Longer Loans, High Lease Penetration No Problem, Experian Says

The glut of off-lease vehicles returning to inventory this year threatens to erode pricing, but Experian believes the buyer-loyalty benefits of leasing far outweigh those risks.

David Zoia Editor, Executive Director-Content

April 1, 2016

3 Min Read
Zabritski No red flags
Zabritski: No red flags.

LAS VEGAS – Concerned the trend to increased leasing and steady growth in subprime and longer-term loans could derail the auto industry?

Don’t be, say analysts for credit-data tracker Experian Automotive, who put the accent on leasing’s positives and dismiss worries the credit market rapidly is headed in the wrong direction.

Experian says new-vehicle leasing overall has grown 50% from 2010-2015. While that is producing a glut of off-lease cars and trucks returning to inventory this year – some 3.1 million units – and pressuring both used- and new-car pricing, Experian’s Erik Hjermstad prefers to stress the financing tactic’s pluses.

“Leasing is healthy for the marketplace,” says Hjermstad, data research and analytics manager. “It drives loyalty. Loyalty is at historic highs.”

Overall, 71.5% of lessees remain loyal to the brand, compared with 60.6% for those financing via conventional loans, the firm says. Of those who lease, 64.8% remain loyal to the automaker, 57.5% stick with the vehicle make and 26.1% sign another lease for the identical model. Some 37% of lease customers return to the same dealership.

“These are the highest levels we’ve seen,” Hjermstad emphasizes, pointing to the 64.8% OE loyalty rate. “That’s a fantastic number.”

However, those scores do make it harder for automakers to conquest new customers from other brands, he says.

The best hunting ground? Higher educated (graduate degree) buyers, those employed in management roles and people with household incomes above $200,000. All three groups have a high propensity toward leasing, but tend to be more open to switching brands.

Loan lengths also are on the rise, notes Experian’s Melinda Zabritski, senior director-financial solutions, now averaging 67 months, up from 66 in 2014 and 63 in 2010. Average monthly payments also are up for loans, at $493, from $482 last year and $464 in 2010, with the amount financed also rising, to $29,551 from $25,789 in 2010.

Loans of 73-84 months now account for a 29% share, up from 25.9% a year ago and just 9.6% in 2010. Millennials are driving the increase, she says, with 16.0% of their new-car loans in the above 72-month category.

Credit scores have fallen to an average 711 from 736 in 2009, and subprime loans now make up 11.5% of the total pool, up from 10.8% last year and 7.4% in 2010. Delinquencies are up slightly to 0.71% of loans from 0.67 a year ago.

But while some analysts contend the loan trend has the industry headed for disaster, Zabritski is not one of them.

“Today’s market is strong and subprime still is a small part of the market,” she says. “Lenders continue to make wise decisions…and they’re doing a lot of analysis. I’m not seeing any red flags.”

Zabritski also is unfazed by the potential pricing impact from the glut of returning lease cars, saying there are financial positives as well as negatives, “like everything else in this industry.”

Meanwhile, with the overall new-vehicle market at record levels and average transaction prices climbing, the overall outstanding loan portfolio is hitting record highs. At $987 billion at the end of 2015, Zabritski expects it to break the $1 trillion barrier no later than the second quarter.

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About the Author(s)

David Zoia Editor

Executive Director-Content

Dave writes about autonomous vehicles, electrification and other advanced technology and industry trends.

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