Category Archives: Industry News

Auto Finance Industry News and Updates

Statistics from DOT on Clunkers Program

With the passing of the ‘Clunkers’ program, there is plenty of speculation remaining as to whether or not the program was successful.  That sort of depends upon where you are viewing it I suppose, but no doubt, some good things did happen.  Putting cash in the hands of consumers via the rebate clearly sparked some of that cautionary demand to take action.  One view might be to take a look at the U. S. Department of Transportation statistics.  I won’t go in to all of them so here are a few highlights.

“American consumers and workers were the clear winners thanks to Cash for Clunkers program,” said Ray LaHood, U.S. transportation secretary. “Manufacturing plants have added shifts and recalled workers. Moribund (or bare) showrooms were brought back to life and consumers bought fuel-efficient cars that will save them money and improve the environment.”

Overall, rebate applications worth $2.877 billion were submitted by the Tuesday deadline. This covered 690,114 applications.

Top 10 Most Purchased Autos
Of the top 10 most purchased vehicles under the Cash for Clunkers program, only five automakers made the cut. This includes Toyota, Honda, Ford, Hyundai and Nissan. Toyota and Honda each had three models make the most purchased list, while Ford was close behind with two. Nissan and Hyundai meanwhile each had one model making the most popular Cash for Clunkers purchases.

Top Most Traded In Autos
The Ford Explorer 4WD and the Ford F-150 Pickup 2WD were the significant leaders in what was traded in.  Of the vehicles traded-in, 84 percent were trucks with 59 percent of customers purchasing passenger cars. The average trade-in mileage was 15.8 mpg, which leads to an overall increase of 9.2 mpg, or 58 percent climb, as the average new vehicle purchased receives 24.9 mpg.

Offering preliminary insight into the impact of the Clunkers program will have on the economy, the White House Council of Economic Advisers predicted the program will ramp up economic growth in the third quarter by about 0.3 to 0.4 percent at an annual rate due to the sales. The gross domestic product will be sustained thanks to increased vehicle production and to fulfill inventory requirements, the group indicated. Furthermore, an excepted 42,000 jobs will be created or saved.

New-Vehicle Manufacturer Percentages:
Toyota: 19.4 percent
General Motors: 17.6 percent
Ford: 14.4 percent
Honda: 13 percent
Nissan: 8.7 percent
Hyundai: 7.2 percent
Chrysler: 6.6 percent

There is, as we’ve mentioned many times, a large gap in opinions of just how successful the program was.  However, what it did do is create an artificial spike in consumer spending.  If you think about it, the conclusion that was most promoted by the non-objective major newscasters who thought of this as a good idea, was to proclaim its success.

With the direct lending markets still in mourning from the failed practices of many banks mortgage fiasco, a huge market still exists for auto loans and refinancing for everyone who does not have a 720+ FICO score.  In the meantime, and still a “nightmare” is the fact that dealerships are still waiting for their money, and most have stopped junking the trade-ins in fear of Uncle Sam failing to reimburse them under the program.  Time will tell.  What do you think?  Good or bad, let us know.

‘Cash 4 Clunkers’ Nightmare on Elm Street

Regardless of how you feel personally about the “cash for clunkers” program, there is little doubt that some positive things came out of it.That doesn’t over-ride any gasps that have been heard about the unintended consequences of such a program, but you still have to acknowledge it got a lot of buyers excited about buying a car. Let’s stick with that for a minute.

It sill looks like consumers benefited, and the Government benefited by the “look what we’ve done to spark the economy” sound bits spewed all over the media, and finally, the dealerships got rid of a lot of autos sitting on their lots.

The problem is that they seem to be the ones floating the Federal Government, while they try to figure out how to make the payment processing work. That’s funny! From what I’m seeing, most dealerships are going on a wish and a prayer about getting paid.

I’m talking some major cash per dealership that is hung up in government regulations of 150 pages and some 14 different forms that need to be completed. Does that sound like efficiency to you? I think it’s totally blind faith at this point that the dealerships are going to get the money that is owed to them. Citi call centers have been awarded outsourced work, and the National Transportation and Highway and FAA employees have been brought in to process paperwork, in addition to part-time employees having been hired.

It kinda sounds like a cluster — I mean ‘Clunker’ to me. They are all working on trying to input stuff and they can’t get in because there is soooo much of it and the documentation to process just one sale with a qualified rebate takes hours to complete. The computers are overwhelmed. It’s a great program for the manufacturers, a great program for the consumers. For dealers, it’s been an administrative nightmare.

Think about this for a minute – The Obama administration and its allies in Congress propose to overhaul (and potentially run) health care for more than 300 million Americans?

I think we can say cash-for-clunkers doesn’t inspire much confidence in Washington’s bureaucratic acumen. Or its speed! Or its feel for a functioning market, the demands and expectations – – OK I’ll stop.

Will the dealers get paid? Yes, because failure to do so would be a PR disaster of epic proportions for the democrats and the administration. Will the program prove to be the jumpstart languishing auto sales need? Debatable, but probably not, though depleted inventories already are forcing increased production schedules across the industry. Those announcements were made about a week ago.

The more important question, it seems to me, is what the obvious administrative failures of cash for clunkers say about the federal government’s capability to manage programs more typically run by the private sector. And, secondly, why is there a clamor for more of the same? What is it about this poorly run program that the American people or even congress wants more of? Tell me, what am I missing? Why did the public not see or hear about the issues in the media? Clearly journalism has seen better days and major networks appear to be agencies for the Obama administration.

Sad day for the USA.

Auto dealers are in business to make money selling cars and trucks, not to serve as conduits for federal transfer payments. If nothing else, cash for clunkers proved Americans still love good deals — and that their government cannot process them.

Auto Sales to Shrink after Clunkers program Expires

With all the hoopla over the “Cash for Clunkers” program in terms of helping dealers move a large quantity of autos new autos and some additional used car inventory for shoppers who could not meet the program’s requirements, the auto segment has clearly enjoyed year over year sales improvements.  The C for C program in August is private-party used sales.  That is from the latest analysis from CNW Research.

It is interesting that no media analysis has ever told the tale of the “unintended consequences” of the destruction of more than a quarter million used cars, especially older models that would have gone to charity or been sold on the private party market.   It’s an obvious benefit to the new dealers, that’s for sure.  This creates the supply shortage, especially for lower prices cars resulting in the remaining cars left on dealer lots to increase the sales price.  Since demand has remained strong, at least for the first few days and possibly weeks, it would have forced the average prices to increase because the least expensive cars and trucks were being removed from the overall inventory available.

Owners of vehicles that didn’t qualify for the clunker program reverted to their original intent and sold the cars and trucks private party, according to Art Spinella, president of CNW Research.   Specifically, private used-vehicle sales are expected to total 1.214 million in August, a 1.5-percent improvement from a year ago. Meanwhile, franchised dealers are expected to move 1.417 million used units, a 0.5-percent decline, and independents are likely to sell 1.246 million used cars, a 0.4-percent upswing.

Cash for Clunkers affected the new side of the market. According to his analysis, at the mid-point of July, new-vehicle sales were on pace to have a 22.2-percent year-over-year decline.  However, the heavy promotion and coverage of CARS helped to lift new-vehicle sales to 997,572 units for the month, which was down less than 13 percent from July 2008.   The “bounce” in floor traffic at the end of July continued through the first two weeks of August, and this helped multiple areas of the industry, according to Spinella.  First, it drew more ‘lookers’ who weren’t even planning to buy a car or truck. It’s been more than two years since analysts have seen any appreciable increase share of floor traffic consisting of long-term shoppers (those who don’t expect to buy a vehicle for at least a year,) and second, it exposed Cash for Clunker buyers and general consumers to other models, which had a positive overall effect in sales.  There were many benefits for dealerships’ F&I, parts and service operations, as well as for salespeople in general.  I suppose all those who got a subsidy are pleased.

So now what?  Frankly, as it has been observed by others, that dealers have been taking early sales from 2010 expected revenues.  This has driven up prices, while the big 3 have increased production.  What should we expect next?  In my opinion, expect a spiraling drop in sales through the balance of the year, picking up some first quarter 2010.  Shoppers will clearly delay purchases until more signs of a stable economy are seen and their jobs are not threatened.  At some point the auto loan marketplace is going to rebound.  I am looking forward to lenders getting back into the game and providing some service again.

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Cash for Clunkers: Are you Paying any Attention?

There is no doubt that if you have been watching TV or even reviewing RSS articles on Clunkers you have found out that the media is overwhelmingly of the opinion that “cash for clunkers” has worked well and will benefit the economy.   I’ve never really expected an objective observation or evaluation from the Whitehouse, but that’s another matter.  

Why are TV and media so blind and non-objective anymore?  That’s probably because so many reporters fail to heed the journalistic rules that have been a foundation of our press, and that is to note the unseen as well as the seen—to consider all the effects of a policy on society as a whole, not just the immediately obvious benefits for a select group. I’ve not really seen anything published or on TV that has put any type of high level of questioning of the program before us and tried to explain what the unseen consequences of the ‘Clunkers’ program might be.  That’s why I ask if anyone is paying attention.

The first benefit of this revised clunkers program, which was approved last night by the senate and is off to the President today, is to increase the sales price of the car.  What this $3 billion subsidy is doing is boosting sales prices and lowering trade-in payments.  It’s not as if dealers simply charge $4,500 less than they would have and pass the entire subsidy onto the buyer — dealers still charge as much as they can for a new car and pay as little for a trade-in as their customers will allow. The subsidy is split between dealers and customers.  No one has ever come out and said that.

And who are the customers? Not poor people, or the needy — they don’t shell out five figures for new cars. No, this is a middle-class to upper-middle-class subsidy, which is probably why politicians love it so much.  I continue to hear that the average FICO score of the buyers within the ‘Clunkers’ program has a 720 score.  That’s clearly not the poor but I doubt if that kind of information ever comes available to the public or gets reported.

The real benefit to business — and harm to the economy — comes after the car sale is concluded. The law requires the dealers destroy the “clunker” engine (which, to be eligible, was drivable upon trade-in), scrap the car and shred almost all its parts. This government-required waste reduces the supply of used cars on the road.  All those poor and needy, who would have benefited from having access to these autos, will be completely denied.  Reduce the supply of drivable used cars, and you drive up the price of all cars.

This supply reduction is the real stimulus for automakers and new-car dealers, and it comes at the expense of every consumer who didn’t take advantage of Cash for Clunkers — especially those who can’t afford a new car. This $3B program taxes used-car buyers to subsidize new-car buyers.  Have we all just gone nuts in the country?  So tell me, how’s that “cash for clunkers” program working out for you?

 I’d love to hear your comments.

J.D. Power Says Dealer Satisfaction with Lenders Declines

In an article published by SubPrime Auto Finance News,  J.D. Power and Associates  have discovered that dealer satisfaction with lenders declined “considerably” from 2008 in all four segments reviewed in the Dealer Financing Satisfaction Study.  Is it any wonder that this occurred when all the lenders are holding on to their cash tighter than a 5 year old holding a Popsicle?  I’ve had conversations with dealerships who have shared with me that as long as the financing customer has a 740+ FICO, they can get financing but if not, they can forget it.

The study examined five key factors to contribute to satisfaction within the prime retail credit, subprime retail credit and retail leasing segments: provider offerings, credit personnel, application/approval process, termination policy/service and sales representative relationship. Three factors were measured in the floor-planning segment: provider offering; floor-plan support personnel and process/service.

The study was based on responses from more than 2,000 dealer principals who were surveyed between April and May of this year.

On a 1,000-point scale J.D. Power found:

Prime Retail Credit (down 46 points)
2008: 835
2009: 789

Subprime Retail Credit (down 76 points)
2008: 793
2009: 717

Retail Leasing  (down 79 points)

Floor Planning  (down 90 points)

The retail financing experience account for more than two-thirds of dealer satisfaction. Meanwhile, offerings such as rates account for less than one-third of overall satisfaction.  While recognizing that the past year has been tough for dealers, J.D. Power executives advised, “This indicates an opportunity for lenders to differentiate themselves through service, even though external market forces are driving a more conservative lending approach.”   I just love the “more conservative lending approach,” don’t you?

David Lo, director of financial services as J.D. Power, explained it this way, “Current economic conditions have created something of a ‘perfect storm’ as declines in new-vehicle sales, tightened lending and reduced inventory funds have combined to put extreme stress on dealer business.”

“However, the fundamental principles of service are unchanged. Lenders that focus on prompt application and funding turnaround times, have credit buyers that demonstrate willingness to worth with their clients and have sales representatives who are skilled in relationship management may position themselves to be a lender of choice,” he continued.   This is actually pretty significant.  One of these days lenders will clamor around the dealerships, if not the buying consumers, and be happy to lend money again.  LOL, that sure sounds so funny to me.

This is interesting as well; Basically, the study discovered that higher levels of satisfaction may positively impact the amount of a business a lender receives from a dealer.  For instance, for the lenders in the prime retail segment whose satisfaction scores averaged 712 on a 1,000-point scale, 22 percent of dealers say they “definitely will” increase their business with this organization.

However, of the lenders whose satisfaction scores averaged 886, 46 percent of dealers said they “definitely will” increase business with that lender.  Lo noted, “High-performing lenders tend to close a higher proportion of deals. This is critical right now, and almost more importantly, may serve as a foundation for growth one the market stabilizes.”

Prime Retail Credit

Taking the top spot in the prime retail credit segment was Mercedes-Benz Financial with an index score of 918. Officials said this company performed particularly well in two areas, provider offerings and credit personnel.  The prime retail credit company averages of a few sample lenders are as follows:

Mercedes-Benz Financial: 918
BMW Financial Services: 898
Toyota Financial Services: 873
Audi Financial Services: 838
Honda Financial Services: 831
Wachovia Dealer Services: 814
Ford Credit: 802
Bank of America: 787
Chase Auto Finance: 772
US Bank: 744
Capital One Auto Finance: 732
GMAC: 711
Chrysler Financial: 665

Subprime Retail Credit

Interestingly enough, J.D. Power said that no awards were presented in the subprime retail credit segment due to insufficient market representation.

The rest of the detail is not that interesting so I won’t go into it.  I don’t know about you but let’s hope that this ‘Perfect Storm’ ends soon.  I’d like to see the supply of financing start to meet the demand of the applicants.  No doubt it will take time but I speak for myself when I say I’m getting a little impatient!