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New Jersey auto sales up thanks to improved financing market

Apr 04, 2011 Brian Bradley

New Jersey residents, like consumers nationwide, found it very difficult to find a quality car loan during the depths of the recession. Frozen credit and depreciating consumer purchasing power make buying a new car as difficult as at any time in recent decades. However, the Courier News reports that the tide is changing thanks to improving credit markets and the comparative ease with which consumers can obtain a loan. That has resulted in a significant boost in auto sales throughout the Garden State, with year-over-year totals between 2009 and 2010 jumping 15 to 20 percent. According to the Courier News, vehicle sales in New Jersey increased from approximately 340,000 in 2009 to just under 400,000 the following year. The source reports that state analysts believe the market will jump another 9.1 percent in 2011, totaling about 435,000 units sold. "We are starting to see the credit markets open up a little bit more. Consumer confidence is coming back a little bit more, and sales are reflecting that," James Appleton, the president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, told the source. Much like housing credit evaporated during the recession, the same occurred in the auto lending market, Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors, told the Courier News. However, even with modest gains in the national unemployment rate, a corner has been turned when it comes to purchasing vehicles. Albert L. Engel, executive vice president and chief retail lending officer of Valley National Bank, told the paper that jobs and consumer confidence in holding jobs can be directly linked to increased purchasing. "People put off buying cars when they were not confident that they would have a job to pay the loan," Engel said told the News. "I think we have seen consumer confidence come back strong." The positive data comes at a time when the nation's largest auto creditors are jockeying for top position in the market. In 2010, Ally Financial, formerly General Motors' GMAC, gained contracts to more than 803,000 vehicles totaling more than $23 billion in value. Ally Financial is in talks about an initial public offering, but must still clear hurdles with the federal government, which owns 73.8 percent of the company following the 2009 auto industry bailouts. The federal government is currently on the hook for $17.2 billion invested in the financing company.