General Motors Executive Warns of Impending Auto Bubble

General Motors of Canada President Kevin Williams is warning that subprime loans could doom the auto industry just as it did the housing industry in 2007.

Williams told the editorial board of Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper on Monday that record Canadian auto sales could be attributed to cheap credit loans.

"The real question is, are you going to run the business the way you ran it in the past in order to drive market share exclusively. The answer is that’s not our intent because it [led to] a failed company," Williams said.

Using subprime loans and easy credit to move cars off the lot may not be GM Canada’s goal, but its parent company, bailed-out, Detroit-based General Motors, has been moving in that direction, as the Washington Free Beacon reported in February. Nearly 90 percent of loans issued by GM Financial were subprime.

GMF has the riskiest lending portfolio of any major car company: 96 percent of its customers have credit scores below 660.  GM’s lending habits parallel those in the housing market leading up to the 2008 crash…GM finished the year with 8.5 percent of loans in delinquency, the highest rate since 2010 and larger than the delinquency rates at Ford, Toyota, and Honda combined.

GM Financial isn’t the only entity at risk. The company has been packaging the loans and selling them off to Wall Street banks—just as many mortgage lenders did with housing loans.

The company issued nearly $60 billion in asset-backed securities (ABS) between 1994 and 2010. The bailed out automaker issued $5.6 billion in securities in 2012, a 50 percent jump from the average ABS issuance between 1994 and 2010 and $1 billion more than 2011, according to GM Financial spokeswoman Chrissy Heinke.

GM Canada has also used subprime loans to drive sales, but Williams told the paper that the company would like to use less risky leasing options to recover from slumping market share.

Published under: Bailout , General Motors