Japan Quake Aftermath Could Drive Up Car Prices

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In the wake of the natural disaster in Japan, analysts worry factory shutdowns there could slow shipments of popular cars to U.S. — including Toyota's Prius and Honda's Fit — and the shortages could spread to other models.

"I think the effect in this country on the vehicle market will be potentially tighter supplies, particularly as we move into the summer," said Bill Visnic, an analyst at Edmunds Auto Observer. "There will be shortages, I think, of at least some models if indeed the Japanese industry can't get itself going in the next month or so."

Honda and Toyota have both stopped production at auto assembly plants in Japan through at least next week.

"If there are shortages on not just vehicles but also parts, then we could see short supplies on a variety of cars, not just Japanese make," Visnic said. That's because almost all automakers rely on parts made in Japan.

Visnic said tight supplies could lead to higher prices this summer.