We've written frequently in recent months about the coming subprime auto crisis which will very likely be prompted by a wave of off-lease vehicles that will flood the market with used inventory over the coming years. In fact, Morgan Stanley recently predicted that the surge in used inventory could result in as much as a 50% crash in used car prices over the next couple of years which would, in turn, put further pressure on the new car market which has already resorted to record incentive spending to maintain volumes. Here are just a couple of our most recent notes on the topic:
- Signs Of An Auto Bubble: Soaring Delinquencies In These 266 Subprime ABS Deals Can't Be Good
- New Warning Signs Emerge For Subprime Auto Securitizations
Of course, while pretty much anyone has been able to purchase that brand new BMW of their dreams over the past 5 years, courtesy of a surge in subprime lending volumes.
Getting out of those loans once used car prices crash and millions of Americans are left with massive negative equity balances won't be quite so easy, just ask Yvette Harris who is still making payments on her 1997 Mitsubishi nearly a decade after her car was repossessed...
# Per the New York Times:
More than a decade after Yvette Harris’s 1997 Mitsubishi was repossessed, she is still paying off her car loan.
She has no choice. Her auto lender took her to court and won the right to seize a portion of her income to cover her debt. The lender has so far been able to garnish $4,133 from her paychecks, a drain that at one point forced Ms. Harris, a single mother who lives in the Bronx, to go on public assistance to support her two sons.
“How am I still paying for a car I don’t have?” she asked.
For millions of Americans like Ms. Harris who have shaky credit and had to turn to subprime auto loans with high interest rates and hefty fees to buy a car, there is no getting out.
Many of these auto loans, it turns out, have a habit of haunting people long after their cars have been repossessed.
And while the aggregate subprime auto credit balances are no where near the trillions in debt that was extended to subprime mortgage borrowers leading up to the great recession, for many low-income Americans the fallout could actually be worse because they can't simply walk away.
With mortgages, people could turn in the keys to their house and walk away. But with auto debt, there is increasingly no exit. Repossession, rather than being the end, is just the beginning.
“Low-income earners are shackled to this debt,” said Shanna Tallarico, a consumer lawyer with the New York Legal Assistance Group.
# Meanwhile, with low-income borrowers unable to afford a lawyer in many cases, defendants often skip court dates and don't even realize they're still on the hook for payments until debt collectors start to garnish their wages.
"Essentially, the dealers are not selling cars. They are selling bad loans,” said Adam Taub, a lawyer in Detroit who has defended consumers in hundreds of these cases.
Many lawyers assisting poor borrowers like Ms. Robinson say they learn about the lawsuits only after a judge has issued a decision in favor of the lender.
Most borrowers can’t afford lawyers and don’t show up to court to challenge the lawsuits. That means the collectors win many cases, transforming the debts into judgments they can use to garnish wages.
Of course, if used car prices tank leaving millions of people with negative equity balances and defaults from auto loans they could never afford in the first place...you know what that means for new car prices....