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If you thought the 2008 US housing crash was the end of subprime bonds, think again. In this article, former New York Times reporter Gary Rivlin charts the rise of Wall Street’s latest billion-dollar baby: the subprime auto loan. He mainly focuses on the history of subprime auto-lending “pioneer” Don Foss’s auto-financing company Credit Acceptance, but Rivlin’s pointed analysis of the ongoing fight to regulate predatory auto lending carries broad, future-looking implications. getAbstract recommends this article to readers with an interest in the auto and financial markets.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How used-car salesman Don Foss pioneered the subprime auto loan industry in 1972,
  • How lenders profit by preying upon people with poor or no credit, and
  • What difficulties stand in the way of successful regulation of and litigation against predatory auto lending.

About the Author

Former New York Times reporter Gary Rivlin is co-editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. He has written five books, including Katrina: After the Flood.



In 2008, as the US housing market crashed, the subprime auto loan market was just gathering steam. However, subprime auto loans are not a recent development. In 1972, used-car salesman Don Foss pioneered the market when he established Credit Acceptance, a company that finances auto purchases.

Foss knew that by offering auto loans at inflated rates to people with poor or no credit, he stood to make big profits – and not just from the interest. If a borrower defaulted on a loan, additional revenues came from delinquency, repossession...

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