Island Auto Sales Creep Up

Published On: Feb 08 2012 09:56:32 PM HST   Updated On: Feb 08 2012 10:48:05 PM HST

Island auto sales are starting to creep back up. They reached record levels of 70,000 cars sold in 2005, but during the recession those numbers were cut to less than half.

Experts say auto sales show how car dealers are doing and are an indicator of the health of Hawaii's economy. Based on the numbers, things are starting to get going.

Roxanne Ramones couldn't wait any longer to buy another car because both her teenagers now have drivers licenses. But they still won't get the keys to her new Ford Fusion.

"We needed a car for my teenage daughters and rather than letting them drive the new car, my husband said why don't you drive the new car," said Ramones.

She, like many others car shoppers, looked at some key points before making her decision.

"Mainly price, economy and gas mileage," stated Ramones.

"Everyone is still looking for a great deal," said Honolulu Ford General Manager Dave Wray.

Small cars that get great gas mileage have been boosting sales across the country. Nationwide, auto sales are up 14 percent.

Cars like the Fusion have even helped Hawaii dealers make a dent in the popularity of imported autos in the islands.

Forty percent of the cars and trucks in Hawaii are Hondas and Toyotas, but last year more people bought domestic vehicles from Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge.

Experts said some of the reason for the change was there weren't enough cars coming out of Japan after the disasters last year.

But Servco Toyota said now it is not only back up to pre-tragedy levels of inventory, it will be coming out with even more hybrid vehicles this year. And it isn't alone in boosting selection.

"We'll have a hybrid Fusion, a gas and an electric. Plus there will be new designs on the Mustang and other cars. There is just so much coming down the pike," said Wray.

New car registrations were up in December -- over 10 percent from the year before. And some dealers saw those higher sales continue in the new year.

"A lot of car shoppers are interested, there is pent up demand. I think we'll see the industry get out of first gear and into second," said Dave Rolf, with the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association.

Last years sales numbers edged up over four percent and the industry is expecting a seven percent bump up in business for 2012.


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