SCHAUMBURG, Ill. American consumers are doing a better job of making payments on their auto loans as delinquencies on 30- and 60-day loans fell in the first quarter of 2010, according to Experian Automotive.

The 30-day delinquency rate fell 1.06 percent from the first quarter 2009 to first quarter 2010 (2.82 percent to 2.79 percent), according to Experian Automotive’s analysis of the automotive finance market as of the first quarter of 2010. The 60-day delinquency rate fell from 0.79 percent in first quarter 2009 to 0.78 percent in first quarter 2010.

“As we look for positive economic trends related to consumer behavior, the drop in automotive loan delinquencies is a step in the right direction,” said Scott Waldron, president of Experian Automotive. “A healthy lending industry is ultimately an important pillar of a healthy auto industry. When fewer people are delinquent on payments, it is good for lenders, which should translate into positives for the auto industry down the line.”

Despite the drop in loan delinquencies, lending institutions are still taking a cautious approach to their lending strategies. The average credit score for a new-vehicle loan in the first quarter 2010 was 776, up three points from the first quarter 2009. In addition, the percent of near prime, subprime and deep subprime loans for new vehicles dropped from 17.99 percent in the first quarter 2009 to 16.86 percent in the first quarter 2010.

“It is very clear that lenders continued to take a disciplined approach to new vehicle loans in the first quarter,” said Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive credit for Experian Automotive. “As a whole, lenders remain much more risk-averse than they were two or three years ago. However, financing is still available for some customers in higher-risk tiers. Automotive retailers might need to look a little harder and might need to educate their customers about changes in loan terms, but it is still possible to get these consumers into a vehicle.”

Other findings include the following:

  • The overall finance market has remained stable, with growth occurring in prime segments (total prime market up 2.55 percent).
  • The average credit score for used vehicle loans rose to 665 in Q1 2010 from 661 in Q1 2009.
  • The states with the highest average credit scores for new vehicle loans were Minnesota (805), Wisconsin (797), Iowa (795), Colorado (791) and Connecticut (791).
  • The states with the lowest average credit scores for new vehicle loans were Mississippi (752), Texas (754), Louisiana (754), Nevada (755) and West Virginia (760).

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