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Consumers Relying on Financing, Experian Reports


SCHAUMBURG, Ill. —Consumers are relying on financing more than ever to buy their next vehicle, according to Experian Automotive. The firm’s latest State of the Automotive Finance Market report shows that the percentage of new vehicles purchased with financing in the fourth quarter of 2014 increased over the previous year to reach 84%. Used vehicles that were financed reached a record high of 55.2%.

Furthermore, the study shows that the average loan amount for a new vehicle in the fourth quarter of 2014 once again hit its highest level on record, reaching $28,381. This represents a more than $950 increase from a year ago and a $582 increase from the previous quarter. For used vehicles, the average loan amount increased $437 from last year to reach $18,411.

“In most parts of the country, vehicles are viewed as a necessity to everyday life, which is why we continue to see consumers willing to take out larger loans as the average price of vehicles continues to rise,” said Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of automotive finance. “As more consumers lean on financing, it’s important for them to consider all of the factors involved, including monthly payments, interest rates and loan terms. These insights will enable them to have a better understanding of their potential payment obligation and take the appropriate action in order to make the vehicle fit within their monthly budget and more easily meet payment terms throughout the life of the loan.”

Findings from the report also show that leasing continued to gain traction, as it jumped 3.6% from a year ago to reach nearly 30% of all new vehicles financed in the quarter.

In addition to the number of leases increasing in the quarter, the study shows that it was slightly more affordable and easier to obtain one. The average monthly lease payment decreased $12 from a year ago to reach $408 in Q4 2014. What’s more, the average new-vehicle lessee had an average credit score of 717 in Q4 2014, down two points over the same time period.

The study also found that the average credit score for a new-vehicle loan dropped 3 points in Q4 2014 to reach 712, and the average credit score for a used vehicle loan increased 2 points in the quarter to reach 648. Also in the fourth quarter, the average monthly payment for a new vehicle hit $482 — its highest level on record.

Interest rates for new-vehicle loans crept up in Q4 2014 to 4.56% and loan terms for new and used vehicles increased from a year ago to reach 66 months and 62 months, respectively. Captives were the only lender type to see an increase in market share year over year.

Experian’s quarterly State of the Automotive Finance Market report leverages information from its AutoCount database, which enables insights into the automotive-lending market by geography, credit score and vehicle registrations, among other factors.

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Equifax Refutes ‘Subprime Bubble’ in New Report


ATLANTA — Equifax Inc. has released its latest economic trends commentary, “Subprime Auto Loans: A Second Chance at Economic Opportunity,” which examines two groups of consumers with deep subprime credit scores over a three-year period: those who originated a subprime auto loan and those who did not.

Equifax found that over the three-year time period, those consumers with deep subprime credit scores that originated a subprime auto loan showed, in aggregate, a significant increase in their credit score. In fact, those consumers improved their credit score by a median of 52 points, which is a 62.5% improvement over the median score change of the group that did not take out a loan. Even more telling, those that took out a subprime auto loan were four times more likely than those who did not to have improved their score to a level above 640, moving them out of the subprime segment.

“The auto industry’s success wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for the responsible, solid subprime loans made to the many Americans in need of a car to get to their jobs or take their children to school,” Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts and Deputy Chief Economist Dennis Carlson said. “Lenders now have better tools, more data and enhanced technology available to them to make sounder and safer decisions. While we should all continue to remain vigilant, we can confidently say that subprime auto lending is currently performing well, it’s not growing as quickly as prime lending, and our data does not suggest that a bubble is forming.”

“I started my career sitting across the loan desk from thousands of nonprime families in need of a vehicle — each of them having a story about circumstances that resulted in their less than perfect credit score,” said Lou Loquasto, auto finance leader at Equifax. “It was rewarding to watch these customers diligently make the most of these second chances and see a high percentage graduate to a prime credit standing — empowering them to take full advantage of their newfound financial well-being.”

To read the full report, click here.

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California on Track to Sell 1.8 million New Units in 2014


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — New-vehicle registrations in the state continued to improve during the first half of 2014 vs. 2013, according to a report from the California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA). With an increase of 7.3% this year, California’s sales are still on track to approach 1.8 million new units.

California also continues to outpace the U.S. new-car sales growth of 5.4% this year. “Thanks to consistently better technology and improved fuel economy in these new models, the growth gain in new-vehicle sales compared to used sales is three times higher,” said Randy Denham, CNCDA chairman and owner of S.J. Denham Chrysler Jeep in Redding, Calif.

California’s used-vehicle market is also on an upward trend of 2.4%, though the vast majority of vehicles sold at franchised dealerships are new — more than 910,000 through June.

The Toyota Camry took over as the state’s best-selling new model, slightly beating Toyota’s Prius and Corolla and Honda’s Accord and Civic. The Japanese brands continued to increase their sales by 10.2% and now account for 49% of the California new car market.

Domestic brands held steady at 27.7% and Korean brands increased slightly at 7.9%. The Hybrid segment continues to trend at a decrease this year, while Plug-in and Electric vehicles experienced a slight increase. Interestingly, for the second consecutive quarter, Tesla experienced the sharpest year over year decline of any manufacturer listed in the report, officials said.

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Dealership Buy/Sell Activity Jumps 60% in Q1


Irvine, CA — Kerrigan Advisors, a firm specializing in serving dealership sellers, released its quarterly report on dealership buy/sell activity in the U.S. Market. It found that such activity increased dramatically in the first quarter.

Laying out the high, average and low multiples for each franchise in the luxury and non-luxury segments for the quarter, the Kerrigan Quarterly Blue Sky Report offers a detailed view of public and private company dealership acquisition activity. In addition to the sharp spike in selling, the report found that that blue sky pricing remains high for most franchises and that the market has established a pricing floor.

“As anticipated, an increase in the number of sellers coming to market has led to a major uptick in buy/sell activity,” said Erin Kerrigan, founder and managing director of Kerrigan Advisors. “We attribute this to high blue sky prices, buyer demand for dealerships and a slowdown in dealership profit growth, meaning sellers are concerned about missing the market and want to ensure they exit on top.

“Private companies continued to dominate the market in quarter one, although public company activity rose slightly during the quarter and will likely continue to pick up after the announcement of Lithia’s acquisition of DCH,” she added. “The publics, however, are being very disciplined with their capital allocation. If they believe the better investment is their own stock, they are choosing a stock buyback over an acquisition. In the first quarter, collectively, they chose to spend 70% more on their own stock than on U.S. acquisitions.”

The firm found that buy/sell activity increased 60% in the first quarter and that more sellers are coming to market to capitalize on high blue sky values that may fade as earning growth slows. Blue sky values remain at elevated levels as dealership earnings continue to grow, albeit more slowly; and multiples remain high or reach higher levels.

The multiples for Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Porsche have increased since 2013, the report noted. As competition for auto retail market share heats up, buyers are placing an even higher premium on these franchises. And with the average dealership earning an annual 28% return on equity, few dealers are willing to sell their franchises for less than a 3x blue sky multiple in today’s market.

“While the future continues to look rosy for dealership acquisitions, we will likely start to see some negative shifts as increasing competition for car sales brings blue sky winners and losers,” Kerrigan concluded.

To read the full report, click here.

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