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How have issues such as the pandemic and supply-chain problems affected the price and availability of new cars in Hawaii?

Like all of Hawaii, the local automobile industry has been impacted by the pandemic and supply chain problems. A global microchip shortage, manufacturing plant closures due to COVID-19 outbreaks, workforce shortages, shipping and transportation issues, and the ongoing war in Ukraine have left auto manufacturers unable to build enough cars to meet consumer demand. These challenges have resulted in a shortage of new cars and trucks in Hawaii and to some degree inflated new vehicle prices. However, for a customer with a used car to trade in or sell, the same forces apply, and one can expect to get a higher price for your current vehicle, which helps customers get into a newer vehicle.

How would you describe the electric vehicle (EV) market in Hawaii?

The EV market in Hawaii is evolving and growing every year. Hawaii auto dealers are “all in” and support the growth of EVs as it will help Hawaii meet its clean energy and carbon neutrality goals. Auto manufacturers are investing billions of dollars to develop electric cars and trucks — at different price points — which will provide many EV options for consumers.

Many Hawaii residents do not have the luxury of installing an at-home charger and may not be able to charge a vehicle at work, making it difficult to consider buying an EV today. As a result, before we can see an exponential rise in EV adoption, we need to focus on developing an infrastructure plan to ensure our grid can handle the electrification of our transportation industry and that EV owners have access to charging stations with the capacity to provide a meaningful charge in a short period.

It is exciting that Hawaii has one of the highest numbers of electric vehicles per capita in the nation; however, we have the lowest number of public charging ports per EV. According to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, there are 19,218 EVs in the state. Yet according to the U.S. Department of Energy, Hawaii has only 358 public charging stations. By 2030, Hawaiian Electric estimates, there will be a need for 3,651 public charging stations. Thus, there is a lot of work to be done to build the appropriate charging infrastructure for our islands.

What were HADA’s top areas of focus at the Legislature this year?

This legislative session, HADA testified on 27 bills and resolutions that related to ground transportation, in particular electric vehicles, and we monitored many others that did not impact our industry directly, but were of concern to us as business owners, employers and members of the local community.

Our message was simple: HADA supports the transition to electric vehicles, but Hawaii needs to have all stakeholders working together on a path to support EV adoption. HADA believes it can be part of the solution and provide industry knowledge that will be helpful in making the transportation goals a reality.

Auto dealers have acquired a great amount of data about the auto industry and are particularly aware of customers’ needs, interests and driving habits. By sharing this information and being part of the discussion, we can work together to set realistic and achievable goals and develop practical solutions to transition to an electric ground transportation future.

How should a customer approach buying a new car in today’s environment?

Other than a home, the second largest purchase is often an automobile. Price is a factor in determining what car to buy, but it is not the only factor. The goal should be to find a vehicle that meets your needs, when you need it, at a monthly payment you can afford.

We know that in Hawaii, many customers tend to be long-term and are loyal to their favorite automobile brands and models. That strong relationship between customers and auto dealers is an important part of the car buying experience, and we encourage potential buyers to get to know the dealers, many of whom are local, family-owned companies.

Has Tesla’s direct-to-consumer model disrupted or affected sales of EVs or other cars by traditional new-car dealerships?

Tesla’s direct-to-consumer model provides an alternative to purchasing from a traditional dealership, but it has not negatively affected dealership EV sales. In Hawaii, Tesla’s performance illustrates consumers are ready to drive electric vehicles.

Currently, most auto manufacturers do not offer direct-to-consumer sales, so as more EVs are produced and distributed in Hawaii, Tesla will have to compete with all the various local dealers in our market. A competitive marketplace is good for Hawaii consumers.

Bonus Question

What are the best-selling types of vehicles in Hawaii today?

In 2021, “light trucks” accounted for 75.4% of Hawaii’s market. The best-selling vehicles currently are gas-powered vehicles, but the development of electric trucks, including the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Chevrolet Silverado EV, is a game changer that may help more consumers transition to electric vehicles.

THE BIO FILE

>> Current position: President, Cutter Management Co.; president, Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association (HADA).

>> Previous positions: Practicing attorney in San Diego for 10 years.

>> Personal profile: Raised in Hawaii and returned home to raise my daughter with family.

>> Ride: One of the fun benefits of being in the auto industry is I often switch my car. Right now, I am driving an all-electric Mustang Mach-E GT.

>> One more thing: I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to live and work in Hawaii. It’s important to take pride in our community and shop local when possible.

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