Buyers hearing that summer vehicle shortages are occurring earlier than they had planned, are visiting dealers to get the cars they want. April sales, which where reported last Monday, are expected to be up 19 percent from last year. Dealers say the increase is at least partly due to anxious customers.
The Japan earthquake is on peoples’ minds, said Adam Skolnick, general manager at Toyota Scion Watertown in Massachusetts. “There is more of a sense of urgency because they don’t want to be left without a vehicle,’’ he said. The March 11 quake devastated Japanese suppliers and shut down production at automakers for weeks. Analysts estimate production has fallen by about 500,000 vehicles and will continue to grow.
Toyota will not return to a regular production schedule in Japan until November at the earliest. Although Japanese automakers are the hardest hit, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler have all curtailed production.
“As inventories rapidly deteriorate, April could be the last month that we’ll see strong sales numbers until late summer or early fall,’’ said Jessica Caldwell, an Edmunds.com senior analyst.
Yesterday, Honda warned dealers that the 2012 Civic and other models will be in short supply this summer. It also pushed back the fall launch of the CR-V small SUV by at least a month.
The primary impact will be on brands and parts manufactured solely in Japan. Small cars such as the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris and Subaru Impreza could be in short supply, said Jesse Toprak, vice president at TrueCar.com. “Recovery from this crisis is difficult and constantly evolving … ’’ John Mendel, Honda’s US executive vice president, told US dealers in a letter.
The crisis is beginning to translate into a shortage of most cars and trucks on US dealers’ lots. Prices are inching up on some brands and models, including Mazda, Toyota, and Subaru. For now, there is in many cases, less than a two-month inventory of many models.