2011 Toyota Camry

Last month’s Japanese earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster triggered difficult times for many of the country’s residents, travelers, and businesses. Among the hardest hit were auto manufacturers, who have seen a vast downturn in production due to damaged factories and infrastructure. According to a recent AutoTrader survey, new car shoppers are taking note – and they’re beginning to shift away from Japanese cars.

The survey polled 634 AutoTrader new vehicle shoppers to find out how the crisis in Japan is impacting their consideration of Japanese vehicles. Nearly 20 percent of respondents said that they have lower or discontinued interest in Japanese vehicles due to the disaster. Another five percent reported they had completely abandoned any interest in vehicles from the country.

The survey also tried to identify buyer motives for walking away from Japanese cars, discovering that those with diminished interest were primarily concerned with increased vehicle prices and parts shortages. Japanese automakers have been struggling with the issue of parts availability since the disaster, with Toyota even going so far as to ration its spare parts supply among dealers to prevent hoarding.

So which automakers are picking up the car shoppers abandoning the Japanese brands? Not surprisingly, the primary recipients of interest from buyers once hot on Japanese cars are American automakers, although a third of respondents said their consideration for vehicles from other countries had not increased.

While the disaster has obviously impacted Japanese automakers, American companies have also been affected, scaling back production and, in some cases, temporarily laying-off workers. Ford and Chrysler even asked dealers to stop ordering black and red cars, since the paint ingredients for those colors were manufactured in Japan.

While Japanese car production has seen severe cuts, most of the country’s car manufacturers are trying vigorously to regain full capacity. Nonetheless, both Toyota and Honda remain in a production slowdown, which the automakers say could extend as far as June.

author photo

Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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