Americans' love of pricey pickups, crossovers and SUVs is stretching their wallets, leading lenders to bend over backward to keep monthly payments affordable.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Ram truck brand had the longest average loan terms in the industry last year, at 73 months, according to consumer credit tracker Experian. The automaker's Jeep and Fiat brands also placed among the top five, along with Mitsubishi and General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet division.
More than two-thirds of U.S. auto sales are now light trucks, which includes pickups, crossovers and SUVs, and new-fangled tech inside them has helped drive prices to record highs of more than $35,000.
While the shift has helped automakers mint money even as total industry sales slip, it also means the debt burden on U.S. consumers is getting heavier. Lenders are stretching out loan terms to keep monthly payments manageable and help dealers close sales.
"I don't think we're going to see any reduction in terms until we see changes in pricing or what consumers are buying," said Melinda Zabritski, a senior director at Experian. "If anything, we're starting to see more lenders who would previously do a 72- or 75- move into the 84-month loan category."