How Japan's Earthquakes Could Disrupt U.S. New-Car Availability

CARS.COMRecent earthquakes in southern Japan have killed dozens and left more than 1,000 injured; they've also hampered automotive production in the country. Toyota says it will conduct "at least a partial suspension" of operations at a number of plants in various stages between April 18 and April 23, according to spokesman Aaron Fowles.

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If full production resumes immediately afterward, the effect you'll see on dealer inventory for the listed cars should be light or even imperceptible. But shoppers might see a bigger squeeze if complications arise. Asked if the automaker was confident that production would resume after April 23, Fowles said Toyota is taking the situation "step by step" and will "decide as it comes."

Toyota says the stoppage stems from earthquake-related parts shortages. It could especially impact the automaker's Lexus and Scion divisions, which import from Japan most of the cars they sell in the U.S. Cars.com reviewed Toyota's production documentation for every car it sells in the U.S., as well as plant-by-plant stoppages from the automaker's Sunday announcement. If you're shopping for a Toyota, Lexus or Scion, these models could be affected:

  • Lexus CT
  • Lexus ES
  • Lexus GS
  • Lexus IS
  • Lexus LS
  • Lexus RC
  • Lexus GX
  • Lexus LX
  • Lexus NX
  • Lexus RX
  • Scion iM
  • Scion tC
  • Toyota Mirai
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Prius C
  • Toyota Prius V
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Toyota Land Cruiser

"It's going to take time for us to assess exactly what damage has been done [and] exactly what supplies we're going to be short on," Fowles told Cars.com. "We're trying to make decisions on what we should be suspending production for just on a case-by-case basis."

The cuts shouldn't affect many of Toyota's most-popular models; the automaker assembles cars and trucks such as the Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Sienna, Tacoma and Tundra in North America.

The Lexus ES, Lexus RX and Toyota RAV4 split production between Japan and North America — Kentucky for ES, and Ontario, Canada, for the RX and RAV4. Even if the production stoppage drags on, it shouldn't affect the RX too much: Automotive News data shows just 9 percent of RX sales in the U.S. this year were from Japan-built vehicles. But RAV4 and ES inventory could face a bigger squeeze, given that 43 percent of RAV4 sales and 57 percent of ES sales came from Japan-built vehicles, per Automotive News.

Toyota doesn't exactly have a glut of current supply to weather a long-term delay. Automotive News says Toyota had a 50-day supply of vehicles on April 1 — 49 days for its Toyota and Scion divisions and 61 days for Lexus. Both figures were below the industry's 65-day average. (Days' supply measures how long it would take to sell all inventory at dealerships, factory lots, ports of entry and in transit at the current sales pace if all production stopped.)

Fowles cautioned that it's "very early on" to say how much, if any, Toyota's current inventory would be affected.

Honda and Mitsubishi told Cars.com that the earthquakes did not affect production of vehicles imported to the U.S., and Nissan said it resumed operations April 18 after assessing damage. Mazda spokesman Jeremy Barnes said the automaker's "immediate operations are safe [and] well." Subaru spokesman Dominick Infante told us the earthquake-affected areas are far from its assembly plants, and there's "no mention" so far of any production changes.

 
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