Consumers appear to have tightened their finances and grown more frugal as a result of the economic downturn. While credit card balances and delinquency rates have plummeted, lenders appear to be returning to subprime lending. However, the resurgence of subprime loans may be reserved to the auto industry, which has seen marked improvements in recent months as consumers begin to dip into their supplemental funds to purchase a new car. According to a report released this week by Experian, more than 21 percent of all new vehivle loans in the third quarter went to customers in the nonprime, subprime and deep subprime categories, with the largest percentage gains in the two highest-risk segments. Hopefully, lenders are leveraging consumer credit risk management strategies to stem the threat of nonpayment. "With more loans being booked outside of prime, lenders are showing they are willing to be more flexible in their lending strategies," said Scott Waldron, president of Experian Automotive. "However, consumers may still have the impression that lending is extremely tight, so it is important for lenders and retailers to educate car shoppers that there are financing options available to a wider group of consumers."