"That pushes the bigger lenders to do the same," she said last week.
That should be good news for dealers, who have complained that the comeback in subprime continues to lag the rebound in prime-risk loans.
Zabritski, during a Dec. 1 conference call, reviewed several positive trends in auto loans for the third quarter:
- Delinquencies and repossessions were down as a percentage of the total. For the industry, the average amount charged off per repossession was down 10.7 percent, to $6,820, Experian said.
- The average amount financed rose for new and used vehicles. (See table)
- Leasing was even with the year-ago quarter, at 22.7 percent of all new-vehicle financing, Experian said. That was up from only 14.2 percent in the third quarter of 2009.
Subprime loans made up 21.9 percent of all new-vehicle loans originated in the third quarter, up from 19.1 percent a year ago. For used vehicles, subprime made up 51.6 percent of loans, up from 48 percent a year earlier.
Zabritski said it was a year ago, in the third quarter of 2010, that subprime loans increased their share of total loans for the first time since the recession began.
"Ever since then, we've seen subprime increase," comparing quarters year-over-year, she said.
Interest rates were down for auto loans across all risk categories, according to Experian. In the prime-risk segment, it's likely that incentives played a role in bringing down the average interest rate, Zabritski said.
In the subprime segment, incentives were unlikely to be a factor, she said.
Subprime rates had more room to decline because auto lenders raised those rates more when credit was tight, she said.
For new vehicles, the average interest rate was 4.55 percent, down from 4.98 percent a year ago. For used, the average was 8.6 percent, down from 8.83 percent.
"We are certainly seeing the biggest [rate] decrease in these higher-risk areas," Zabritski said. "These did see increased rates when the market tightened."