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Auto Delinquencies Becoming More Predictable, Says TransUnion

March 17, 2009

Pete Turek wasn’t surprised by his company’s report on fourth-quarter 2008 delinquency rates, which showed year-over-year increases. In fact, the senior executive at TransUnion said the numbers are becoming more predictable.

Between the third and fourth quarters 2008, delinquencies increased from 0.8 percent to 0.86 percent, according to data recently release by TransUnion. Year-over-year, the delinquency rate increased 8.86 percent in the fourth quarter.

Turek attributed the increases to several factors, such as seasonal dependencies and the current lending environment. He also pointed to the battered economy, mortgage crisis and the weak labor market as major contributors.

“In reviewing the data, there’s no real surprises,” Turek said. “Most people marked the beginning of recession at December 2007. From December 2007 to the end of 2009, we’re looking at a 40 percent increase in the number of delinquencies. We’ve already experienced more than half of that increase through the fourth quarter [2008].”

Turek expects the delinquency rate to increase to 1.13 percent by the end of the year, a “highwater mark” for auto loan delinquencies.

While the predicted rate is a significant number, Turek pointed out that 30 states and the District of Columbia were below the national average delinquency rate.

“It’s good for consumers. They’re very resilient and they’re figuring out ways to stay current on their auto loans,” Turek said.

Ranking states by delinquency rates, the top 10 states with the highest rates were those hit hardest by the mortgage crisis or are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Mississippi topped the list with a rate of 1.62 percent, followed by California at 1.46 percent.

Rounding out the list of troubled states were Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii.

Additionally, TransUnion reported that average auto debt nationally decreased slightly in the fourth quarter from $12,861 to $12,713. Year-over-year auto debt also fell to 0.2 percent, which Turek said wasn’t a surprise.

“That was expected that average auto debt would go down. You heard about a lot of folks not buying autos or lenders not making a lot of loans in the fourth quarter,” Turek said. “I would not be surprised if average auto debt continues to go down.”

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