ATLANTA — The latest Equifax National Credit Trends Report revealed that auto finance companies have increased lending by more than 47 percent over the past two years. Auto finance lenders also have outpaced bank and credit union in lending to subprime borrowers over the same time period.

The report indicated that there were 854,800 auto finance company-originated loans in July 2011 vs. 581,300 for July 2009. Auto loans made to subprime borrowers now account for 38.5 percent of all auto loan originations for auto finance companies and 17.6 percent for banks and credit unions — numbers that are quickly approaching pre-recession levels.

By contrast, 820,200 loans were originated by banks and credit unions for the same period in July 2011 vs. 832,000 for July 2009, a decrease of less than 2 percent, according to Equifax.

Delinquency rates continue to improve for outstanding auto loans currently 60 or more days past due, which have fallen to 1.63 percent of loans. The improvement reflects a continuation of sustained credit retraction that the auto lending industry has experienced earlier than other lending segments, said Michael Koukounas, senior vice president of Special Client Services for Equifax.

“With unemployment rates remaining elevated for a prolonged period, auto lenders have proactively adopted more comprehensive data and verification tools for greater loan-level transparency in evaluating a wider band of consumers, which has helped enable the auto lending industry to recover more quickly than others,” he noted.

In July 2011, 1.7 million auto loans worth $32 billion collectively were originated, according to Equifax. From January to July 2011, 11.3 million new auto loans worth a collective $213.9billion (a 14.8 percent increase vs. the same six-month period last year)  had been originated, a 13.2 percent increase over January-July 2010 totals.

The report also revealed that average monthly payment has remained relatively unchanged over the last year, signaling that the growth the industry is experiencing is tied to increases in number of loans rather than an increase in average loan amount, Koukounas added.