GMF Goes ‘Nonprime’

canstockphoto10000483What’s in a word?

At General Motors Financial Co. apparently, quite a lot.

GMF quietly this week changed its term of art regarding products for consumers with credit scores that typically fall between 500 and 700 to “nonprime” from “subprime” on its webpage describing its product offerings.

With GMF, the change is purely style-related, a company spokesperson said.

The timing fits with GMF’s planned climb up the credit ladder. Later this summer, the company will begin offering prime loans.

GMF-owned AmeriCredit will continue using the term “subprime” in its marketing.

But perhaps this wordplay begs a more important question, one which has resurfaced on and off since subprime/nonprime auto lending took a major step forward in the late 1990s: Is “subprime” an offensive term and is “nonprime” somewhat less so?

For what it is worth, “non-” is a prefix “meaning ‘not,’ freely used as an English formative, usually with a simple negative force as implying mere negation or absence of something, at least,” according to   On the other hand, they say “‘sub,’ also a formative, gets used with the meaning ‘under,’ ‘below,’ ‘beneath,’ ‘slightly,’ ‘imperfectly,’ ‘nearly’, ‘secondary,’ ‘subordinate.'”

In this case, it’s really about the absence of good credit scores scores, so “non” sounds about right. We think.

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