) -- Despite a flurry of speculative concern about supplies of the
Prius, U.S. car buyers apparently are not changing their buying habits regarding Japanese cars, according to statistics compiled by online sites.
Any concerns over Prius supplies are likely to recede given Toyota's announcement that it will
resume production of the vehicle on Monday.
Edmunds.com said it saw virtually no change in the number of site visitors who researched at least one Japanese car during the week ending March 20, compared to consideration polls prior to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
"Our shopping data are telling us that not even this devastating earthquake was able to shake consumer confidence in Japanese cars," said Edmunds.com analyst Ivan Drury, in a prepared statement. "In fact, the natural disasters may actually strengthen the determination of consumers to remain loyal to their Japanese brands."
Edmund also said that concern over
increased Prius demand "in reaction to speculative supply shortages and price hikes appear unsubstantiated, at least for now."
However, LeaseTrader.com said Wednesday that "dealers are reporting a heightened frenzy over the Toyota Prius and a few other select Japanese models because of a possible supply chain shortage."
In response, dealers have reduced or cut incentives for the vehicle, as have consumers selling and transferring Prius leases, said the car leasing Web site, noting that incentives from drivers seeking to escape Prius lease contracts have fallen to near zero from an average of $450 in January.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte
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