Thanks to the Asian economic crisis that is engulfing the world like a monsoon, American car shoppers should be able to find good deals in showrooms this spring.
Two things are working in the buyer's favor. The first is a strengthening dollar. The greenback was recently worth 1.9 percent more against Japan's yen than it was last September and an incredible 73.4 percent more against the Korean won.The second factor favoring American buyers is that Japanese and Korean automakers have a much tougher time these days selling in Asia's weakened market. That puts more pressure on them to make sales to the United States.
Not all Asian automakers are in the same boat, though. Japan's Toyota and Honda, for example, are enjoying high demand and healthy sales in the United States. And because most of their cars made for Americans are produced here, they are under no pressure to increase shipments to the United States.
On the other hand, Japanese automakers Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Suzuki are aware of the opportunity to boost their U.S. market share by increasing shipments. But it's the carmakers in Korea - whose economy is in even worse shape than Japan's - who are licking their chops at the prospect of pushing lower-cost cars into the U.S. market.
When looking for a good deal, first shop the imports coming in from overseas. The Mitsubishi Mirage, Mazda Millenia and Infiniti Q45 (all built in Japan), as well as the Korean models, recently carried the biggest incentives.
Hyundai recently forked over as much as $1,000 in rebates on new models of the Accent and Elantra compact cars, Tiburon sports coupe and Sonata sedan. And Kia recently gave customers $500 off its Sephia subcompact car.
"Most of the effort has gone into providing incentives to customers," says Gregory Stephens, sales manager of William Lehman Hyundai in Miami. "Right now, dealers in the South are getting $250 cash from the factory on the Tiburon, but not on any of the other cars."
A tough negotiator should be able to get part - or all - of that extra $250, in addition to the rebate.
There might also be some good buys in light trucks, such as the Mazda MPV, Nissan Frontier and Suzuki Sidekick. They are all built in Asia, and the stronger dollar should help you drive home a bargain.