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Local car dealerships experience Toyota, Honda shortages from Japan disaster

Monday, July 18, 2011 | 5:50 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Local car dealerships that carry Japanese models of Honda and Toyota are feeling the effects of a supply squeeze, the result of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan that disrupted the production of some auto parts.

Though roughly 85 percent of the parts that go into the 12 Toyota models produced in the U.S. are manufactured here, the remaining 15 percent are produced in Japan, according to Toyota. That's what's causing the shortage of cars at dealerships. 

Honda experienced similar disruptions because of production slowdowns. Frank Fletcher Honda’s general manager Mike Hodges has had trouble getting all models.

“We normally carry more than 300 new cars, but now we have less than 50 new vehicles on the lot right now,” Hodges said. “There is currently about 15 to 30 percent (of new vehicles) of what I would normally have.”

To offset the low number of available vehicles, Hodges has been trying everything. He has sought to buy cars from other dealerships in the area, but that's difficult because most dealerships in the area are facing the same situation. He's also stocking up on as many used vehicles as he can.

Dan Kellar, general manager of Joe Machens Toyota, has witnessed the drop off of vehicles available for purchase in the past few months. “The events that occurred earlier this year in Japan have caused some car-part production to slow, so certain cars have been more difficult to come by recently,” he said.

The scarcest vehicles are the Corolla, Camry and Prius, he said.

Comparing respective monthly sales reports from last year, both Honda and Toyota have seen their sales numbers drop.

In June 2010, Toyota reported its total sales for the month at 70,299 vehicles whereas the company only sold 51,616 cars this past June, causing a 29.4 percent daily sales rate decrease, according to a Toyota news release.

Honda saw a similar drop in its daily sales rate, dropping 24.5 percent when sales from this past June were compared to the sales of June of 2010, according to a Honda news release.

Both general managers are optimistic, though, predicting full production recovery before the end of the year.

“We expect to get back to a stable production level around late August into September and be back at full production levels during October,” Kellar said.

Hodges expects Honda's production recovery to be a bit slower: at 70 percent by September and back to 100 percent by the end of the year.


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