Hawaii auto sales increase slightly

Dave Rolf
Dave Rolf
Mark Caliri
Mark Caliri

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

After sputtering for several years, new car sales in Hawaii finally increased, if only slightly, in 2010.

Numbers released by the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association show 34,019 new vehicles were sold statewide in 2010. That is an increase of 1.1% from the 33,639 new vehicles sold in 2009.

It is the first time since 2005 sales have gained ground.

According to Experian Automotive dealers in Hawaii sold a record 69,374 vehicles in 2005. That number dipped 4% in 2006 to 66,536. There was another 14% decline to 57,526 in 2007, followed by a sharp 26% drop in 2008 when 42,804 vehicles were sold, and a 21% decrease in 2009.

2010 could not have come soon enough for Honolulu Ford Lincoln Mercury.

"Well, 2010 for us, we were up over 10% over 2009 in new car sales only, so it definitely showed an improvement," said Honolulu Ford general manager Mark Caliri.

Few dealers did as well as Honolulu Ford.

Oahu was the only island to show a gain in 2010. Sales there increased 2.7% (26,332 vehicles sold).

Sales on Maui were down .6% with 2,989 vehicles sold.

On the Big Island sales dipped 5% (3,356), and on Kauai they dropped 7.5% to 1,342.

"Well, 2010 didn't come through with quite the projections we had," said HADA executive director Dave Rolf who expected a 3% boost in sales.

Rolf said still shaky consumer confidence in the rebounding economy was not the only reason sales did not jump as much as hoped. He told Hawaii News Now the crippled auto industry struggled getting inventory to dealers.

"I think that slowed down the ability to sell cars because they just weren't available. Now, oh my goodness. In 2011, the new technology, it's coming in abundance. And it's going to be a great selection on the showroom floors," Rolf added.

Rolf believes new models and growing inventory should bolster sales this year.

A firm called "Auto Outlook," which does projections for dozens of markets, expects a 9% increase in Hawaii.

Rolf calls that projection a bit optimistic, but he does see better days ahead.

"We know that sales are going to improve in the auto industry and that means the economy is going to improve," he concluded.

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