The real effects of liquidity during the financial crisis: Evidence from automobiles

Efraim Benmelech, Ralf R. Meisenzahl, Rodney Ramcharan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


Illiquidity in short-term credit markets during the financial crisis might have severely curtailed the supply of nonbank consumer credit. Using a new data set linking every car sold in the United States to the credit supplier involved in each transaction, we find that the collapse of the asset-backed commercial paper market reduced the financing capacity of such nonbank lenders as captive leasing companies in the automobile industry. As a result, car sales in counties that traditionally depended on nonbank lenders declined sharply. Although other lenders increased their supply of credit, the net aggregate effect of illiquidity on car sales is large and negative. We conclude that the decline in auto sales during the financial crisis was caused in part by a credit supply shock driven by the illiquidity of the most important providers of consumer finance in the auto loan market. These results also imply that interventions aimed at arresting illiquidity in short-term credit markets might have helped contain the real effects of the crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberqjw031
Pages (from-to)317-365
Number of pages49
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics

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