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StarBulletin.com

Isle 'clunker' sales doubled normal pace


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POSTED: Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hawaii's automobile dealers have requested Cash for Clunkers reimbursements totaling $7,333,500 — putting state drivers behind the wheels of an estimated 1,800 brand-new vehicles in about a three-week period.

That is almost double the typical clip of 2,700 cars sold every 30 days, said Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association.

After discussions with members, Rolf estimated that, given the total of reimbursement requests and the average dollar amount of reimbursement requests, the final statewide tally of new vehicles sold during the program will be between 1,750 and 1,900.

The national total of $2.88 billion in reimbursement requests for 690,114 sales came in just under the $3 billion allocated for the CARS program.

Japanese auto manufacturers led American companies in new car sales through the program, which ended late Monday.

The Toyota Corolla was the most popular new vehicle purchased under the program. The Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Ford Focus held the next three top spots. All four are built in the United States.

Some 84 percent of the trade-ins were trucks and 59 percent of the new vehicles were passenger cars. New vehicles had an average fuel efficiency of 24.9 miles per gallon, compared with an average of 15.8 mpg for trade-ins, a 58 percent improvement.

Among the top-10 traded-in vehicles nationwide, the Ford Explorer four-wheel-drive was the most popular, followed by the Ford F-150 Pickup two-wheel-drive, the Jeep Grand Cherokee four-wheel-drive and Ford Explorer two-wheel-drive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may release information next month that solidifies Hawaii's tally and drills down into individual states' statistics, Rolf said.

“;I would anticipate that many of those clunker deals were people who wouldn't normally be in the new car market,”; said Rolf.

JN Automotive Group on Nimitz Highway “;did around 50”; Cash for Clunkers deals among the 15 to 20 cars per day sold from July 27 through Monday, said JN President Joe Nicolai.

At the onset, Nicolai questioned whether the dealership would sell any more cars than it would have without the program.

“;The one thing I must say about the program was that it generated a lot of traffic that we hadn't seen for years,”; he said.

Many customers who learned they did not qualify for Cash for Clunkers “;purchased anyway.”;

JN's rate of sales during the program was “;roughly 20 to 25 percent over what our best months were three or four years ago, so there's no question that the program did artificially stimulate business for car dealers, but the issue is, what happens now?”;

Tuesday, the day after the program ended, the dealership sold only two cars.

“;Is that indicative of what's going to happen?”; he said.

JN has yet to receive a single reimbursement, Nicolai added.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said yesterday that 2,000 people are processing dealer applications.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.