U.S. Car Sales Hit an 8-Year High -- and Here's Why That's Risky

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- It's all champagne and caviar for automakers, as U.S. car, SUV and truck sales are at an eight-year high. Fiat Chrysler (FIATY) reported sales up 20% so far in 2014, while BMW (BAMXY) reported an 11% gain through August. Overall, auto industry sales are at 17.5 million at an annualized rate for 2014 -- the best pace for auto sales since the beginning of 2006.

Activity isn't as glowing in the financing end, where more consumers are late on car payments and taking on auto loan debt they may not be able to afford.

So  says Transunion, the Chicago credit rating firm. It reports U.S. loan delinquency rates up 9% in the second quarter on a year-to-year basis, while total U.S. consumer auto loan debt has increased for 13 consecutive quarters.

The company considers consumers delinquent if they're 60 or more days late on an auto loan payment. Only 0.095% of all auto loan borrowers fit into that category, but more could be on the way given the historically high rates of auto loan debt.

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