Car dealers across the United States are facing a shortfall of Japanese fuel-efficient cars as rising gas prices and uncertainty about new shipments coming in from Japan have increased demand. Toyota and Nissan both said they were shutting down their auto-assembly operations until next week. Toyota said it will continue to halt auto production at its plants till March 22, affecting about 95,000 vehicles.

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Concerns are especially high along the coast, where gas prices tend to be the highest. A dealer in California told Detroit News that she was getting 30 to 40 requests a day for the Toyota Prius compared with five to 10 a day a month ago.

While the spike in demand started with gas prices, dealers are saying it has only increased since the devastating 8.9 scale earthquake that rocked Japan. U.S. factories of the car companies continue to run, though don’t expect any discounts at the dealerships, especially for small-segment and hybrid cars like the Prius and Toyota Yaris, or Honda Fit.

Considering even American manufacturers like GM and Ford buy Japanese auto parts, the effects may be felt across the entire auto industry if exports don’t resume soon. Our thoughts are with the people in Japan. We commend their efforts to still attempt to go into work and pick up their lives, in spite of all the devastation around them.

Via Detroit News