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American car buyers are borrowing like never before—and missing plenty of payments, too

Last year, Americans bought more new cars than ever before. Given that auto sales make up around a fifth of all retail spending, 2016’s banner year is being hailed as a sign of burgeoning consumer confidence across the country.

But something else is revving up, too: auto loans.

The US closed out 2016 with just shy of $1.2 trillion in outstanding auto loan debt, a rise of 9% from the previous year and 13% above the pre-crisis peak in 2005, in inflation-adjusted terms.