x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Debt levels soar as car buyers seek extra loans

Car buyers are taking on increasingly higher levels of debt as banks push finance options for vehicle purchases. 

Personal loans and credit cards are being offered by banks to help fund the deposit required for all cars bought using finance methods. Jaime Puebla / The National
Personal loans and credit cards are being offered by banks to help fund the deposit required for all cars bought using finance methods. Jaime Puebla / The National

Car buyers are taking on increasingly higher levels of debt as banks push finance options for vehicle purchases.

Personal loans and credit cards are being offered by banks to help fund the 20 per cent mandatory deposit required for all cars bought using finance methods.

"Most of the banks are coming up with solutions to the deposit, such as immediate applications for credit cards," said Felix Welch, the director of sales and marketing at Arabian Automobiles, the exclusive dealer for Nissan in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. "They are trying to give people solutions, definitely there's more focus on that."

The concern is the practice may help create a debt-driven buying environment , which is what the Central Bank aimed to avoid when it brought in the mandatory deposit rule in May.

"Customers are looking at [unsecured loans] as an option, if you need a car you are going to look at the options," said Mr Welch.

Banking analysts also said they were aware banks had been pushing personal loans and credit card applications more since the Central Bank changed the rules.

"Yes, it's something I have heard," said Raj Madha, a banking analyst at Rasmala Investment Bank. "It's not something that top management would necessarily be aware of, because there's no way to link it to the car payments."

Personal lending in the economy increased 1 per cent to Dh248 billion (US$67.52bn) last month, compared with May.

"In every country and everywhere in the world it's always difficult to control financing with rules, because banks find ways to get around them," said Mr Madha.

Before the Central Bank made its changes, car buyers usually agreed with the banks to pay interest on a loan of 100 per cent of the value of the car. Now, many buyers are taking on credit card debt at much higher rates than a car financing loan for 20 per cent of the value of the car.

"The banks will be getting more money out of it," said Mr Madha.

As part of its Ramadan promotional offers, Arabian Automobiles is offering buyers the opportunity to defer payments on a loan for six months when purchasing a Nissan.

Mr Welch hopes the scheme will give people who pay for the deposit with credit cards or personal loans time to pay those back before making payments on the car loan.

"The timing is quite good considering the Central Bank changes, because there's more pressure on the individual and this will help them deal with the deposit easier," he said. "But I would rather see customers with one payment plan."

Car dealers have complained the Central Bank rules are too strict and have put off many consumers from buying new cars, which has led to a fall in sales. They are now offering numerous Ramadan promotional offers to entice people to buy.

Arabian Automobiles is also offering zero per cent interest on financing for the first year for all Nissan Infiniti cars, as well as unlimited mileage warranty.

rjones@thenational.ae