“The surprising return of the repo man”

The Washington Post has a story today about the growing problem of car repossessions in the United States and the ways that technology is being used to make repossessions “ruthlessly efficient.” The full article is here and is worth the read, but here are some highlights:

“No longer tethered to a tow truck and able to use big data to find targets, the repossession industry is booming at an unexpected time. Although the U.S. economy recently entered its second-longest-ever period of expansion, the auto loan delinquency rate last year reached its highest point since 2012, driven by souring subprime auto loans. It’s evidence of how the economic recovery has not been evenly felt, with some of Americans’ biggest purchases — automobiles — being fueled by unsustainable borrowing rather than rising wages.”

“The company’s goal is to capture every plate in Ohio and use that information to reveal patterns. A plate shot outside an apartment at 5 a.m. tells you that’s probably where the driver spends the night, no matter their listed home address. So when a repo order comes in for a car, the agent already knows where to look. ‘It’s kind of scary, but it’s amazing,’ said Alana Ferrante, chief executive of Relentless.”

“Although there are no national auto repossession statistics, other measures point to a growing problem. More than 4 percent of auto loans were at least 90 days late at the end of 2017 — the highest rate in five years. That number jumps to almost 10 percent for subprime auto loans alone, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”

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