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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB examines relationship between high vehicle costs and loan performance

Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance Auto Finance Credit Scores Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Federal Issues

On September 19, the CFPB published a blog post exploring the potential relationship between high vehicle costs and changes in auto loan characteristics and performance, particularly with respect to consumers with near-prime or subprime credit scores. The Bureau reported that the average vehicle price increased over the past two years, particularly throughout 2021, and that data from the Bureau’s Consumer Credit Panel showed that an increase in the size of newly originated auto loans coincided with a spike in vehicle price. The blog post also highlighted a recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York report, which found that higher vehicle prices are a significant factor driving larger loan amounts. “The dollar value of outstanding auto loans increased by $33 billion between the first and second quarters of 2022 to $1.5 trillion outstanding,” the report said, noting that the increase “is due in large part to larger loan originations rather than by an increase in the number of loans.” The Bureau also reported that recent data has shown that delinquency rates, especially for low-income borrowers, has increased over the past year. While the Bureau said it cannot fully infer that the end of pandemic-related stimulus policies or inflationary pressures are possible explanations for the rise in delinquency rates, the agency said it “cannot ignore the relationship between larger loan amounts and increasing interest rates to consumer’s monthly budgets and some consumers’ struggle to stay current on their loans.” The Bureau stressed, however, that while current data provides insight into broad indicators, it “lacks the granularity to isolate specific economic trends or to fully explore the impact on subsets of consumers.” The agency said it will continue to seek data that allows for better visibility in this market and will remain focused on ensuring that the auto lending market is fair, transparent, and competitive.