Specifically, TransUnion said the percentage of accounts 60 or more days past due -- those which are most likely to be written off as a bad debt -- was 0.88 percent in the first quarter of 2013, up from 0.82 percent in the first quarter of 2012.
A rise in delinquencies for subprime borrowers was a primary reason for the increase, TransUnion said. For the subprime category -- defined as a credit score range of 501 to 640 -- 60-plus-day delinquencies were 5.5 percent, up from 5.09 percent in the first quarter of 2012.
Peter Turek, TransUnion’s vice president of automotive, said the absolute number of subprime loans increased but that subprime share of total loans was flat for the quarter.
Experian Automotive also said this month that 60-day delinquencies increased in the first quarter but noted delinquencies were still low by historical standards.
TransUnion’s Turek said in a written statement: “We’ve been monitoring the auto loan landscape closely for some time to see if increased subprime lending would start pushing delinquency rates up.”
In the first quarter this year the average loan balance in subprime was $12,006, up 6.6 percent from the 2012 period. For the entire industry, the average loan balance was up 4 percent to $13,260, TransUnion data show.
Turek said that while delinquencies are still low, higher balances can mean a bigger loss in case a loan goes bad.