Negative headlines that have shaken Fiat-related auto ABS transactions haven't put market players off the sector entirely. In fact auto ABS issuance is blooming, with plenty of room to grow. According to figures released by Fitch Ratings at the beginning of November, the total rated volume of European term issuance with auto ABS collateral had increased to E8.7 billion at the end of 2001 from E450 million in 1997.

What's responsible for this boon in volume? Like in the U.S., one factor is the rise in sales of new and used autos throughout Europe, which has driven the number of new passenger car registrations to 13.8 million in 2001 - up from 12.4 million in 1997. "There has also been a rise in purchase financing and leasing," said Patrick Kearns at Fitch, who added that financed vehicle sales increased in 2001 by 6% over the prior year's figures to E89 billion. Auto leasing rose by 38% to E54 billion in 2001 from volumes registered in 1998.

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