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U.S. automakers could grab market share because of Japan's problems, analyst says

April 4, 2011 |  9:26 am

Look for the Detroit automakers to gain market share in the near term as their Japanese competitors sort out production and supply issues caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

That’s the assessment of Brian Johnson, the auto industry analyst at Barclays Capital. Ford

Other analysts believe that Hyundai and Kia could also gain share at the Japanese automakers’ expense.

In a report to investors, Johnson noted that inventory levels of several  popular Japanese autos are declining.

He said that the large Japanese automakers had between 39 and 54 days of supply as of April, “but inventories of more fuel-efficient cars were much lower.”

According to Johnson, Nissan has only 16 days worth of Sentras, Toyota has just 18 days of Priuses, and Honda has only 27 days of Insight and 32 days of Civics.

“We believe the Big Three could gain share in the coming months, even in the face of supply disruptions. While the supply chain represents a concern for the entire U.S. industry, we believe Japanese [manufacturers] are likely to be affected more given their sourcing of engines, transmissions and semiconductors from Japan,” Johnson said.

The analyst also noted that the March auto sales data showed a firm shift in the market away from trucks and SUVs to passenger cars, a result of rising gas prices.

Trucks represented only 47.5% of industry sales for the month, their smallest share since the summer of 2009, and down steadily since their recent peak of 54.3% in December 2010, he said.

“The share of every single truck category declined, with the exception of the smallest crossovers, pointing to a likely shift in consumer behavior,” Johnson said.


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-- Jerry Hirsch


Photo: Ford trucks on a lot in Colma, Calif. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images