Green Country Consumers To Find Fewer Car Incentives After Japan Disaster

Thursday, May 5th 2011, 4:07 pm
By: News On 6

Emily Baucum, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma --  Green Country drivers may soon be feeling the fallout from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Japanese automakers say the sales of Japanese cars in America fell 51 percent last month and could keep falling.

"If the factories don't correct the situation that we're having in Japan, we're going to almost be zeroed out of inventory the month of July," Sami Khalaf, with Don Carlton Honda, said.

The March 12, 2011, earthquake and tsunami leveled much of the Japanese infrastructure, including the small factories that supply Toyota and Honda dealerships in the U.S.

"Now we're waiting for them to rebuild so they can continue sending components and parts," Khalaf said.

The waiting game will leave dealership lots close to empty by late summer.

"All the hybrids, they are all built in Japan. The vehicle, it's all built in Japan. Right now, we're down to zero in the hybrids," he said.

Don Carlton Honda's requested an inventory shipment this week, but doesn't expect the cars to arrive for months.

It's bad timing for a severe shortage. As the economy rebounds, the demand for new cars is rising. Toyota reports sales are up nearly 30 percent from last year in Tulsa.

"It's very scary," Khalaf said. "You have to depend on different areas of the dealership to make it up."

Expect incentives to lower dramatically.

The General Sales Manager of Jim Norton Toyota wrote in an email to customers: "Rebates and other incentives are in imminent danger of being greatly reduced or eliminated all together."

He also blamed the natural disasters in Japan.

"The incentives we were passing back to the customers, they almost don't exist right now," Khalaf said.

Lot managers say they'll work to give customers the best deals, but their job will get harder: some 2012 models they hoped to sell in September are delayed until further notice.

Jim Norton Toyota, in its email to customers, called the shortage severe. But Thursday, Jim Norton said he doesn't expect major shortages of cars or parts through the summer.

American car owners could be affected too. Even if a car is manufactured in America or Canada, an estimated 40 percent of the parts are still made in Japan.