Japanese Destruction Leads to Higher Car Prices

Toyota Prius

Will the Prius sell for more than MSRP?

As supply dwindles and production continues to sputter, new-car shoppers are already seeing higher prices for some of the more fuel-efficient Japanese vehicles.

The cost of the imports is going up, because earthquake-related production shutdowns in Japan are reducing supply of the autos that people are increasingly snatching off dealer lots.

That’s a simple supply-and-demand equation, with cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Fit becoming more popular as gas prices get closer to $4 per gallon. It just so happens those are also two of the cars hard-hit by production slowdowns, and dealers are raising their prices, in some cases, to over MSRP.

Will a similar price increase trickle down to used cars? It’s entirely possible.

A story at Autoweek yesterday pointed out some interesting facts:

  • John Mendel, American Honda’s executive vice president, let Honda and Acura dealers know the situation in Japan will disrupt dealer orders into May.
  • The GM factory that produces the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon closed because it was out of a Japanese-supplied part.
  • Toyota and Subaru have both slowed production in North America to ration the use of parts.

So price increases are possible from all automakers, not just those based in Japan. Perhaps most telling for the used market is a quote to Autoweek from the executive VP at Sonic Automotive, the country’s 3rd largest dealer group, who said that Sonic

is prepared to supplement our new-vehicle inventory with quality nearly new used vehicles should the manufacturing disruptions interrupt new vehicle inventory supplies longer than currently anticipated.

I have a feeling that’ll be a common practice until automakers are back running at full steam. If buying a used car is on your to-do list in the coming weeks, you’d be wise to check DealFinder first to make sure you get the best deal possible. If you’ve been toying with the idea of selling your imported-from-Japan vehicle, this might be a good  time to get top dollar for it. Fell free to use our CarGurus Instant Market Value tool anytime you want.

Would you pay more than MSRP for a Prius?


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Used Toyota Prius
Used Honda Fit
Used Chevrolet Colorado
Used GMC Canyon


  1. What the Japanese really have going for them is that the American government has nothing to do with the emergency response. Virtually anything our government touches turns into an expensive debacle, like the fed security guard who actually picked up a bomb and carried it inside the building, or the one who ran a baby in a baby carrier through a baggage x-ray.

    The Japanese have been fairly well prepared, but of course how can anyone completely prepare for such a massive event? What does stand out is the propensity for governments and private enterprise officials to do exactly what they do here— lie to the public and cover up the truth while making one mistake after another— all of which lead to intensifying the destruction and loss of life.

  2. @Randy

    You forgot to mention Nissan Randy. I was shopping for a car this past Saturday and went to look at a Maxima and to the right of the MSRP the dealer had posted a pastie all dolled up saying that this was an add-on to the MSRP and added $695 to the price. What a country!!

    And don’t forget New Orleans and the way that our government mismanaged and bungled emergency aid and housing there. So its not just dealers, its our government as well. I’m curious as to who voted for these guys?

  3. So where’s the down side for us? Responsible Americans’ aren’t buying these cars anyway, where there are so many good choiced assembled right here. The disaster in Japan is very sad, but we’ve got our own brand of destruction here over the past few years. Take a look at some Michigan cities like Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Hamtramk if you want to see wastelands that look startingly similar to the destruction in Japan. I think many of the import sellers here in the USA are showing their real stripes by jacking prices up on imports like the Prius and Fit. They care nothing about their country or local communities, just making a buck from stupid, selfish Americans.

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