April 21, 2021

Consumers in mortgage forbearance could drop out of auto market

Millions of Americans face foreclosure and eviction, and credit bureau TransUnion is concerned that automotive loans and leases could be the next troubled consumer segment.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a report this week that 11 million Americans face eviction after struggling to scrape together rent or mortgage payments. Acting Director Dave Uejio said in a statement the U.S. has “very little time” to prevent millions of families from losing their homes.

Satyan Merchant, senior vice president and automotive business leader at TransUnion, told Automotive News last month that a large portion of consumers coming out of accommodation status between March and May have mortgage accounts in forbearance as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and other marketplace extensions.

“For many consumers, that’s a substantial amount of a monthly payment they may not be making,” he said.

The overlap of consumers that have mortgages and auto loans in accommodation is small, Merchant said. But he said the credit bureau will be keeping a close eye on that consumer segment in the coming months.

“It will be important to see what happens to that segment of consumers — not only how it impacts their performance on their auto loan, but back to the demand question,” he said. “Were people out there purchasing or financing vehicles in a period of time where they didn’t necessarily have other monthly obligations, and if so, what happens moving forward?”

The report also said that while mortgage forbearance — the option to pause or reduce payments temporarily — drove down foreclosures to historic lows, 1 million homeowners are more than 90 days behind on payments. These customers will remain in dire financial straits once those payments resume.

“Some of those consumers, they may be OK to make an auto payment,” Merchant. said. “But if they’re also on a mortgage forbearance, for instance, they just may not be ready to dip their toe back in to purchase a vehicle.”