New car sales are down by half this year in Maui County, according to the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association.
New registrations are down dramatically across the state for the first quarter, but nowhere as deep as on Maui, where 789 new cars were registered, compared with 1,482 the year before.
HADA figures are compiled by Auto Outlook Inc. in Malvern, Pa. In a commentary accompanying the statistical report, Auto Outlook said that the automobile market probably has reached its bottom after "the most difficult" six months in modern auto retailing history.
Statewide, there were 8,308 light vehicle registrations in the quarter, down 30.3 percent from last year.
In January-March 2008, Oahu dealers alone sold more cars than that.
Despite the controversy surrounding Detroit automakers - which was predicted to cause some shoppers to be wary of American cars because of uncertainty about their manufacturers' future - at least in Hawaii the American Big Three gained market share.
But not by much: sales of cars by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler grew from 23.9 percent to 24.8 percent statewide. In Maui County, Detroit's share dropped from 29.2 percent to 27.0 percent.
The top-selling brand on Maui was Toyota/Scion, with 30.9 percent of the market (and a similar share statewide).
Honda had half that, and Nissan had half Honda's share in the county.
The Japanese Big Three enjoyed 54.3 percent of Maui's sales. Of the American carmakers, only Ford came close with 12.4 percent of Maui sales. Chevrolet had 5.1 percent and Dodge had 4.9 percent.
Auto Outlook and HADA are now predicting a drop of 19.8 percent in new car sales in Hawaii this year, which would mean a big improvement in coming months. HADA said that the fourth quarter could beat the fourth quarter of 2008, although that is a rather low goal, since sales crashed late last year.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.