CHICAGO — The national 60-day delinquency rate for auto loans rose from 0.33 percent in the second quarter to 0.38 percent in the third quarter, according to Transunion’s latest figures. But the rate remains below last year’s 0.47 percent reading and at new historic lows.

While auto loan delinquency rates remain relatively low, bank auto debt per borrower continued to rise during the quarter, increasing 5 percent from $12,902 in the year-ago period to $13,571.

"Since TransUnion began tracking the auto loan delinquency rate in 1999, we have observed a seasonal increase in this variable every year between the second and third quarters," said Peter Turek, automotive vice president in TransUnion's financial services business unit. "This has occurred even with auto loan delinquencies dropping 56 percent since the recession high of 0.86 percent set in the fourth quarter of 2008. Seasonal factors include consumers balancing increased spending due to back to school needs and holiday purchases."

Between the second and third quarter, 38 states experienced increases in their auto delinquency rates. However, on a year-over-year basis, only seven states experienced increases in their auto delinquency rates. On a more granular level, 54 percent of metropolitan areas experienced increases in their auto delinquency rates in the third quarter. This is up from the prior period when 42 percent of MSAs experienced increases.

Auto loan originations also continue to increase. Total new auto loan and lease originations in the second quarter grew by approximately 16 percent from the same period last year.

The share of nonprime consumers (with a VantageScore® credit score lower than 700 on a scale of 501-990) was 32.8 percent. This is somewhat higher than a year ago (30.2 percent in the second quarter 2011), and is significantly higher than the 27.5 percent observed in the second quarter 2010.

In volume terms, the number of new accounts originated to nonprime consumers increased 25.6 percent in the second quarter vs. the year-ago period. In addition, average balances for new auto loans increased by 2.4 percent in the second quarter vs. the same period last year, rising from $17,829 in to $18,258.

"With increased auto loan balances and more loans going to nonprime borrowers, it is plausible that some pressure may be placed on the auto loan delinquency rate," Turek noted. "However, as the economy continues to improve and new and used auto demand maintains its current pace, we believe that the auto loan delinquency rate will either remain the same or even drop a few basis points by the end of the year."