Thursday, November 26, 2015         

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Auto sales outlook optimistic

However, the report projecting a 12 percent jump in sales puzzles local car dealers

By Erika Engle


Statewide auto sales dipped 1 percent in the third quarter from a year ago, but are projected to jump 12 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the just-published Hawaii Auto Outlook report.

The optimism by Pennsylvania-based Auto Outlook Inc. left Dave Rolf, executive director for the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association, scratching his head.

"I e-mailed (researcher Jeff Foltz) back on that (asking) 'How can that be?'" Rolf said of the report that was prepared for his group.

The association's projections don't always match Foltz's.

In the fourth quarter last year, Hawaii Auto Outlook projected a 9.7 percent increase in sales for 2010, while the association projected 3 percent improvement.

"One would wonder and hope that there would be recovery shown, but it's not showing up yet," Rolf said. "We're still kind of bumping along."

The report showed that year-to-date new vehicle registrations for the state inched up 0.5 percent through September compared with a 2.4 percent increase nationally.

Sales aren't "going down anymore and there's quite a bit of relief in even saying that," Rolf said.

Growth is being partially stymied by tight inventories, Rolf said, noting that factories cut back on production levels because of the global financial crisis. Tightened new car inventories "are driving up the price of used cars a little bit," he said.

Foltz, Rolf and others in the retail auto industry have been talking about consumers' pent-up demand for the last couple of years and, given soft new vehicle sales, Hawaii Auto Outlook describes the demand as record-setting. That, combined with aging vehicles, should provide "upward momentum" for future sales, the report says.

Rolf said Foltz's "matrices and his projections are largely based on models used for the other 49 states. Our projections here are made from the ground, standing in front of the dealerships," from actual activity Foltz doesn't experience firsthand.

As for what Hawaii buys, the subcompact car segment is the largest in the state, comprising 19.4 percent of the market, nearly 3 points higher than on the mainland. The Toyota Tacoma, Corolla and Matrix, Honda Civic and CRV and the Toyota RAV4 were the top-selling models during the first three quarters of the year, while General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have 17.5 percent of the Hawaii market, considerably lower than their national market share of 38.5 percent.

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