Auto loans just keep growing

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.

Auto loans had another double-digit growth spurt in the fourth quarter, Experian Automotive reports.

Total auto loan balances outstanding reached $798.5 billion in the quarter, an increase of 11 percent from the 2012 period and the highest total since Experian started publishing its numbers in 2007. The third-quarter total of $782.9 billion had also been a high, up 15 percent from the same 2012 period.

Another continuing trend for the fourth quarter: Delinquencies declined slightly despite a higher number of subprime loans.

In the fourth quarter, 30-day delinquencies accounted for just over 2.6 percent of outstanding balances, down from about 2.7 percent from the year-earlier period, Experian says. Subprime loans accounted for 36.2 percent of outstanding loans, up from 35.7 percent in the 2012 period.

In the third quarter of 2013, 30-day delinquencies also dipped while subprime rose, although just barely.

About the only negative note in the fourth quarter was an uptick in repossessions for independent finance companies, which by and large only originate subprime loans. Repo rates declined slightly for banks, captives and credit unions.

“The increase in repossessions by finance companies could simply be attributed to a tightening of repo standards,” said Melinda Zabritski, senior director for Experian Automotive. “Aside from this increase, we are seeing the rest of the automotive finance industry trend positively, creating optimism for a strong 2014.”

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@autonews.com