All right, now it's time for a jump-start for car finances

ECONOMIC NAVIGATION AND SIGHTSEEING

April 05, 2009|By JAY HANCOCK | JAY HANCOCK,jay.hancock@baltsun.com

I called my mortgage company last week to ask about a refinancing rate and closing costs. The electronic message said I might have to hold for an hour. I hung up. The Obama administration's gargantuan guarantees and monetary injections into the mortgage market are bearing fruit, even if the system is temporarily clogged.

Now we need the same kind of action on car finance. Maryland new-car sales fell 37 percent for the first two months of this year versus the corresponding period in 2008, and 2008 sales were down from 2007. Dealers say they're turning away otherwise qualified buyers who can't get loans.

The administration's Term Asset Loan Facility is supposed to jump-start car sales by buying asset-backed paper including auto loans. TALF is in its early days - only a few billion dollars (only!) have been lent so far. So it probably won't make a difference for March or April car sales. But we need a car financing boom similar to the mortgage refinancing craze now going on. Maybe the federal stimulus, which has started showing up in people's paychecks in the form of less tax withheld, will help.

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