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Production Of Japanese-Built Hybrids and Electrics Resumes

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On: Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 2:24PM | By: Chris Weiss

Production Of Japanese-Built Hybrids and Electrics Resumes

Hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles built in Japan have been among the vehicles most affected by the earthquake and tsunami events of earlier this month. Built in Japan and exported to markets like the United States, these models suffered from production stoppages. As a result, prices on these vehicles have started to rise, as supplies at dealerships decrease.

But production is slowly getting ramped back up. Nissan and Toyota have restarted production on models like the Leaf and Prius.

Nissan announced on Thursday that it had resumed Leaf vehicle and battery production and expects to maintain normal production operations through at least April 1. The company conceded that its success at an uninterrupted, regular production schedule will be somewhat out of its hands, stating: "The ability to sustain production will depend to a large degree on the frequency of rolling blackouts due to electricity shortages."

Last week, Toyota extended production shutdowns through Saturday, March 26. At the time, it was forseeable that shutdowns could be extended past that date, but later in the week, the company announced that it would restart limited production of models including the Prius, Lexus HS 250h, and Lexus CT 200h as of Monday. The company cited worldwide demand as to why it had chosen those models first.

Hybrid and small, fuel-efficient cars are feeling a dual-sided crunch. Production has been stymied by the events in Japan. Meanwhile, demand has risen recently due to rising gas prices here in the United States and elsewhere. If that isn't enough, the tumultuous events in Libya have given rise to fears that gas prices will continue to climb higher and higher.

According to the Associated Press, some dealerships in the United States have already responded to the rising demand and decreasing supply by eliminating discounts and deals on models like the Toyota Prius. Price increases are expected to extend to additional models and continue for weeks or months to come.

While the announcements from Nissan and Toyota are good news for the industry and consumers in the short term, it's unclear how long production will last. In addition to the power outages cited by Nissan, parts shortages from Japanese manufacturers affected by the natural disasters are likely to hamper long-term production plans. Operations here in the U.S. may also be affected by those parts shortages.

Japan's other Big 3 member, Honda, has not yet announced plans to restart production. In fact, the automaker added an extra week to its shutdowns, extending them through at least April 3.


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