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U.S. Subprime Auto Nation

Companies / US Auto's Sep 07, 2012 - 01:07 PM GMT

By: James_Quinn


Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleHave you heard the news? Auto sales are booming. Total sales for the month of August were 1,285,202 vehicles, according to Autodata Corp, the highest monthly sales figure for any August since 2007, when 1.47 million autos were sold in the United States. Year to date auto sales have totaled 9.7 million and are on track to reach 14.5 million. Between 2006 and 2007, auto sales ranged between 16 million and 18 million. They crashed below 10 million in 2009. The Keynesians running our government have pulled out all the stops to restart this engine of consumer spending. First they wasted $3 billion of taxpayer funds on the Cash for Clunkers debacle. Almost 700,000 perfectly good cars were destroyed in order to keep union workers happy.  This Keynesian brain fart distorted the used car market for two years, raising prices for cars needed by the working poor. After that miserable failure, they realized the true secret to selling vehicles is to give them away to anyone that can scratch an X on a loan document, with 0% interest for 60 months, financed by Federal government controlled banking interests. Add in some massive channel stuffing and presto!!! - You’ve got an auto sales boom.

General Motors sales are up 3.7% over 2011. Ford Motors sales are up 6% over 2011. The Obama administration continues to tout their saving of the U.S. auto industry with their bailout in 2009 that saved unions and screwed bondholders. If this strong auto recovery is not an illusion, how do you explain the two charts below? General Motors stock is down 42% since 2011. The highly proclaimed success story called Ford Motors has seen their stock collapse by 50% since 2011. This is surely a sign of tremendous success and anticipation of soaring profits for these bastions of American manufacturing dominance.

Chart forGeneral Motors Company (GM)

Chart forFord Motor Co. (F)

This is America, land of the delusional and home of the vain. The appearance of success is more important than actual success. The corporate mainstream media dutifully reports the surge in auto sales is surely a sign the economy is recovering and the consumer has finished deleveraging and is ready to spend again. The government propaganda machine proclaims the surging auto sales are due to their wise and forward thinking policies (like the Chevy Volt). Luckily for them, there are millions of gullible Americans who believe the storyline and are easily convinced that driving a $30,000 new car, financed over seven years, makes them a success. The decades of Bernaysian marketing propaganda has worked its magic on the government educated, math challenged citizenry. There are only two things that matter to the non-thinking auto buyer (renter) - the monthly payment and what the next door neighbor and his coworkers will think. Buying a fuel efficient car they can afford, paying it off in three or four years, and driving it for ten years, while saving the monthly car payment, is what a practical, rational thinking person would do. The fact that only 20% of the 9.7 million vehicles sold this year have been small cars and the average sales price of new cars sold is now $31,000 proves Americans are still living in a delusional fantasyland of cheap gas and monthly payments for eternity.

As gas prices surpass $4 per gallon across the country, somehow 4.7 million of the 9.7 million vehicles sold in 2012 have been pickups, vans, crossovers or SUVs. Three of the top eight selling vehicles are pickups. Luxury vehicle sales are booming, with Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Land Rover and Audi showing double digit percentage sales gains over 2011. We've entered a recession, gas prices are approaching all-time highs, job growth is pitiful, and Americans continue to buy luxury gas guzzlers on credit. This will surely end well.

The average payment on a new car in 2012 is $461. For used cars, the average monthly payment is $346. Today, 77% of new car purchases are financed. About half of all used vehicles involve financing. Of those cars financed, 89% are through a loan vs. 11% with a lease. A critical thinking person might wonder how a country with 4 million less employed people than we had in 2007, median household net worth down 35%, and real wages lower than they were in 2007, could be experiencing an auto boom. The answer is a government/corporate/banker/media effort to funnel taxpayer funds to deadbeats across the land in a fruitless attempt to create a facade of recovery. Our governing elite are convinced that more debt peddled to the masses is the path to recovery for an economy that imploded due to excessive debt peddled to the masses in the first place. Essentially, it comes down to who benefits from the peddling of debt. It isn’t the masses, as they become enslaved in the chains of debt and monthly payments in perpetuity. Debt peddling benefits Wall Street bankers, politicians, and mega-corporations selling crap to the masses.

The storyline being sold to the vegetative dupes (watching Honey Boo Boo) that occupy space in this delusional paradise we call America, by the corporate media, is that consumers have deleveraged and are ready to resume their "normal" pattern of spending money they don't have on stuff they don't need. Of course, the facts always seem to get in the way of a good yarn. Consumers have never deleveraged. Consumer credit outstanding is at an all-time high of $2.58 trillion. The decline from $2.55 trillion in 2008 to $2.4 trillion in 2010 was NOT deleveraging. It was the Wall Street Too Big To Fail banks taking a big dump on the American taxpayers. They passed their bad debts to you through TARP, the Federal Reserve buying their toxic "assets", and ZIRP.

Revolving credit (credit card) debt peaked at just above $1 trillion in 2008 and "declined" to $850 billion during 2010.  The media storyline is that you buckled down and paid off your credit cards, therefore depressing consumer spending and creating a recession. Sounds convincing except for the fact that it's a load of bullshit. The Federal Reserve's own data proves it to be false. Your friendly Wall Street banks have written off $213 billion of credit card debt since 2008 and passed the bill to the few remaining taxpayers in this country. For the math challenged, this means that consumers have actually INCREASED their credit card debt by $68 billion since 2008. The bad news for our Chinese crap peddling mega-retailers is that the significantly poorer average middle class American household is using their credit cards to pay their property tax bills, IRS bills, and utility bills in order to survive.  

Credit Card Charge-off in Dollars 2005 – 2011 — Not Seasonally Adjusted:


Dollar Amount















Year & Quarter

Dollar Amount



The category of debt that barely budged in the 2009 collapse was non-revolving credit. It stayed in the $1.5 trillion range in 2009 and has since surged to over $1.7 trillion in 2012. What could possibly have made this debt skyrocket by 33% when the GDP has only grown by 12% over the same time frame? You guessed it - your corporate fascist friends in Washington DC and on Wall Street. Non-revolving debt consists of auto loan debt of $663 billion and student loan debt of approximately $1 trillion. Student loan debt has shot up by $300 billion since 2008. This student loan debt is being distributed, like candy by a pedophile, from the Federal government in an effort to artificially hold down the unemployment rate.

Approximately $500 billion of the student loan debt is held directly by the Federal government, up from $100 billion in 2008. The Feds guarantee the majority of the remaining student loan debt. Can you think of a more subprime borrower than a 40 year old former construction worker getting a liberal arts degree from the University of Phoenix, sitting at his computer in his underwear scratching his balls, and paying with a $10,000 Federal student loan from you? This fraudulent attempt to obscure the true employment situation will end in tears for the borrowers and the American taxpayer. It's tough to make a loan payment without a job. The student loan bailout is just over the horizon and will cost you at least $300 billion. Delinquencies are already off the charts.       

When has offering low interest debt in ample portions to people without jobs, income or assets ever backfired before? The bankers and politicians that control this country seem to be a one-trick pony. They will never admit that debt is the problem and reducing it the solution. The real solution would make them poorer, so their solution is to pour gasoline on the fire with more debt at lower interest rates to more people. The addict will keep injecting more poison into their system until sudden death. The bankers and politicians know we are a car-centric society and appeal to our vanity and poor math skills to keep the game going.     

During the first quarter of this year, total U.S. car loans totaled $52.5 billion. That's 49% higher than the same period in 2009. Also during the first quarter, the average amount financed on new vehicles rose by $589, to $25,995, and for used cars by $411, to $17,050. Furthermore, buyers are stretching out payments for longer terms: The average length of new- and used-vehicle loans jumped a full month during the first three months of this year, to 64 and 59 months, respectively. The surge in auto sales is being completely driven by doling out more loans for a longer time frame to deadbeat borrowers. Subprime auto loans now make up 45% of all car loans and the vast majority of all used car loans.  They have even created a category called Deep Subprime. Borrowers classified as “deep subprime” (i.e. those with Vantage scores below 600) account for 10.7% of auto loans. You can also classify them as loans that will never be repaid.

Two thirds of all car sales are for used cars, so the fact that 37% of all new cars are being sold to subprime borrowers is exacerbated by the ridiculous lending practices for used cars. The fine folks at Zero Hedge have provided the outrageous data and a chart that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt what awaits the American taxpayer - another bailout. Zero Hedge has already revealed the GM fake recovery by detailing their channel stuffing over the last two years. Now they've dug up more dirt on why car sales are surging. What could possibly go wrong providing loans for more than the value of the asset to people with a history of not paying their debts?

  • Subprime borrowers received 56.46% of loans on used cars in the quarter, up from 52.70% a year earlier.
  • The average loan-to-value on new cars was 109.55%
  • The average used car loan-to-value ratio rose to 126.62%
  • 77% of Subprime Auto Loans are for a period greater than five years

It's amazing how many cars you can sell when you aren't worried about getting paid. This is the beauty of a fiat currency, a printing press, and a taxpayer available to pick up the tab after the drunken party gets out of hand. The chart below provides the details of our superhighway to disaster. The percentage of used car loans to prime borrowers is now at an all-time low, while the percentage of loans to subprime borrowers is near all-time highs reached just prior to the 2008 crash. When lenders cared about being paid back in the early 2000's, they rarely made loans longer than five years. Today, more than 77% of all subprime used car loans are longer than five years and average FICO scores are now well below 600. Just to clarify - if your FICO score is below 600 - YOU ARE A DEADBEAT.

When you start to connect the dots, things that didn't seem to make sense begin to crystallize. This is all part of the master plan concocted by Bernanke, Geithner, Obama and the Wall Street Shysters. The auto section of my local paper now makes sense. Offers of 7 year financing at 0% interest and monthly lease offers of $150 to $200 for brand new cars now are understandable. The newer model BMWs, Cadillac Escalades, Volvos, and Jaguars I see parked in front of the low income luxury gated townhome community in West Philadelphia now makes sense. A pizza delivery guy driving a new Lexus is now explainable.   

The master plan is fairly simple. The Federal Reserve lends money to the Wall Street banks for 0% interest. These banks then turn around and provide credit card debt at 13% interest, new & used car loans to prime borrowers at 5% interest, and new & used car loans to subprime borrowers at 16%. When you can borrow for free, you can take a chance that a significant number of your borrowers will default. Essentially, Ben Bernanke is screwing the prudent savers and senior citizens by paying them 0.15% on their savings in order to subsidize the bankers that destroyed the country so they can make auto loans to the same people who took out the zero percent down interest only no doc mortgage loans in 2005. In addition, Wall Street knows the Bernanke Put is still in place. If and when these subprime loans explode in their faces again, Bennie, Timmy and Obamaney will come to the rescue with your tax dollars. Its heads you lose, tails you lose, again.    

 The chart below is like a who's who of TARP recipients. The top 20 auto lenders control half the market. And look at the leader of the pack. Our friends at Ally Bank are the market share leader. You remember Ally Bank - they conveniently changed their name from GMAC (also known as Ditech - biggest subprime mortgage lender) after losing billions and being bailed out by you. They still owe you $11 billion and are 85% owned by the U.S. Treasury. No conflict of interest there. You have the biggest auto lender on earth controlled by the Obama administration. Do you think they have an incentive to make as many loans as humanly possible to help Obama create the illusion of an auto recovery? The only downside is for the American taxpayer when we have to eat billions more in Ally/GMAC losses. This insolvent excuse for a lending institution has been extremely aggressive in the subprime auto lending market and has forced the other wannabes - Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Capital One and Bank of America - to lower their lending standards. Does this scenario ring a bell? 


We've become a subprime auto nation, addicted to easy debt, living lives of hope, delusion and minimum monthly payments. Storylines about economic recovery, fraudulent government statistics showing lower unemployment, feel good propaganda from the corporate mainstream media, and a return to easy money debt fueled spending does not constitute a real recovery. Until the bad debt is purged from the system and saving takes precedence over spending, the country will stagger and ultimately fall under the weight of its immense debt. We are lost in a blizzard of lies. This subprime fueled engine of recovery will propel the country into the same canyon of reality we entered in 2008. The crack up boom approaches.

Join me at to discuss truth and the future of our country.

By James Quinn

James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of strategic planning. He is married with three boys and is writing these articles because he cares about their future. He earned a BS in accounting from Drexel University and an MBA from Villanova University. He is a certified public accountant and a certified cash manager.

These articles reflect the personal views of James Quinn. They do not necessarily represent the views of his employer, and are not sponsored or endorsed by his employer.

© 2012 Copyright James Quinn - All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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