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Ready to Deal? Some Japanese Bargains Still to Be Found

Despite shortages, some Asian models still a bargain.

by on Jun.15, 2011

Despite shortages, there are some surprising bargains on Japanese products, such as the 2011 Honda Accord.

Think you’ll be paying thousands more for a new Japanese car due to the current shortages? Not necessarily — at least not if you’re ready to do your homework.

The Japanese earthquake of March 11 has played havoc with the auto industry, as most anyone who has shopped for a Toyota, Honda or Nissan, in recent weeks can attest to.

Though production is slowly returning to normal, most Japanese makers have had to curtail factory operations due to parts shortages, since the disaster struck.  In the near-term, manufacturers will likely fall more than a million vehicles short of their original production plans.

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That has translated not only into shortages of popular models, like the new 2012 Honda Civic, but into sharply higher prices.  The data service Edmunds estimates that American shoppers are now paying nearly $3,000 more for a Toyota Prius than they did before the earthquake.


Americans Paying Record Prices for New Cars

Used cars not far behind.

by on Jun.02, 2011

Ford has taken three price hikes this year, one reason it had the highest average transaction price of all major makers in May, analysts report.

There are plenty of reasons why new car sales took a tumble last month – everything from a weak economy to a shortage of some popular Japanese vehicles.  But pricing also appears to have been a significant issue, according to industry analysts, with Americans now paying more than ever for new cars, trucks and crossovers.

The average transaction price – what a typical customer actually pays, as opposed to sticker price or the low come-ons you might see advertised – surged to $29,817 in May, according to the data tracking service  That was up a full $608, or 2.1%, from May 2010 and an increase of $215, or 0.7% over April of this year.


Significantly, prices rose sharply even though many buyers began shifting from larger to smaller vehicles in a bid for better mileage, analysts noted.  Traditionally, U.S. motor vehicle prices are closely linked to the size of an automobile.

And while some potential buyers are rethinking their options, used car prices also are heading skyward.


Auto Prices Spiking as Incentives Tumble

Japanese parts shortage masks other increases.

by on May.16, 2011

Prices of the old Honda Civic were rising even before the launch of the 2012 model.

Good new or bad, it depends on whether you’re making or selling a car, but one thing indisputable is that the price of the typical new car, truck and crossover has been rising fast this year.

Motorists, used to finding great deals during a long and deep recession, will likely be surprised to see vehicles not just costing more than a year ago, but in some cases several thousand dollars more than just a few months ago, based on industry tracking data.

The biggest and most immediate factor is the vehicle shortage created by the natural disaster that struck Japan on March 11.  But makers are also beginning to pass on some of the higher costs they are paying for essential commodities and – in some cases, simply betting that an improving U.S. automotive market will allow them to reduce incentives and raise prices.

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“The current environment will set the industry up for very strong pricing,” said Rod Lache, auto analyst with Deutsche Bank. In April, he estimated, U.S. automakers were already getting from $700 to $1,000 more than they did the year before.

The makers will take the extra money any way they can, though they have generally held back on outright price increases.  Toyota, for example, put in place a relatively modest hike, at the beginning of May, running to just over 2%.  But according to data from, some of the maker’s models, such as the Prius, are delivering Average Transaction Prices, or ATPs, of as much as $3,000 more than what they went for at just the beginning of 2011.


GM Goes to War

"War room" strategy could push GM past Toyota in 2011.

by on Apr.27, 2011

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda with the now-delayed Prius V.

General Motors has gone to war.  Struggling to avoid the sort of parts shortage problems crippling its Japanese rivals, the maker has assigned several hundred managers to three “war rooms,” in Detroit, Tokyo and Shanghai, with the aim of keeping its assembly lines stocked and running.

That’s no easy task in the wake of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear plant disasters that all but shut down the Japanese auto industry for more than a month.  Toyota alone lost about 542,000 units of production in March, it revealed this week, and the global sales leader does not expect to have its worldwide production network back up and running at full speed until November or December.

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Toyota is by no means alone, the March disaster hitting hard all of the Japanese automakers – and impacting virtually all major car companies worldwide to at least some degree.  GM, in fact, was forced to briefly close a plant in Louisiana, with two European plants also affected.  But the maker is working hard to ensure even worse problem don’t develop.  And if it can keep things running reasonably smoothly, industry analysts say GM will likely end 2011 as the global sales leader, a title it lost three years ago, shortly before its bankruptcy.

“The war rooms stay in touch around the clock and have the authority to move parts around as needed,” explained Tim Lee, head of GM International Operations.


Toyota Output Down 542 Thousand in March

Japanese makers reporting huge production losses after March 11 disaster.

by on Apr.25, 2011

Toyota is building Prius again - but at a reduced rate.

The devastating disaster that struck Japan last month has a calamitous impact on the world’s largest automaker, Toyota Motor Co. today reporting its global output fell by nearly a third in March — and with the company unlikely to resume normal production levels until the very end of 2011, Toyota seems all but certain to lose its position as industry sales leader.

But Toyota is by no means unique among Japanese makers.  The Asian nation’s powerful auto industry has been humbled by the combination of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power crisis that continues to wreak havoc on Japan’s manufacturing capabilities.

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Toyota has been especially hard hit because it depends more on Japanese assembly lines than other major Japanese makers, like Nissan and Honda, who have steadily shifted more and more of their production abroad.  But even those makers are struggling because of their continuing dependence on Japanese-made parts shipped to so-called “transplant” assembly lines in North America, Europe and other parts of the world.

Toyota’s Japanese-based plants were all but shut down in the wake of the March 11 disaster, vehicle output for the month plunging to just 129,491, a 63% decline.  Of that number, 107,751 were exported, a 33% drop from year-earlier levels.


Small Car Surge Buoys March Sales

Ford tops GM, Toyota slump exceeds expectations.

by on Apr.01, 2011

Hybrid sales up, but Toyota takes a pounding on models like the Tundra pickup.

With gasoline prices creeping upward, small cars flew out of showrooms during March even as prices began to climb.

The overall rate of sales climbed 13% to produce a seasonally-adjusted annual sales rate, or SAAR, of 13.2 million units, which is slight above earlier the industry’s forecasts.  A strong economy, rising employment and heavier advertising schedules also appear to have contributed to the increasing sales.

The month brought several surprises, including a sharp downturn at Toyota and a reversal of the normal pecking order among Detroit makers.

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Ford outsold GM for only the second time since 1998, buoyed by demand for such new models as the 2011 Explorer.  (Click Here for more on the GM-Ford fistfight.) Meanwhile,Chrysler enjoyed its best sales for any month in almost three years while GM still managed to post a double-digit increase. Audi and Nissan reported had record sales, while Honda’s sales increased by 19%.

But after seeming to get momentum moving in the right direction during January and February, however, Toyota took more lumps, overall volume dropping 5.7%, despite a 52% increase in sales of the Prius and stronger than expected sales of the fuel-efficient Corolla.


Toyota Raising Prices – Cutting Incentives

Will others follow – or could it backfire?

by on Apr.01, 2011

Dealers have been tacking on as much as $3,000 extra for the Toyota Prius, lately. Now the maker will raise its prices, as well, by more than 2%.

Toyota plans to raise prices on almost its entire line-up on May 1st, a move many observers had anticipated in light of the Japanese auto meltdown that has cost the maker hundreds of thousands of units in lost production.

Dealers have already begun raising prices, according to various reports, hoping to take advantage of the supply shortage, which is expected to grow worse in the coming weeks, and analysts say the giant Japanese maker is hoping to get its share of the potential bonanza.

But in light of the maker’s worse-than-expected 5.7% decline in sales during March, some observers warn that Toyota may be setting itself up for further setbacks.

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The increases average about 2.2%, though they vary by model and brand, with some slower selling models, like the Scion xD, seeing prices rise by as little as 0.4%.

“It’s Business 101,” says analyst Jim Hall, of 2953 Analytics.  “It’s supply-and-demand and they’re trying to make up the revenue they’re losing with the rolling blackouts in Japan cutting production.”