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updated 4/4/2011 11:47:26 AM ET 2011-04-04T15:47:26

Cars made by Japanese manufacturers will be in short supply at the largest U.S. dealer chain this spring and summer because of last month's earthquake and tsunami.

AutoNation Inc. CEO Mike Jackson said Monday that his company expects disruptions at factories to limit the availability of new vehicles at showrooms. He based his prediction on information from the automakers, he said.

More than half of AutoNation's new vehicle sales last year came from cars and trucks made by Japanese manufacturers. About two thirds of those vehicles were assembled in North America.

A March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged auto parts plants in Northeastern Japan, causing shortages that idled most car production in that nation. The parts shortages also affected manufacturers outside the country. Just last week, Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. said that several North American plants would be closed part of this month due to shortages, and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said his company will see disruptions.

Jackson said it was difficult to predict the effect of the shortages on AutoNation. The company has 243 new vehicle dealership franchises in 15 states.

Japan's daily auto production has fallen by about 37,000 vehicles, says Scotiabank Senior Economist Carlos Gomes.

Nissan Americas is closing five North American plants for several days this month because of parts supply disruptions. It plans to make up for the lost production later.

In Japan, Toyota Motor Corp said last week that nine of its 15 plants in Japan have resumed production of vehicles or parts. The rest remained closed indefinitely.

Honda Motor Co. plans to restart its Sayama Plant and Suzuka Factory on April 11. When those two plants come back on line, all of Honda's auto assembly plants will be back in operation, but they'll be running at about half the normal rate because of parts shortages.

Jackson expects the U.S. auto market to keep recovering through the end of this year. He said AutoNation will manage through any shortfalls.

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