If you’re in the market for a car right now, you may want to sit tight for a few more months. There’s a lot going on in the industry right now, and Japanese automakers are, for the most part, reeling from production and supply shortages related to the disasters in Japan. Supplies of vehicles and parts are beginning to return to normal, but the Japanese car companies have a significant amount of ground to make up. Toyota’s sales in July, for example, were down almost 23 percent compared to last July, and Honda’s results looked even worse with a 28 percent sales drop year on year.
As inventory levels return to normal, analysts expect companies like Toyota, Honda, Acura, Infiniti and Nissan to offer generous fourth quarter incentives to grow unit sales and salvage what’s left of 2011. It’s reasonable to expect competitors to follow suit, too: Chevy’s enjoying brisk sales of the Cruze and Malibu, and they won’t be in any hurry to surrender the sales lead to Toyota’s Corolla or newly redesigned Camry.
The fourth quarter will be critical to automakers and the companies that serve them, but car sales traditionally hinge on economic growth and prosperity. I don’t know too many fellow Americans who feel comfortable with the state of the economy or even their own earning power, so the anticipated year end car sales boom may not materialize after all. Now matter how good deal is, a new car isn’t in the cars when you’re scrambling to pay the rent and put food on your family’s table.