common complaints for military families, despite an outcry from the bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and others over supposed dealer abuses.

In 2010, a Defense Department spokesman even claimed that auto loan abuses affected combat readiness, which provoked an angry response from dealers.

Meanwhile, according to a CFPB report filed last month by Holly Petraeus, assistant director for the Office of Servicemember Affairs, "vehicle or consumer loan" complaints accounted for just 2 percent of complaints from military families in the first quarter, and 6 percent in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2012.

Of the categories reported by the bureau, mortgages were No. 1, averaging more than 50 percent of military complaints, followed by bank accounts, credit cards, credit reporting and student loans.

Throughout the year, student loans and the "vehicle or consumer loan" category swapped last place back and forth. Within the "vehicle or consumer loan" category, the actual number of complaints about auto loans is presumably even lower.

Of course you'd like to see zero complaints. And no doubt, some dealerships do take advantage of military members. But the level of complaints is a lot lower than you would expect from the image Petraeus and others have portrayed.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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