RICK KRANZ

Crisis in Japan may push used-car prices even higher

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Will the crisis in Japan push used-car prices higher?

Good used cars and trucks have been in short supply since the economy plunged into recession. A good used car or truck has been the choice of buyers unable or unwilling to spend thousands more for a new car.

It’s the old rule of supply and demand. When there are more buyers than vehicles, wholesale prices rise. And even now, with the economy on the rebound, the supply of good used vehicles remains tight.

My colleague Mike Colias reported Monday that used-car prices are near record levels. In his story, a Ford dealership sales manager in Atlanta called the wholesale prices at some auctions ridiculous, above values listed in some guides. He attributed the current buying frenzy to the tight supply of used vehicles, not the crisis in Japan.

But is that about to change?

The crisis in Japan has required some suppliers and automakers to shut down or greatly limit production. Production of some top-selling vehicles has been suspended.

Which raises the question: Will wholesale prices go even higher this spring if new-car buyers are forced to delay their purchase?

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