Automotive loans in forbearance stayed relatively steady in June compared with record-setting growth in April and May, credit bureau TransUnion said last week. Flattening forbearance figures could be a subtle sign of improvement, but it likely represents a shuffling of impacted consumers.
Auto accounts in financial hardship — defined by factors such as a deferred payment, forbearance program, frozen account or frozen past-due payment — grew from 0.6 percent in March to 3.5 percent in April as the coronavirus outbreak took its toll on the economy. The figure doubled in May to 7 percent and grew modestly in June to 7.2 percent.
Satyan Merchant, senior vice president and automotive business leader at TransUnion, noted consumers who opted for payment deferral at the onset of the pandemic may have exited forbearance status in June. Some consumers may have requested relief for the first time in late April and May.
Auto lenders may also have granted payment relief extensions for customers assisted in the early days of the pandemic, meaning some of the accounts set to come out of forbearance status in June remain unpaid.
"I would presume that number goes down in July — with the huge caveat that it depends on if there's an extension of a stimulus program," Merchant said, adding that further federal intervention would indicate the economy remains fragile. "I've heard many auto lenders say it's on a case-by-case basis if there's going to be an extension in forbearance status."