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Bursting Auto Lenders' Bubble

Apr 24, 2017 | 09:30 GMT
For several years, car sales have kept pace with the rise in auto loans. But now the market for new and used cars may have reached its saturation point, a development that bodes ill for the auto lending sector.
For several years, car sales have kept pace with the rise in auto loans. But now the market for new and used cars may have reached its saturation point, a development that bodes ill for the auto lending sector.
(JUSTIN SULLIVAN/Getty Images)

Since the dawn of the automobile, American consumers have been car crazy. The 2008 financial crisis dampened their enthusiasm, as high oil prices and tightening credit deterred Americans from buying new cars, and especially the larger vehicles that had become the mainstay of U.S. automakers. Once the crisis passed and lines of credit opened back up, though, Americans returned to the auto market in full force. Larger cars started coming back in fashion, with help from improved fuel efficiency and lower oil prices, and average vehicle prices have risen by 30 percent since 2009. The result has been a seven-year boom in sales, which climbed from an annualized 9 million units in February 2009 to 18.3 million units in December 2016. As car prices have soared, so, too, has the value of car loans -- up to a record average of $29,469 per vehicle. These factors combined have contributed to a...

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