Hawaii car sales sluggish, but not all brands

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii car sales slumped over the summer, but some models sizzled, suggesting there could be permanent shifts in market share when the economy reboots.

The Hawaii Auto Dealers Association, whose economists had predicted 3% higher new vehicle registrations for 2010, reported Wednesday that sales for the first nine months are up only 0.5% and were down 1% over the summer months.

The report, commissioned by an analytical firm in Pennsylvania but covering Hawaii vehicle sales specifically, cited "excessive household debt and depressed consumer confidence" as offsetting "pent-up demand."

The Auto Outlook report still forecasts resurgent sales eventually, as more consumers feel obliged to replace aging vehicles that are no longer reliable for commuting and other critical transportation.

A breakdown of sales by brands shows significant disparity. These four nameplates show dramatically higher sales compared to the same time last year:

  • Acura up 53%.
  • Kia up 50%.
  • Hyundai up 40%.
  • Mercedes up 29%.

These four brands are losing sales faster than the industry as a whole:

  • Volkswagen down 2%.
  • Honda down 10%.
  • Chevrolet down 13%.
  • Dodge down 40%.

The roster of models selling well appears to reflect two factors - consumers who need new cars, buying lower-priced models, especially smaller cars that aren't thirsty at a time when Honolulu average regular is $3.38 a gallon - and affluent consumers who weathered the recession well and have comfortable finances.

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