Japan's earthquake-tsunami disaster barely dented factories belonging to the nation's big carmakers, but it ravaged the suppliers of critical parts and raw materials in north-eastern Japan. Things are better now, but factories that were shuttered are running at only half of usual production. Nissan hopes to return to normal in the early autumn; Toyota and Honda a bit later.
Yet Toyota may be overtaken by General Motors as the world's biggest carmaker by volume this year; Volkswagen is hard on its tail, too. Nissan was advancing rapidly before the quake, but it may lose market share this year.
The American sales of Hyundai and Kia last month were up by 40 percent and 57 percent, respectively, from a year earlier. Detroit's big three carmakers gained 3.2 percentage points in market share from the previous month, having for once offered a line of small, green vehicles such as the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Volt. Japanese carmakers between them lost a massive 4.5 percentage points of market share.
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