Consumer confidence driving an increase in auto sales for county

Maui County’s new car and light truck sales increased 16.4 percent for the first half of this year, another sign of rising consumer confidence and a signal that the Great Recession is receding in the economy’s rearview mirror.

There were 2,983 new vehicles registered in Maui County from January through June, an increase of 420 compared with the first half of 2013, according to the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association’s “Hawaii Auto Outlook.”

The most popular vehicle make continued to be Toyota, with 28.8 percent of the county’s market share. Toyota was followed by Nissan, 16 percent; Honda, 12.9 percent; Ford, 11.7 percent; and Chevrolet, 4.5 percent. Other makes each made up less than 3 percent market share.

The auto sales outlook does some crowing about its optimistic prediction that Hawaii’s vehicle purchases would rebound from the Great Recession.

“Back in 2009, the devastating impact that the financial crisis would have on the economy was becoming plainly evident,” the outlook says. “Banks weren’t lending. The stock market crashed, and unemployment was rising.

“The writing was on the wall for a sharp decline in new vehicle sales, and that’s exactly what transpired.”

Although the prevailing view at the time was that it would take a decade or more for the vehicle sales to reach levels achieved in the mid-2000s, the auto outlook says it held a contrary opinion.

“At the time, we pointed out that the combination of significant pent-up demand, extremely low interest rates, higher used vehicle prices and greatly improving new vehicle offerings would more than offset the negative impact of a slowing economy,” it says. “We predicted that within about five years, the market could easily approach, or exceed, sales levels attained in 2007. And that’s exactly what transpired.”

The outlook predicted that, statewide, new vehicle sales this year would reach 53,400, about 1,000 shy of 2007’s total.

Statewide, the number of vehicles sold from January through June was 26,922, up 12.3 percent from the previous year’s 23,968 vehicles.

* Brian Perry can be reached at