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Looking to Buy a Japanese Car After the Disasters? Here's What You Need to Know

A couple walks past upturned vehicles sitting on a wall in the city of Miyako
Yomiuri Shimbum | AFP | Getty Images
A couple walks past upturned vehicles sitting on a wall in the city of Miyako

Almost two weeks since an earthquake and tsunami devastated a large part of Japan and forced Japanese automakers to shut down their plants, there's a growing panic with American car buyers.

Increasingly, I'm hearing people talk about not being able to find a Toyota Prius, Honda Fit, or Nissan Leaf. What's interesting is the disconnect between facts and the hysteria I'm seeing.

First, the shut down of Japanese plants has not stopped production at North American plants for the Asian automakers. So, the majority of the models people are looking for, are still rolling into showrooms. There are plenty of Camry's, Corolla's, etc.

Second, even the supply of those models built only in Japan remains adequate. But you wouldn't know that from talking with some people. Yes, because the supply of Prius models is tightening while gas prices are rising, the price of a new Prius has gone up. They are moving closer to list price and dealers know they can charge more for the gas-electric hybrid. That said, there's a distorted view some people are getting about what will happen with some of these models. It's an overstatement to think some of these Japanese models will be going up in price by three of four thousand dollars.

CNBC - Disaster in Japan - Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
CNBC - Disaster in Japan - Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Finally, car buyers looking for certain models made in Japan should realize that at some point the plants will resume production and they will crank out cars and SUV's.

In other words, if your dealer doesn't have what you are looking for right now, relax, eventually it will be there. If you can put off buying that specific model until later this spring or even this summer, there will be plenty of choices.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments?BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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