Sunday, October 4, 2015         

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New vehicle sales post first gain in five years

Auto dealers see the year-over-year bump of 1.1 percent in 2010 as a hopeful recovery sign

By Erika Engle


Automobile and light truck sales in Hawaii grew by 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 and gave the state's auto industry the first positive year-over-year performance since 2005.

The quarterly Hawaii Auto Outlook report shows sales, measured by new vehicle registrations, were up 1.1 percent in 2010 from 2009. The Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association sees the numbers as a hopeful sign of recovery, albeit a "cautious, guarded, fragile" recovery, said Dave Rolf, executive director.

Cars and light trucks sold to consumers in 2010 was 34,019, up 380 from the 33,639 sold in 2009. The record of nearly 70,000 sales was set in 2005.

"We seem to have hit bottom ... we are optimistic and hopeful that 2011 will be a good turnaround year," Rolf said.

Oahu showed the state's only year-over-year sales increase last year at 2.7 percent while decreases were recorded on all neighbor islands: down 0.6 percent on Maui, 5 percent on Hawaii and 7.5 percent on Kauai.

The figures echo the business activity seen by Charlie King, president and owner of Kauai-based King Auto Center.

"I have a couple dealerships on Oahu and they've done well this past year," while it has been "a little more of a challenge on Kauai." Oahu has a broader-based economy, King noted.

"In the same breath, we've been seeing things picking up steadily in the latter half of the year," he said. While new vehicle sales dipped, "used car sales were up, roughly 13 percent," he said. Used vehicle sales are not tracked by Auto Outlook.

Financing sources have also gotten increasingly competitive and also support used vehicle sales, King said, which, coupled with new products in the offing from Chrysler and vehicle revisions from Honda, both sold at his Kauai dealership, give him reason for optimism.

"We're car dealers, we're always hopeful."

In Hawaii Auto Outlook, Toyota/Scion, Honda and Nissan were the only brands whose market share was measured in double digits statewide, though Ford vehicles registered 11.2 percent market share on Maui. It was the only double-digit performance by a Detroit automaker in Hawaii.

Hawaii Auto Outlook is prepared by Pennsylvania-based Auto Outlook Inc. and the latest report projects a robust 9 percent sales increase during 2011. The dealers association "hasn't done the calculations yet, but we don't feel it will be at that level," Rolf said. He sees sales remaining soft for the first half of the year and increasing "as we move past the (March) auto show and we get into the summer."

The annual First Hawaiian International Auto Show will be held March 18 to 20 at the Hawaii Convention Center and Rolf believes the new models, new vehicles and new technology on display will work to unleash consumers' pent-up demand for a new ride.

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