DealerTrack Inc. reports that the average number of active lenders per dealership hasn't quite recovered to prerecession levels.
The average number of active lenders per dealership -- that is, lenders to which dealerships have sent applications and booked loans in a given period -- was 9.5 in the second quarter of 2012, DealerTrack says. That's up from a low of 6.9 in the second quarter of 2009. In the loose-credit atmosphere of 2007, the average was almost 12.
Dealers had complained that subprime auto lending was slow to come back, but now subprime also is rebounding strongly.
Joe Papa, business manager at Brown's Ford of Johnstown, N.Y., said credit availability has been good for the past year, but even more so in the past six months, particularly in subprime.
"In the last six months, I've seen a tremendous uptick in the lenders," he said. The lenders are being more aggressive and are looking for ways to make a deal. They're calling back to follow up. I tell you, they're taking just about anybody."
Analysts said subprime lenders are raising billions of dollars this year, which they will use to make more loans. According to Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, through July 2012 subprime lenders sold $10.7 billion worth of auto loans to investors in the form of asset-backed securities, up 43 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Despite the increase, subprime auto lenders are still raising much less than before the recession, according to John McElravey, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities.
"It is a robust recovery, but the trough was so low, and the tightening of credit standards was so severe, on a relative basis things look easy in a way. But I'm not sure that's the case," McElravey said. "It's more of a recovery to normal times."
Amy Wilson, Mark Rechtin and Bradford Wernle contributed to this report