Japanese cars and US consumers -- the outlook

Although no decision has yet been made, the voluntary restraint agreement on Japanese auto exports to the United States may expire at the end of March. But whether it runs out as scheduled, or is extended at a higher level for another year, the Japanese will undoubtedly ship more cars to the US this year. This should sharply increase the availability of cars to buyers and thus curtail the controversial practice of some retail dealers to charge higher prices than those posted by the car manufacturers themelves.

It is disputed by Detroit, but the four-year-old pact has already cost consumers an estimated $15.7 billion in higher car prices, according to the International Trade Commission in a report to Congress.

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