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It's too soon to gauge impact of quake on cars, parts

Dear Car Fix: How will the Japanese earthquake and tsunami affect the auto industry here in the United States? Will there be cars? I'm looking at buying a new Camry when my lease is due. Should I look at other cars or will all be OK? What is the story?

-- K.E. Amherst

Dear K.E.: The impact of this terrible natural disaster is not fully known. This disaster has affected many areas of the world and many areas of our lives, one of them being the auto industry. Currently, there are no parts shortages, and it's too soon to assess the impact on new car lots.

Carmakers have halted production, even at plants not affected by the March 11 9.0-magnitude monster earthquake. Speaking strictly from an automotive perspective, the country's supply chain has also been severely impacted. Of the seven manufacturers that import cars from Japan, there is concern about shipments of cars due to tsunami damage to Japan's ports.

Many Japanese cars are built in the United States, but production may even be hit if plants here can't get parts normally imported from Japan. Mitsubishi Motors, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru and Suzuki shut down plants initially but plan to resume production as soon as possible.

At Toyota, more than a dozen assembly plants and parts factories will be idled. Virtually every model exported to the United States from Japan could be affected, but the companies are still gathering information about the impact on suppliers and distribution systems.

There are plenty of cars on lots and at distribution centers ready for delivery. There may be cars on ships heading to the United States as you read this column.

If there is to be an impact in the United States, it won't happen immediately. The impact is felt when parts aren't delivered to factories and the inventory of new cars slows to what we have on dealer lots. This impact may not be seen at all, but if it does it will be in a month or two.

I'm sure there will be some Toyota Camrys to purchase, but ordering one would take a little longer than in the past. If you are truly set on a Camry, it will be worth the wait. If not, there are many great cars to choose from including KIA, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Ford, Chrysler and Chevrolet cars you should test drive.

If you have a newer car and need a special part that has to be shipped from Japan, it also could mean delays waiting for car repairs.

My heart goes out to the people of Japan. I am saddened by their losses, in every respect. We will pray for them that the recovery goes well.

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Dear Car Fix: I'm leasing a new car, Ford Edge 2011 SEL, and as the payment is already at my limit, I'm being asked about extending the car warranty to 75,000 for three years. I drive approximately 2,300 miles a month, but as this car now has digital screens, all-wheel drive, Sync system, etc., is it worth it to cover everything? I know a problem with just one computer can be costly, but the extended warranty would raise my payments about $40 a month, depending on what I put down.

-- T.M., Lancaster

Dear T.M.: By my quick calculations, you are driving 27,600 miles a year. That is quite a bit for a lease, as the overage miles are usually quite pricey. Make sure to check that cost before signing on the dotted line. This over-mileage price is NOT negotiable, no matter whether it's upfront or at the end of the lease. I would definitely consider purchasing the car as this will allow you to drive it as much as you want.

As for the extended warranty, some people swear by them. This is a tough area as you should be able to take the money you would spend on the warranty and place it in an interest-bearing savings account and always have a nest egg in case you need it.

Nearly every auto dealer will try to sell you an extended warranty when you buy a new vehicle. The decision to purchase a warranty is a personal one and should be considered carefully. Before you make a choice, you should know that extended warranties can be financed. You should also know that financing an extended warranty will up your monthly payments as well as the total amount you pay over the life of the loan.

Also, extended warranties are typically backed by a private company that has nothing to do with the manufacturer. If the warranty is offered by Ford and Ford dealers are the only one working on the car with no deductible, then it can be worth it. But I also tell people to pass on the extended warranties especially when supported by outside companies. Just remember to read the contract if you do decide on an extended warranty. Remember, what the big print gives you the small print can take it away -- so take the time to read it carefully.

e-mail: contact@laurenfix.com

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