New car sales up 18% in county this year

Sales of new cars in Maui County have risen by nearly 18 percent so far this year, but the Hawaii Auto Dealers Association predicts a smaller growth rate in sales over the next several years because of a slowing economy.

The “Hawaii Auto Outlook,” released Monday by the association, reported 3,956 new light vehicles were registered in Maui County within the first nine months of 2013, up from last year’s third-quarter report of 3,358 new vehicles sold.

New-car sales in Hawaii have been on the uptick since 2010, and the trend is expected to continue into 2014, although not at the double-digit gains that have characterized the last three years, according to the report.

“The likelihood of less-than-stellar economic growth, economically restrictive fiscal policy from Washington and a slowing global economy are likely to put a damper on the rate of growth in new vehicle sales,” the report said.

From January through September this year, 37,648 new vehicles were sold in the state, up 17 percent from the same time last year.

Hybrid and electric car sales have jumped 32 percent this year, with 2,644 vehicles sold statewide within the first nine months of the year, just 100 units shy of the 2,744 hybrid and electric vehicles sold for all of 2012. While only two electric vehicles were sold in all of 2010, already 600 have been sold so far this year.

Toyota continues its reign as the best-selling brand in the nation, the state and Maui County.

More than a quarter of all vehicles sold in Maui – 27.4 percent – were Toyotas. Hondas ranked second-most popular, followed by (in order) Nissan, Ford, Mazda, Hyundai, Chevrolet, BMW, Kia and Lexus.

The Toyota Tacoma led the state in light truck sales, followed by the Honda CRV and Ford F-series. The Honda Civic ranked as the best-selling car in the state, followed by the Toyota Corolla and Prius.

More Neighbor Island residents buy light trucks than compact cars, with 56 percent of all new vehicles sold on Maui so far this year being trucks. On Oahu, only 46 percent of new vehicles sold this year were trucks.

With 28,167 new vehicles sold so far this year, Oahu still sells more cars than all the other counties combined, but it reported the least growth, up 15.9 percent from last year’s sales. Kauai County reported the most growth, up 23.7 percent from last year, with 1,599 new vehicles sold. Hawaii County sales were up 21.5 percent from last year to 3,926 vehicles sold.

“Moderate pent-up demand, an improving housing market, low interest rates and gradually improving household debt levels should ensure sales will continue to head higher, but at a slightly slower pace,” the report said.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at