Isle car sales down 30%


POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sales of new cars and light trucks in Hawaii plummeted more than 30 percent during the first quarter of 2009, compared with the same period last year, a report released yesterday shows.

The study, prepared by Pennsylvania-based Auto Outlook Inc. for the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association, features a headline that predicts the “;market has likely hit bottom; improvement expected by 2010.”;

Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association, said that the first-quarter 2009 numbers are being compared with first-quarter 2008, which was “;a fairly robust period for auto sales.”;

In June the Hawaii Auto Outlook report predicted a 9.7 percent drop in new vehicle registrations for 2008 with moderate improvement by this year and recovery by 2010. In fact, new vehicle registrations for 2008 were down 25.6 percent from 2007, and projections for this year have registrations down nearly 20 percent.

The new report discusses reasons for optimism, including pent-up demand that is reaching record levels and will eventually burst into sales.

“;New vehicle purchases are being postponed in record numbers and the median age of vehicles on the road is increasing,”; the report says.

“;When the economy recovers and consumer confidence improves, financially sound consumers will enter the market.”;

Rolf said paid attendance at the recent First Hawaiian Auto Show was up 8.2 percent over last year, and “;we were the only one of the Motor Trend (produced) shows, we understand, to have an increase.”;

Factors weighing heavily on consumers' wallets and keeping buyers on the sidelines include high household debt, the time required for restoration of adequate credit availability, and the possibility of a bankruptcy filing by large automakers such as General Motors or Chrysler.

Backing up its reasons for optimism, the report cites the affordability of vehicles as well as a “;product renaissance,”; in the form of hybrids and other alternative powertrain vehicles.