Auto finance industry leaders gather at AFSA conference January 24, 2019 Leaders of the automotive financial services industry gathered in San Francisco this week to hear the latest insight and analysis for what’s ahead in 2019 and to re-cap 2018 as the American Financial Services Association (AFSA) hosted its annual Vehicle Finance Conference. The conference attracted approximately 630 attendees and more than 60 exhibitors to what has become the largest and longest-running convention dedicated to the vehicle finance industry, a leading indicator of the U.S. economy. This is the 16th year in a row that AFSA’s Vehicle Finance conference was held in the same city and immediately before the annual National Automobile Dealers’ (NADA) Show. Even though the U.S. auto industry celebrated the fourth year in a row of new vehicle sales over 17 million cars and light trucks in 2018, most experts at the conference are forecasting a slight decline to the mid-to-upper ranges of 16 million. Factors like low unemployment, tax reform, low gas prices and solid consumer confidence in the U.S. economy drove sales in 2018. But issues like rising interest rates, higher debt levels, uncertainty in federal policies and the affordability of new cars could impact sales in 2019. The average transaction price for a new vehicle in 2018 was $35,377 vs. $30, 079 in 2010. Pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles continue to dominate the mix of vehicles sold in the U.S., accounting for nearly 70 percent of all new vehicles sold in 2018. Auto finance debt reached an all-time high of $1.3 trillion in 2018, according to one panelist, but he assured the audience that this does not mean there is an “auto finance bubble.” He said the industry has economic cycles as opposed to periods of boom and bust. Newsbriefs will have additional coverage of the conference in the Jan. 31 edition.