Business

Price of Prius jumps in wake of Japan disasters

Friday, March 18, 2011

Car prices are climbing as a result of the crisis in Japan. It's a case of supply and demand-- customers buying Japanese cars like Toyota and Honda are finding it's now costing them thousands of dollars more.

The price jump was noticed on Monday and since then it's gotten progressively higher. One industry tracker says the price increases will last weeks, if not months.

At Toyota Marin in San Rafael, inventory is dwindling. There are currently 84 Priuses in stock; typically there are about 150.

When asked how long 84 Priuses will last them, Sohail Tabar from Toyota Marin said, "That would be about a 60-day supply for this area."

The decrease in stock is the direct result of the disaster in Japan. Manufacturing has mostly stopped since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. And because of the uncertainty over supply, many dealers have raised their prices, some as much as 10 percent.

"Some dealers hundreds of dollars, some dealers thousands of dollars increase. It varies from dealer to dealer," said David Shapiro.

Shapiro is founder and CEO of Sausalito-based Cartelligent. For a fee, employees negotiate with dealerships throughout the state in an effort to find the best deal for their clients. But these days, it's become a bit more challenging.

"For a Prius, for example, take four weeks ago when someone would call and say, 'I'm looking for a blue Prius with a tan interior,' there would be a dozen to choose from and now we're finding that sometimes there's only one or two," said Shapiro.

Even U.S. automakers are affected. A shortage of parts from Japan is forcing General Motors to halt production at its pickup plant in Louisiana next week. No telling how long this situation will last. Critics argue some dealers are purely speculating, using the Japan disaster as an excuse to raise prices. Others are more understanding.

"I don't hold it against them at all because who knows, if they're not making any more cars then there's going to be a certain period of time where they're not making any money because they don't have cars to sell," said customer Scotty Kharsa.

As for Toyota Marin, they have no plans to raise their prices. They say they are committed to selling cars below the sticker price, regardless of their supply.

"We want to do right by the customer as long as we can," said Tabar.

Toyota says it has shut down production until Tuesday. Honda hasn't said when its plants will resume operation.

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Tags:
tsunami, earthquake, japan quake, toyota, auto industry, business, lilian kim
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