The dramatic comeback of subprime loans has helped the entire industry recover from the recession, but easier credit has returned like an old friend to Chrysler Group.
In the first quarter of 2012, 29 of every 100 new-auto loans for Chrysler vehicles have been to consumers with credit scores below 680, says credit agency Experian Automotive. Experian considers scores below 680 subprime.
For comparison, only 16 percent of auto loans for Chrysler were subprime during the height of the recession in the second quarter of 2009, Experian says.
Chrysler Group dealers say lenders' willingness to finance subprime customers is fueling the automaker's current string of 26 months of sales gains.
"It almost feels like we're back to where it was in its heyday," said Josh Towbin, co-owner of Towbin Automotive, which has nine franchises among its five Las Vegas stores, which include two Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram stores and a Fiat studio.
"You can even get some of the rougher stuff done now -- people with foreclosures and past foreclosures. Banks seem to understand that now, where they wouldn't before."
It's difficult to quantify how much easier credit has fueled Chrysler's comeback because a renewed product lineup and sharper advertising have helped, too.