CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jackson Auto Group detail manager, Larry Apalla, left, and lot tech and salesperson, David Steele, polish up for Auto Show at the convention center, where there are 350 cars on display.
Car buyers seek fuel economy
Jim Cabezola had one thing on his mind as he wound his way through the carpeted roadways of the First Hawaiian International Auto Show yester- day: Fuel economy.
First Hawaiian International Auto Show runs through Sunday
Where: Hawaiian Convention Center
Admission: $7, adults; $5, senior citizens, military and students
Cabezola, who lives in Wahiawa, was looking for a car that would best the gas mileage on his 1989 Honda Civic -- a tall order, even for the bright blue Honda Fit that caught his eye. It gets 28 miles per gallon in city driving.
"All the signs say 'follow for green,' but I can't find it," he said. "There were more green cars here in 2001, and it's more relevant today than it was then."
Cabezola wasn't alone. Fuel economy, price and size topped the list of concerns for prospective car buyers at the first day of the show, which runs at the Hawaii Convention Center through Sunday.
Fel Sepada, a sales consultant with Servco Auto in Honolulu, said Hawaii buyers are frequently asking about smaller and older car models.
"There have been a lot of questions like "When are you bringing some older models out?" he said. "Price, value and size is what they are looking for."
At the Suzuki booth yesterday, he said couples and first-time car buyers were eyeing the SX4 Crossover, a new model last year that sells for $16,395 and gets 22 miles per gallon in city driving.
That gas mileage was the first thing retired Pearl City resident Al Emond noticed as he scanned the list of Crossover features.
"I want to get out of the house, cruise around the island," he said. "I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It gets 14 miles to the gallon."
Some of the show's high-end models -- including Bentley, Lamborghini and Corvette -- average closer to 10 miles per gallon, but Colleen Nash, a product specialist from California who was working at the Jaguar booth, said buyers looking for a "phenomenal sexy, sporty car" are lining up to pay the price.
"When the economy goes down, people do think about their money, but the good thing with Jaguar is it's got that cachet," she said. "It really hasn't affected people's response. I've been really surprised."
A 2009 Jaguar XF, which just hit the Hawaii market this week, sells for just less than $50,000 and gets 16 miles per gallon.
Some of the cars' gas-guzzler taxes -- at $3,700 for a $215,045 Bentley Continental GTC -- exceed the down payments for many of the more mainstream models on display.
For Lucy and Henry Saarinen, who are visiting Honolulu from Ontario, Canada, the show put an end to a yearlong search for the new Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon. The couple was looking for a diesel model to replace their 2002 Honda minivan.
"We live about two hours from town so we need room for groceries," Henry Saarinen said. "The price of fuel just keeps going up and up."