Credit unions continue to bask in the glow of their record auto lending growth, but an increase in subprime repossessions may be a cause for pause.
According to Experian Automotive’s latest State of the Automotive Finance Market report, the repossession rate was 0.62% in the third quarter, which was a 54.4% increase from the 0.40% rate during the third quarter in 2012.
The increase in repossessions was limited entirely to finance companies, which typically provide loans to the subprime market, according to Experian. Finance companies saw their repossession rate jump 124.9%, rising from 1.18% in Q3 2012 to 2.66% in Q3 2013. Meanwhile, repossession rates for captive finance companies, banks and credit unions all dropped slightly in the quarter, the report noted.
In fact, credit unions are holding their own, with third quarter repos down one basis point compared to 2012’s activity, said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive lending for Experian Automotive.
“Credit unions are doing very well. Year-to date, they’re at .46% and that’s down from .49% from last year,” Zabritski noted. “It’s a little higher than pre-recession rates.”
Looking back to 2006, credit unions had 0.32% repossession rate compared to 1.40% for all other lenders, according to data from Experian Automotive. The lower repossession rate trend has continued into 2013, with other lenders amassing a 1.48% rate.
Among all lenders, there’s been a slight increase in some of the dollar balances that are tied to delinquent loans, but that’s because total balances have grown, Zabritski explained. Still, credit unions are holding steady in this space with most of the recent debt in the deep subprime band, she added.
Buoyed by a drop in delinquent loans, auto loan balances reached an all-time high in the third quarter at $782.9 billion, according to Experian Automotive. That figure was up $103 billion from the third quarter in 2012.
Indeed, automotive loan balances are growing across the country. Those showing the fastest percentage growth year over year included California (up 29.3%), Texas (up 26.3%) and Nevada (up 26.0%).The states with the slowest growth rates year over year included Hawaii (up 12.4%), Wyoming (up 12.3%) and Michigan (up 6.8%).
Next Page: Record Expansion in 2013
Meanwhile, nearly half of all credit union loan growth this year can be traced back to auto loans, setting the stage for record expansion across the industry for 2013, said Dave Colby, chief economist for CUNA Mutual Group in the company’s November Credit Union Trends Report, which tracked data through September.
During the past year, auto loan portfolio expansion of $19.7 billion accounted for 48% of all credit union loan growth, the data showed. Vehicle loans now represent 30.7% of all credit union loans, up from a low of 28.7% at the end of 2011, but below the pre-recession level of 33.3%.
New vehicle loans accounted for 18% of all loan growth year-to-date and year-over-year, according to the trends report. Currently, the national average new vehicle loan rate is 3.19%. While this is down 10% during the past year and 50% since the beginning of the recession, it is significantly better than an investment yield with a similar duration, Colby noted.
The used vehicle loan portfolio was up $12.4 billion during the past year, $11.2 billion year-to-date and $5.1 billion or 4.1% in the past quarter, the data showed. Colby said the 3.95% average loan rate is a very good return in today’s market.
CU Direct Corp., an Ontario, Calif.-based provider of lending and automotive services, said it has signed new partnership agreements with 80 credit unions thus far in 2013. Currently, more than 1,060 credit unions nationwide are utilizing the CUSO’s lending solutions.
CU Direct’s partner credit unions collectively have experienced 16% auto loan growth this year, according to the CUSO. Credit unions have funded 545,000 loans through CU Direct’s CUDL System thus far in 2013, totaling $12.2 billion in vehicle financing, the CUSO said.
One key strategy to establishing even more partnerships is through a litany of online tools. During a Nov. 14 webinar, CU Direct shared just how popular its AutoSMART mobile app has become. Year-to-date, 5,532 members and more than 10,800 consumers have conducted nearly 310,000 searches through the app, said Marci Francisco, senior director of automotive marketing and business development at CU Direct.
“One thing we want to think about is the psychology of payments. Calculators are important but members want to know ‘what does this loan mean in real life,’” Francisco said.