SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Experian Automotive reported today that outstanding automotive loan balances totaled $968 billion in the third quarter. That’s up $98 million from a year ago and up more than 53% from the post-recession low in 2010.

The firm noted that while outstanding balances have grown substantially, borrowers continue to keep the market stable by making on time payments. It reported that 30-day delinquencies dropped from 2.7% in the year-ago period to 2.5%, while 60-day delinquencies fell from 0.74% in the year-ago quarter to 0.73%.

“Continued growth in the automotive finance market is a clear sign of improved consumer confidence over the past few years,” said Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of automotive finance. “Since bottoming out in the recession, automotive sales have rebounded steadily — a good sign for consumers, vehicle OEMs, lending organizations and the overall economy.

“What’s critical to this success is that consumers stay on top of their payments,” she added. “If they can continue to manage their financial obligations and make timely payments, the automotive industry can continue to flourish and grow for quite some time.”

The report also found that the largest increase in volume of open loans was in the super-prime category, rising 8.3% from the previous year. Subprime and nonprime followed closely, with increases of 7.8% and 7.7%, respectively. The distribution of open loans by risk segment remains relatively unchanged, Zabritski noted, demonstrating that the surge in outstanding automotive financing is driven by consumers across the board, not a specific segment of the market.