“There’s been a trend toward longer-term financing, but it’s been paired with low cost of credit and improving residual values,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said. “People are making very rational decisions to buy the vehicle they really want to buy and take advantage of historically low interest rates for as long as they can. We don’t see cause for alarm right now; in fact, we think the industry is very healthy.”
GM is offering 0 percent financing for 72 months on many 2014 Chevrolets as part of its Labor Day promotion and 0 percent for 84 months on most 2014 models in Canada. Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen also have 0-for-72 deals right now, and some dealers are using 84 months as the default term when calculating monthly payments in their advertisements. The average U.S. loan term in the first quarter was a record 66 months, according to Experian Automotive.
“Customers who are financing for these longer terms are well-qualified, meaning they get the benefits of a more affordable payment while enjoying the benefits of buying new,” Nissan spokesman Brian Brockman said. “These loans are good business for Nissan and do not present substantial risk for the company. We have also not seen a change in trade cycles as a result.”
Gregg Cullen, general manager of Ray Cullen Chevrolet-Buick-GMC in London, Ontario, said longer loans have been important since the recession in making payments affordable for customers, though it means those customers stay underwater longer and may delay their next purchase.
“I do get concerned when there isn’t 0 percent,” Cullen said. “Even 2.99 percent adds up. That’s thousands of dollars over the course of the loan. At that point people have to keep their cars longer because they’re in a deficit position.”