The Nissan Juke

The Nissan Juke (April 16, 2014)

A rare combination of circumstances and market forces have lined up to make this a prime time to buy a new truck, crossover or SUV.

First off, manufacturers have recovered from the production shortages caused by Japan’s catastrophic March 11 earthquake more quickly than many analysts anticipated. This has swelled inventories and pushed prices down.

The 8.9-magnitude quake and resulting tsunami temporarily closed some auto factories, while others were hit by rolling blackouts or infrastructure problems as Japan reeled from the disaster (while many Japanese automakers have plants in the U.S. and elsewhere, some models — like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and all Japanese-brand hybrids — are made only in Japan). The resulting shortages of Japanese cars and parts reduced the number of vehicles reaching dealerships and pushed vehicle prices up across the board. 

But by mid-September, Toyota, Japan’s biggest automaker, announced that its North American production levels were back to normal and the company started ramping-up production to make up for the previous six months’ shortfall. Nissan’s inventory returned to pre-quake levels even sooner, and the company’s North American sales actually rose 19% in August. Honda plans to boost output volume by 25% through March 2012. The result? Prices for Japanese models are dropping — and rival auto manufacturers are obliged to follow suit.

—Paul Rogers, Custom Publishing Writer