Japan quake could boost work for Nissan in U.S.

Emplyees work at Nissan Motor Company's Kyushu Plant on November 23, 2007 in Kiyakyushu, Japan.

Kai Ryssdal: Automakers have been especially hard hit by the supply chain disruptions Rob was just talking about. Assembly plants here get some of the parts they use -- electronic devices, in particular -- from Japan.

Toyota's been warning factories and dealers in North America that production delays are coming. Dealers hear that and they know they'll have fewer cars on the lot. Nissan, meanwhile, is looking for ways around its factory closures in Japan by flipping the supply chain around.

Marketplace's Alisa Roth has the latest.


Alisa Roth: The earthquake damaged Nissan's main engine plant in Japan pretty badly. So now the company is trying to figure out whether it can make more engines at its plant in Tennessee and send them to assembly lines in Japan.

Dave Reuter is a spokesman for Nissan North America. He says the Tennessee plant already exports some engines to Japan. But this would be a much bigger undertaking.

Dave Reuter: Does it make sense to basically tool up to produce the engines here? And would it be a short-term solution or would it be a more permanent solution?

If Nissan does start exporting more engines to Japan, it would likely mean extra work for auto workers in Tennessee -- at a time when other carmakers in the U.S. are cutting overtime and slowing production.

So far, the disruptions in Japan have not created shortages at showrooms here. But some dealers are starting to get nervous.

Tom Santospago sells Toyotas at a dealership in Maine. He says the price of used cars at auction has been going up since the earthquake. Especially on cars like the Prius, whose production has been stopped.

Tom Santospago: Because the dealers see that there aren't going to be a lot of new cars to be had so they're going out to try to buy some pre-owned cars so they have some inventory to sell.

That anxiety could subside. Toyota says it's planning to start building Priuses again next week.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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