Perhaps it’s not yet a significant risk threat to the overall health of auto finance company portfolios, but Experian Automotive’s Melinda Zabritski explained the possible problems if your customers are using the vehicle attached to the installment contract to drive for transportation services such as Uber.
Currently, Zabritski said, there is not a clear way to track which units are being used for those purposes and which are not.
To put into perspective the potential quandary, Zabritski pointed out that finance company underwriting scorecards often consider that the customer will roll up 20,000 miles or much less on the vehicle during each year of the contract.
When SubPrime Auto Finance News returned from Used Car Week in Las Vegas last year, the Uber driver who provided transportation from Raleigh-Durham International Airport said he put more than 100,000 miles on his SUV in roughly 12 months.
So how do finance companies determine if the contract holder is driving the vehicle that much, especially for services like Uber?
“It’s been talked about, but right now there’s not a good way to measure it,” said Zabritski, who is the senior director of automotive finance at Experian. “There are only a few states that require the registration as a livery service or taxi, in which case you could measure it from a vehicle standpoint. Like through an Experian AutoCheck report for vehicles, it would show up as a taxi.
“Not all states require that so lenders look at it and say, ‘Well, how can I look at it?’ You could look at employment, but just because I work for Uber doesn’t mean I’m a driver. There’s just no hard and fast way to do that,” Zabritski continued during a conversation following a panel discussion about the subprime market at this year’s Vehicle Finance Conference hosted by the American Financial Services Association.
“It’s one of those things that it could be a potential risk since these cars are on the road significantly more than your average consumer,” she went on to say. “There’s more chance they could be in an accident, more wear and tear. As a lender, if I have to go repo this car, I think it’s got 40,000 miles on it and it’s really got 90,000. There’s that kind of potential impact.”
Uber’s online newsroom doesn’t list any specifics about how many drivers currently are in its network. However, Uber’s website highlighted it has drivers in nearly 250 North American cities, including major metro areas such as Chicago, New York and San Francisco as well as broadly classified regions such as Eastern North Carolina and Eastern Washington.
“Lenders will certainly use mileage when they’re doing pricing on originations. But also when they’re forecasting reserves, there’s a lot more analytics being put into place in those portfolios,” Zabritski said.
“In forecasting delinquency, there’s a lot about quality of the vehicle, the value if they do have to repo it and what the asset might be worth and what is the vehicle history since that can impact asset value. It’s those types of things that all get formulated in all of the planning,” she continued.
“And right now (with Uber), it’s a big unknown,” Zabritski added.
Concern about Uber driver income
Not only might risk come from collateral deterioration, finance companies also might not have clear views of how dependent an Uber driver might be on the income generated through the service to maintain payments. In fact, the income Uber drivers might generate triggered actions by the Federal Trade Commission in January.
Uber agreed to pay $20 million to resolve FTC charges that it misled prospective drivers with exaggerated earning claims and claims about financing through its Vehicle Solutions Program. Officials said the $20 million will be used to provide refunds to affected drivers across the country.
“Many consumers sign up to drive for Uber, but they shouldn’t be taken for a ride about their earnings potential or the cost of financing a car through Uber,” Jessica Rich said following one of her last actions as director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Rich departed the agency on Feb. 10.
“This settlement will put millions of dollars back in Uber drivers’ pockets,” Rich added.
According to the FTC’s complaint, in its efforts to attract prospective drivers, Uber exaggerated the yearly and hourly income drivers could make in certain cities, and misled prospective drivers about the terms of its vehicle financing options.
The FTC alleges that Uber claimed on its website that uberX drivers’ annual median income was more than $90,000 in New York and more than $74,000 in San Francisco. The FTC alleges, however, that drivers’ annual median income was actually $61,000 in New York and $53,000 in San Francisco.
In all, the FTC determined less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities earned the yearly income Uber touted. The FTC also alleged that Uber made high hourly earnings claims in job listings, including on Craigslist, but that the typical Uber driver failed to earn those advertised hourly amounts in various cities.
The complaint also alleged that Uber claimed its Vehicle Solutions Program would provide drivers with the “best financing options available,” regardless of the driver’s credit history, and told consumers they could “own a car for as little as $20/day” ($140/week) or lease a car with “payments as low as $17 per day” ($119/week), and “starting at $119/week.”
Despite Uber’s claims, from at least late 2013 through April 2015, the median weekly purchase and lease payments exceeded $160 and $200, respectively, the FTC alleges.
Officials went on to say Uber failed to control or monitor the terms and conditions of the auto financing agreements through its program and in fact, its drivers received worse rates on average than consumers with similar credit scores typically would obtain, according to the FTC’s complaint. In addition, the FTC said Uber claimed its drivers could receive leases with unlimited mileage through its program when in fact, the leases came with mileage limits.
In addition to imposing a $20 million judgment against Uber, the stipulated order prohibits the company from misrepresenting drivers’ earnings and auto finance and lease terms. The order also bars Uber from making false, misleading, or unsubstantiated representations about drivers’ income; programs offering or advertising vehicles or vehicle financing or leasing; and the terms and conditions of any vehicle financing or leasing.