2012 Ford FocusEnlarge Photo
2011 Scion xBEnlarge Photo
If you're set on getting a particular vehicle this year—especially a small-car model or a Japanese-brand model—you might want to go get it sooner than later.
Inventories are definitely getting tighter as a result of the earthquake (and resulting tsunami) in Japan a month ago. According to Automotive News, the supply of Kia cars is down to 22 days, while the Ford Focus is at 23 days and the Fiesta is at 43 days. There's a 32-day supply of Honda Civic models. And that's only representative; a number of other models are well under the 45-day 'lean supply' level. A 60-day supply is still about standard in the industry.
General Motors is the only major automaker with a longer supply of vehicles April 1 versus March 1 (75 days versus 60 days).
Look for the situation to get worse in some respects this summer, when some production plants in the U.S. and even Europe might have to shut down because of shortages of some parts supplied by Japanese suppliers. For instance, Ford has already had to suspend orders of some vehicles in red and black due to an ingredient in the paint supplied from Japan.
Meanwhile, according to the Wall Street Journal, Toyota has warned U.S. dealers that this summer the company's U.S. vehicle supply could be "significantly impacted," and Honda and Nissan will likely have similar disruptions.
A number of analysts anticipate that supply issues will last into the third quarter of the year. And by then if the economy is on more of an upswing and the price of gas surges closer to $5 a gallon, deals on small cars would indeed be few and far between.