BHPH dealers and subprime auto finance companies who have been around for awhile are all too familiar with the typical process of trying to collect weekly, bi weekly or monthly payments from their subprime customers.
When a payment due date approaches, collectors analyze the accounts they are responsible for to see who has paid and who has not, and then begin making phone calls. Of course, these phone calls and attempts to communicate are often met with declined calls, disconnected numbers or other methods to avoid the collection agent. In worse cases, consumers may have left town or moved without notifying the creditor.
Significant resources are often required on the part of the collection agent to attempt to track down and retrieve payment from consumers who were late.
Due to the significant amount of time and effort that each collector spent trying to track down late payments, the number of accounts they could manage at once was limited. Historically, the average number of accounts per collection agent was about 300. Of course, that number varies widely depending upon business models, lending criteria, collection structure, etc. With the average number of 300 account per collector, naturally as the portfolio grew, so did the need for additional collection agent resources.
In addition to the overhead cost of the employees, cash flow is impacted. It doesn’t take an advanced degree to understand that late payments hinder cash flow for the dealership or finance company. While many are able to predict the percentage of payments that may come in late or not at all, cash flow for the business suffers.
While the cash flow, overhead resources and effort on the staff are all enormous challenges for dealers and lenders in the subprime market, perhaps the biggest underlying challenge is communication. In this traditional scenario, the consumer is typically on the receiving end of communication attempts from the dealer or lender. The general response on the part of the consumer is to avoid that communication attempt altogether. The communication is usually one-sided, met with resistance, and widely ineffective.
GPS has been around in the used car industry for decades. But, how exactly does the technology help with collections?
It works like this:
Without the use of technology, and specifically, collection tools, a collection agent who has 300 accounts, may on average have 90 to 100 of those accounts delinquent at a given time. Depending on the situation, the collector may or may not have a good idea of which 90 consumers out of the 300 won’t make their payment. So, the collector spends his or her time calling most, or all of accounts to get payments in each payment cycle.
With the use of GPS technology and collection tools, the collector can quickly identify which of their 300 accounts may be a problem. By looking at which accounts have not made a payment and have not called in, the collector now knows who to contact. The collector can focus on the small percentage of consumers who haven’t paid or made contact, instead of the entire portfolio, or trying to guess which accounts to call. By needing to focus only on a small subsection of an account, collection agents can now handle a larger number of accounts overall, helping reduce overhead and the company grows.
Ready to see how technology can impact your collections?
With the average auto loan term at 69 months for new vehicles and 65 months for used vehicles, auto finance collection strategies may be as important as ever. And even with longer loan terms, car buyers are falling behind in their payments. As reported in 2019, there were more than 7 million Americans with auto loans that were 90 or more days delinquent at the end of 2018. Loan payment collection is the top concern of most auto finance companies.
Below are 5 strategies that auto finance companies can use to improve collection of payments.
1. Utilize Data
Data may be the single biggest tool that finance companies have to improve payment collection rates. When a potential customer signs up for a loan, make sure your business has a standardized process in place to gather the necessary personal information you need from them and to verify that the information is valid and up-to-date. Many third-party loan software systems have integrations that can provide additional checks or verification of the loan applicant’s personal data. If you’re using GPS technology to help secure the asset, incorporate the data you receive into your analysis to segment accounts that may have missed payments or are late. Eventually, you’ll want to use all the data at your disposal to find accounts that need help before they become delinquent.
2. Utilize Technology
As with nearly every industry, technology is making auto finance collection easier. If you work for one of these companies, it’s important that you are continually evaluating new technology tools that can make collections process go more smoothly. We recommend using technology to automate processes where possible. This can not only free up your employees to take on more accounts, but also help keep things consistent and standardized, a key component of staying compliant with the law. Payment notifications are a perfect example. Using a payment notification technology can ensure your communication with customers is not only compliant but also consistent. GPS is another example of technology that can help improve collections. We recommend choosing an automotive GPS provider that has the data and analytics built into their technology platform that will allow you to identify accounts that may be troublesome before they become delinquent.
3. Be Proactive
While it may seem obvious to anyone who’s ever worked in higher risk auto loans, don’t wait for the consumer to become delinquent before intervening. Typically, there are warning signs that a consumer may be having trouble making their payments. Late or partial payments, or changes in a customer’s communication frequency could be early warning signs. The best way to reduce risk in this type of situation is to be proactive and get in contact with the customer in order to get an understanding of what is going on. Once you know what the problem is you can develop a strategy and take the appropriate action to get them back on track.
4. Use a More Human Approach
With all the technology and automation available to finance companies, human interaction and the use of a more personal approach to collection is often lost. Consumers can easily ignore phone calls, text, and emails from overly aggressive or harsh collection agents. Trying to use a more human approach and treating customers with compassion and respect will often result in better payment collection rates and less hostility and resentment between your business and its customers.
5. Make Sure Your Staff is Properly Trained
Making sure your staff has comprehensive and ongoing training in the latest collections tools and technology is one of the most effective auto finance collection strategies. Does everyone in your organization know how to access and use all the analytics tools available to them? Are they leveraging all of the GPS provider data and other technology in their workflow? Are your staff familiar with the compliance procedures? We recommend setting up periodic trainings, perhaps quarterly, as a refresher for the staff to go over existing policies and procedures and introduce new technology features or processes. Ensuring that your staff is properly trained will reduce issues and improve collections and profits.
As the size and length of auto loans continues to increase collections will become more challenging than ever. While this certainly puts pressure on consumers, it also creates challenges for finance companies and credit unions. Having a strategy in place can help your business reduce delinquent payments and ensure more loans get paid on time.
PassTime offers GPS technology solutions that help auto finance companies and credit unions improve collections rates. Learn how we can help your business.
In mid-2017, Nevada legislation passed SB 350, a law that significantly changed how companies could use GPS and starter-interrupt devices to mitigate the risk of financing subprime consumers for automotive loans. And while several of the law’s stipulations make sense in protecting the consumer, like getting written consumer disclosure for the use of the device and providing override commands to help the consumer when in need, other aspects of the law had major impacts to the dealers, banks, and finance companies using the technology. Perhaps the most impactful aspect of the law was the stipulation that a starter-interrupt device could not be activated until the contract holder is more than 30 days past due.
For dealers and finance companies utilizing GPS and/or starter-interrupt technology, the goal is to remind consumers to make their payments, and to active the starter-interrupt after they have been reminded and a grace period has passed, typically 3-5 days.
As for how SB 350’s impact has been felt in the industry, you could ask Milo Trevizo, director of operations and finance at CAG Acceptance. Trevizo, who has been with CAG Acceptance for over seven years, oversees financing, loan serving, loan origination, remarketing, and legal among other duties.
CAG Acceptance, which services 21 dealerships in Arizona and an additional four in Nevada, essentially stopped all loan originations in Nevada after the law passed.
CAG Acceptance has used GPS/starter-interrupt solutions from the provider PassTime for nearly a decade as part of its program to provide financing to subprime and deep subprime borrowers.
PassTime was chosen by CAG as its GPS/starter-interrupt provider because of the quality of the product, the reliability and starter-interrupt capability of the solution. CAG also identified PassTime’s service as a key differentiator for the company – one that Trevizo said is difficult to quantify, but often just as important as any other company attribute.
“CAG Acceptance was formed to help sell cars to and finance customers that no one else would finance. The PassTime device allowed us to pursue that mission, because it helped us lower the risk that comes with financing consumers with deep subprime credit.”
Unfortunately, SB 350 made that mission just about impossible in Nevada.
In a June 29, 2017 article by Nick Zulovich, Senior Editor for Auto Remarketing’s BHPH Report, written just before the Nevada SB 350 was to take effect, Milo Trevizo was interviewed about his thoughts on what the new law would mean to their business.
From that article:
Trevizo … emphasized that doing business without the device’s impact would be nearly impossible. The finance company began to use these devices in 2011, and during a five-year span, Trevizo indicated CAG was able to provide vehicle installment contracts to 3,200 customers, an increase of more than 1,000 percent compared to the time before the provider used the technology.
“From our experience, the starter interrupt technology has enabled customers to obtain loans who would otherwise be unable to obtain financing,” Trevizo said. “We had been seeing vehicle repossessions in Nevada double, delinquencies triple and our loan volume reduced in the absence of starter interrupt technology.
“If the proposed legislation passes, we envision a sharp decrease in loans, leading to severe reduction in profitability. This will force CAG to cease conducting business in Nevada,” he continued during that March hearing. “This will mean customers of CAG may be left without an avenue to purchase a vehicle.”
Turns out, he was right. CAG continues to service the existing portfolios in Nevada but has stopped loan originations in the state after the new law was implemented. Delinquency rates on CAG’s loans in Nevada jumped from an average of 9% for accounts that were 1-90 days past due while using the PassTime devices all the way up to an average of 33% for accounts that were 1-90 days past due after the changes, according to Trevizo.
So, the legislation that was supposed to help consumers be protected, has resulted in a major finance company serving this consumer population to stop new business in the state.
The aspect of a device like this that many don’t realize is that it helps facilitate communication between the consumer with the vehicle and the finance company. When a consumer has a device installed on their vehicle and their payment is coming up, they are much more likely to contact the creditor if they cannot make their payment. Without the device, typically a consumer is going to go “radio silent” in that scenario.
Trevizo emphasized that they want the consumer to call in that situation and they can work out an arrangement including a payment deferral, change payment due dates, provide an extension, or even a full loan modification. But without contact and communication from the consumer, those options are very difficult.
“If a consumer gets too far behind in payments, the options become more difficult to implement – and unfortunately can result in losing the vehicle,” Trevizo said.
CAG previously used PassTime payment reminders and start-interrupt devices on all loans in Nevada. The company policy was to activate the starter-interrupt feature of the device after device payment reminders were issued and the consumer was five days past their due date. CAG customers were informed about the device, its features and how it would be used.
“We’d get calls at the four or five days past due period because customers did not want their ability to drive their car interrupted. Often, they would make their payments, or we’d work out an extension or deferment, etc. But, because this happened so close to the actual due date, it was much easier to work out an arrangement,” explained Trevizo.
With the change in law, users of this technology could not activate a starter-interrupt feature of a device until the consumer was at least 30 days past due. While that sounds like a benefit for the consumer, it was actually a determent.
“While we used to get calls around the four or five days past due mark before the law, afterward, those calls wouldn’t come in until around 29 or 30 days past due. At that point, the consumer is about a full month behind and essentially owes two payments,” said Trevizo.
If that happens, it makes it much more difficult for the consumer to ever catch up on their payments or to work out solutions that are affordable to them for the long run.
“Many consumers treated the “disable date” as their payment due date. So, if that moved from five days from their actual due date to 30 days after, those consumers were perpetually behind on their payment and were rarely able to catch up,” Trevizo went on to say.
Whatever the intent of the law’s stipulation was, the reality, at least for CAG, was that using starter-interrupt technology only after the consumer had been 30 days late on their payment resulted in payments slipping past the due dates to the point that consumers could rarely, if ever get caught back up.
According to Milo Trevizo, CAG Acceptance views GPS/starter-interrupt technology as a communication tool and not as a repossession tool. Of course, with GPS you can find the vehicle – but by that point, the situation has gotten to a place that neither side wanted.
For the consumer, they have given up on the vehicle and their payments and are more-or-less waiting until it the vehicle gets repossessed. For the creditor, they have had several (at least) missed payments on the contract and have to go through the repossession process on the account. Then they need to hire or send employees to locate and recover the vehicle.
Trevizo mentioned that without the use of PassTime’s devices, repossessions for the company went through the roof.
For many finance companies, by the time an account gets to that repossession stage, it is a poor outcome for the creditor and a poor outcome for the consumer.
Another aspect that is often overlooked is the device’s impact on voluntary surrenders. A voluntary surrender is when a consumer turns in the vehicle in a situation where they no longer intend on making the payments on the loan. With the use of a device, consumers would often voluntarily surrender a vehicle as they knew that the vehicle will be disabled shortly after the due date, so there was no incentive to keep it. With GPS only, or under the new law requiring disablement only after 30 days, voluntary surrenders dropped off considerably as consumers continued to drive the vehicle well past the payment due date adding additional wear and tear without reducing the balance.
The effect of the Nevada law to the business of CAG Acceptance is clear: the impeding restrictions on devices caused the company to stop loan originations in Nevada as it was no longer commercially viable.
However, these events also created a compelling view of the effectiveness of the devices themselves. When CAG discontinued the use of PassTime’s devices in Nevada, the result was a comparison of accounts that had devices associated with them and accounts that did not have devices associated with them. While using PassTime devices, CAG’s Nevada portfolio averaged a 9% delinquency rate on accounts that were between 1-90 days past due. The use of payment reminders and starter-interrupt 3-5 days after the due date kept delinquency numbers down on subprime accounts. Compare that to the delinquency numbers without the use of devices; they jumped to an average of 33% on accounts that were between 1-90 days past due. A 24% increase in delinquencies resulted in the accounts without PassTime devices.
As mentioned, CAG Acceptance made the business decision to stop new originations in Nevada as a direct result of the law.
Milo Trevizo stated, “When you are talking about financing people who have deep subprime credit, there is not a lot of wiggle room. Statistically, the risk of default is very high. Starter-interrupt devices helped reduce or mitigate some of that risk. The law in Nevada is so restrictive on the technology that it makes it virtually unusable. Without that additional protection against risk, it just doesn’t make sense to continue to do business in Nevada.”
So, for CAG, the result was to cease additional loan originations in Nevada and focus solely on Arizona.
While there are likely still some options for consumers with deep subprime credit to get vehicle financing, Trevizo stated, “I don’t see other finance companies rushing in to Nevada to finance people in that position. My guess is that a lot of these deep subprime consumers aren’t getting loans.”
For a law that was positioned as a way to help consumers, one impact may be that it is even more difficult to get vehicle financing in the first place.
For PassTime, the company continues to take the lead, along with industry partners, to proactively monitor legislation and meet with lawmakers about the technology they provide. The company’s hope is that with continued education about how devices work, how the help the industry, and the impact of restrictions around them, lawmakers can make informed decisions and hold a more comprehensive view when creating legislation.