Selling new cars in Hawaii continues to be a booming business, according to the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association and Kona store managers.
Allan Jose, store manager at Aloha Kia Kona, said his dealership hasn’t even gotten its first shipment of new Kia vehicles since opening here, but already has 50 people on a waiting list to be contacted when the cars arrive this summer.
Jose has also noticed that used cars are selling well, as people are starting to reduce how long they hold on to a vehicle. A few years ago, Jose was seeing people go to replace a vehicle after six to 10 years. Now, the wait time is down to two to three years.
“Now they feel their job is more secure than it was two to three years ago,” Jose said. “That was the biggest fear they had.”
Industry numbers back what Jose and other managers are saying: In the first quarter of this year, registrations of new light vehicles was up 9.8 percent compared with the first quarter last year. Nationally, new vehicle registrations were up 8.7 percent. Industry officials had predicted a 7.6 percent increase for all of 2013, compared with 2012.
For the Big Island, registrations were up 3.8 percent during the first quarter, about 40 more vehicles this year than last year.
The low point for new vehicle registrations in the state was in 2009, when annual registrations dropped to about 33,000, down from 41,000 in 2008. Registrations last year reached 42,500, with projections for this year to reach 45,750. During this year’s first quarter, new vehicle registrations hit 10,978, up 3,000 from the first quarter of 2009.
Industry officials cited several factors behind the increasing car sales, including pent up demand, low interest rates, availability of credit and high trade in values. They also cited several factors that are holding the market back from more growth, including a still slowly recovering labor market.
Motorists are still interested in slightly smaller vehicles, with subcompact cars, compact sports utility vehicles and compact pickup trucks as the biggest market segments seeing sales, the report said. The top five selling cars in Hawaii were the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, Toyota Prius, and Toyota Camry. The top five light trucks were the Toyota Tacoma, Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota 4Runner.
Toyota continued to have the largest market share in Hawaii, with 26.5 percent of the market in the state, compared with 13.4 percent nationally. Honda had the second-highest market share, with 14.9 percent of Hawaii’s car sales, compared with 10.2 percent nationally. Rounding out the state’s top five were Nissan, Ford and Chevrolet. Honda also made the top five brands for increases in registration, compared with last year. Other brands showing the largest increases in registrations during the first quarter were BMW, Dodge, Subaru and Land Rover.
Aka DeMesa, store manager at BMW of Kona, has seen sales rising this year. But that’s not a new trend for the dealership, which opened in West Hawaii five years ago.
“Every year we’ve been open, each year has been better,” DeMesa said. “Still today, people come in and say we didn’t know you were here.”
He attributed BMW’s success the last few years to several factors, including being the only “high line” dealership on the island. Like at the Kia dealership, the improving economy has brought customers back in sooner than they used to return, DeMesa said. He has also noticed more seasonal residents coming in to purchase a new vehicle, to be kept in Kona for when they visit, he said.