By Drew Johnson
Monday, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 4:48 pm
 
Chrysler's sales surged 30 percent in May - continuing a 26-month streak of improved sales - but a new report indicates that a return to subprime lending may be just as responsible for those gains as a fresh vehicle lineup.

According to Experian Automotive, 29 percent of Chrysler's vehicles loans went to subprime borrowers during the first quarter of 2012. Experian defines a subprime borrow as someone with a credit rating of 680 or below.

In comparison, just 16 percent of Chrysler loans went to subprime buyers during the height of the credit crunch during the second quarter of 2009.

"It almost feels like we're back to where it was in its heyday," Josh Towbin, co-owner of Towbin Automotive, told Automotive News.

"You can even get some of the rougher stuff done now -- people with foreclosures and past foreclosures. Banks seem to understand that now, where they wouldn't before."

Although Chrysler's percentage of subprime buyers was above the industry average of 23 percent during the first quarter, the Auburn Hills-based automaker wasn't the worst offender. About 31 percent of Hyundai-Kia buyers were considered subprime during the first quarter, good enough for tops in the industry.

In case you're interested, the top five vehicles with the highest percentage of subprime buyers during the first quarter were the Mitsubishi Galant (43 percent), Suzuki SX4 (41 percent), Dodge Avenger (39 percent), Kia Forte (37 percent) and Dodge Caliber (36 percent).