The sales vibe was pretty good in April, but analysts are already cutting their May forecasts because of quake-related product shortages.
With the global parts supply chain hit by Japan's earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis, U.S. light-vehicle sales rate inevitably will decline, according to TrueCar.com.
"In May we'll see some actual shortages due to inventory, which will affect sales in the coming months," said TrueCar analyst Jesse Toprak. "The industry will struggle to reach a SAAR of 13 million during this period."
Some buyers bought in April to beat anticipated shortages, said Jeff Schuster, J.D. Power's chief auto forecaster.
Manufacturers already are throttling back on incentives. TrueCar estimated average April per-vehicle spiffs at $2,386, down 11 percent from a year earlier.
"With inventory dwindling, automakers didn't have to spend as much money to move metal," said Kristen Andersson, a TrueCar analyst. "Incentive spending was at its lowest since January 2006."