October 23, 2020

Ally profit surges behind wave of auto originations

DETROIT — Ally Financial Inc.’s net income surged in the third quarter as the lender generated its highest level of auto loan and lease originations in five years.

The Detroit company reported net income of $476 million in the third quarter, a 25 percent increase from last year’s third quarter and nearly double the $241 million in net income reported in the second quarter. Revenue rose 5 percent year over year to $1.68 billion.

The latest quarter’s results were markedly better for Ally, one of the largest U.S. auto lenders, than in the second quarter, which suffered a greater impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, Ally executives warned investors Friday that while current credit metrics are benefiting the lender, uncertainty remains as the nation moves through the pandemic without a firm plan for further government intervention.

“The U.S. consumer entered 2020 on solid footing and demonstrated a higher degree of resiliency despite significant and ongoing challenges aided by meaningful and necessary fiscal stimulus,” Ally CEO Jeffrey Brown said on a call with analysts and investors. “While recent trends suggest a broader recovery is underway in various pockets of the economy, we’re mindful of the currently expired stimulus benefits and the ongoing uncertainty on the outlook of COVID.”

Ally’s auto originations during the latest period — $9.8 billion — represented a 5.4 percent increase over third-quarter 2019 levels and a 36 percent jump from the second quarter. Auto originations were sourced from 3.2 million applications.

Jenn LaClair, Ally’s CFO, said the growing shift toward personal vehicle ownership largely benefited the lender’s originations as public transportation usage declined sharply from pre-COVID levels. Consumers also had more money to invest in automotive purchases instead of other expenses — travel, dining out, etc. — during the pandemic, she said. At the end of the quarter, nearly 99 percent of Ally’s 1.3 million customers that had deferred a car payment because of COVID had exited that program.

New-vehicle loan originations slid 12 percent to $3 billion from the third quarter of 2019.

Originations at what Ally describes as its growth channel — business with franchised dealerships that sell brands other than those owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or General Motors — fell by $200 million. FCA originations rose 11 percent, and GM originations dropped 23 percent — both to $1 billion. Leasing rates rose 8 percent in the third quarter to $1.4 billion.

Ally said growth in the quarter was also driven in part by what it calls alternative dealership partners, which include Carvana and Vroom, LaClair said on the call. Ally extended and increased a loan purchase program with Carvana to $2 billion in March. Last month, Ally extended the program again, to $3 billion. Ally extended a program with Vroom last week.

“What has been a big win for us here in 2020 is just the growth in some of these new dealers, and we’ve been able to grow with our partner’s growth,” LaClair said. “We had record levels of retail auto flows from those new partnerships.”

Used-car originations of $5.4 billion — up 17 percent year over year — made up 55 percent of Ally’s total auto originations for the quarter.

“The consumer is performing incredibly well, and that’s showing up in our results,” Brown said. “The rebound in sales over the past five months took five years to achieve following the past financial crisis.”

Shares of Ally closed Friday’s trading up 2.7 percent to $28.63.