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NEAR-PRIME motor finance providers are continuing to “tread carefully” in terms of pricing and underwriting.

Startline Moror Finance said they may even tighten up their lending criteria further as the pandemic ebbs.

Chief Executive Paul Burgess said that his company had noted a marked reduction in appetite for lending among several competitors near to the beginning of the crisis and had assumed that this would be relaxed over time, but this did not appear to be happening.

“This is not a uniform trend across all providers but the near-prime sector as a whole has certainly shown a much reduced propensity for business, with several major providers choosing to tread very carefully as they have made their way through the pandemic.

“It is something that has surprised us because our own book has remained very solid. We have retained the same approach since before the pandemic right up to today and our business has grown by around 30% since the start of 2020.

“By now, with life returning to some kind of normality, we expected other providers to begin to adopt a less cautious approach but that doesn’t seem to be the case and indeed, there are some signs of a further tightening up.

“This is quite a surprising development but we feel our underwriting approach has been very much vindicated by results despite the pressures that have been brought to bear on personal finances by the pandemic.”

Burgess said that there remained potential grounds for caution when it came to the ways in which the used car and motor finance markets may develop in the short and medium term but that Startline had already factored these into its future plans.

“There are good reasons to be pleased about the way that the economy has sprung back into growth over recent months. However, significant risk factors remain.

“For example, while further lockdowns may be unlikely, there is still the possibility of a fourth wave of the pandemic this winter while, more immediately, we are coming to the end of furloughing and this may lead to an increase in unemployment.

“Generally though, we remain cautiously optimistic about Q4 of this year and 2022 as a whole. The journey may be a little bumpy but we expect the used car market to continue to remain relatively buoyant.”