Japan to affect every automaker

Every major automaker will be affected by the disaster in Japan by mid-to-late April, according to a report released today by automotive forecasters IHS Global Insight of Northville.

"It is not a matter of if, but when," said Michael Robinet, director of Automotive Forecast, in an analysis of the impact on the auto industry of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in northern Japan. The damage halted domestic vehicle production and affected the supply chain, which is causing disruptions at plants around the world that rely on Japanese-sourced parts.

The IHS analysis concluded that light vehicle output in Japan is expected to be impacted by about 335,000 vehicles by Friday and that figure could be in the 450,000 range by the end of March. That is based on a loss of about 37,000 cars and trucks a day if all Japanese assembly plants are affected.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. are gingerly resuming production of components for overseas plants and hope to restart vehicle assembly plans in Japan later this week.

Some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles offered by Japanese automakers are only built in Japan. As supplies diminish of vehicles such as the Toyota Prius hybrid, average transaction prices for some models are starting to creep up and incentives are likely to evaporate, said Aaron Bragman, IHS automotive analyst, in a separate report also released today.

TrueCar.com says prices of Japanese models in the U.S. are rising already, with the Prius up $169 per vehicle, on average, in the past week in response to the supply crunch, Bragman notes.

"If the supply of imported Japanese fuel-efficient vehicles cannot be restored quickly, an opportunity may arise for well-placed competitors to start stealing U.S. market share from Japanese automakers," Bragman said

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