Auto lending surged to an all-time high in the fourth quarter yet delinquencies remained low, the credit bureau Experian said in a report issued Thursday.
Fast growth in car loans, especially to subprime borrowers, and in securitizations of those loans has prompted debate about whether auto lending today resembles the precrisis bubble in mortgages. The new report downplays concerns that easy lending to subprime borrowers will result in massive defaults, Experian said.
We are looking at a remarkably stable automotive loan market, in part because consumers are continuing to stay on top of their payments, said Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive finance at the credit bureau.
Auto originations rose 11% year over year in the fourth quarter, to $866 billion, the report said. The volume of loans to prime borrowers, with credit scores of 660 or higher, jumped 13% in the fourth quarter, while lending to subprime borrowers with credit scores of 600 or below rose 9% in the same period.
Experian found that the share of auto loans to subprime borrowers has held steady at 20% since 2012.
Overall delinquencies on auto loans remained flat in the fourth quarter at banks, credit unions and captive auto finance companies, but were up slightly at finance companies. Overall, the rate of 30-day delinquencies rose just 1 basis point in the fourth quarter, to 2.62%, while 60-day delinquencies fell 1 basis point to 0.72%.