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1Q Auto Loan Delinquency Rates Fall More Than 18 Percent

May 25, 2010

Consumer payment behavior continues to improve, with TransUnion reporting that the national 60-day delinquency rate fell 18.52 percent in the first quarter of this year to 0.66 percent. On a year-over-year basis, the delinquency rate fell by 20.48 percent during the first three months of 2010 compared to 2009.

Polling approximately 27 million randomly sampled individual credit files — representing 10 percent of credit-active U.S. consumers — the firm reported that average auto debt fell slightly from $12,568 to $12,501 on a quarter-over-quarter basis. On a year-over-year basis, auto debt fell by 0.75 percent during the period.

"The national trend we are now seeing points to a clear improvement in payment behavior," said Peter Turek, automotive vice president in TransUnion's financial services group. "As we noted last quarter, part of the reason for the turnaround in delinquency rates is the influx of new, lower risk loans.”

Turek added that the downward trend was further energized by first quarter improvements in economic factors such as consumer confidence and savings rates, which demonstrated consumer willingness to focus on debt obligations. On a state-level basis, 46 states experienced a drop in their quarter-to-quarter delinquency rates, while only 3 states showed an increase on a year-over-year basis.

Auto loan delinquency was highest in Louisiana and Alabama at 1.20 percent and 1.13 percent, respectively. The lowest auto loan delinquency rates were found in Alaska (0.33 percent), North Dakota (0.33 percent) and Montana (0.37 percent). The largest improvements in delinquency from the previous quarter were found in the District of Columbia (42.3 percent decrease from 1.18 percent) and Utah (37.8 percent decrease from 0.61 percent).

Additionally, auto loan delinquency rates rose for only four states since the fourth quarter of 2009: Alaska (13.8 percent increase), South Dakota (9.8 percent increase), Vermont (9.4 percent increase), and North Dakota (3.12 percent increase).

Looking at auto debt by states, the District of Columbia held the largest average auto debt burden at $14,911, followed by Wyoming at $14,579. The lowest average auto debt was in Nebraska at $10,781. The regions with the steepest quarterly increases in average auto debt as a percentage were North Dakota (+2.37 percent), the District of Columbia (+2.10 percent) and Wyoming (+1.76 percent). Alaska experienced the sharpest drop in average auto debt (-3.90 percent), followed by Tennessee (-3.20 percent).

On a year-over-year basis, national bank auto originations increased by 5.4 percent, with North Dakota exhibiting the greatest rise with an increase of approximately 32 percent from first quarter 2009. On a regional basis, only eight states showed a drop in year-over-year originations.

"TransUnion expects next quarter's national 60-day auto delinquency rate to continue to move downward due in part to seasonal factors, but also because of general improvement in certain aspects of the economy,” said Turek. “Given a more positive outlook in per capita disposable income and projected new-vehicle sales, our forecasting models point to a national 60-day auto delinquency rate in the range of 0.68 percent by [the end of the year, factoring in the strong seasonal uptick in delinquency typical in the fourth quarter.”

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