Hard-pressed to grow revenues, bankers are gaining more of an appetite for a business they have traditionally shunned: subprime auto lending.

A wave of subprime auto finance companies, which lend about $50 billion a year to consumers with less than stellar credit records, has gone public this year - with outstanding results. Investors, recognizing the profit potential of the risky, high-margin auto loan business, have bid up the price of average shares of auto finance company stock by more than 70%.

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