Auto dealers gather in Poipu

POIPU — Pat Aiona of Aiona Car Service in Hilo was checking in to the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa with his entire family Thursday afternoon.

“This is like a vacation,” Aiona said. “I’ve got the whole family here.”

Aiona was one of the 258 registered participants for the 57th annual Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association Convention, which will run through Sunday.

“This is our 57th year,” said David Rolf, the executive director for HADA. “Through our dealer network of 29 dealer principals and 71 dealers, we’ll sell more than 57,000 new cars in the state of Hawaii, this year.”

Dealers and representatives of HADA associate members converged at the Grand Hyatt to have fun at a series of golf tournaments, tennis tournament and banquets, while also taking time to address some of the concerns of the automotive distribution network.

“Car dealers are problem solvers,” Rolf said. “They love to have fun, but they also love to solve problems. This convention is an opportunity for dealers and associates, including people in the banking, shipping, insurance business, to meet, enjoy golf, tennis, parties and to solve problems.”

One of the pressing issues facing new automobile dealers in Hawaii is the expediting of new car registrations.

“This is especially bad on Oahu where people need registrations to take care of security clearances and safety checks,” Rolf said. “We’ve looked at this for a number of years. There are states that now handle registration online. That would simplify matters for us. We’ve had many meetings with the Department of Motor Vehicle, and we are looking forward.”

Bill van den Hurk, president of HADA, said government officials need to allow third-party service companies to bring their expertise to the table.

Van den Hurk will be passing the gavel on to Brian Kitagawa after two years as the HADA president.

“I pass the gavel to Brian with the knowledge that 57 years of history means that Brian will lead a strong association, focused on its mission — to help auto dealers comply with the laws so as to make car buying and servicing by the general public, trouble free,” van den Hurk said.

Rolf said another initiative dealers will look at are the new hydrogen cell and electric vehicles coming onto the marketplace to meet the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

“Some of these vehicles are projected to be on the roadways by 2021 — just five years from now,” he said. “Ford Motor Company projects that, by 2030, 20 percent of all new vehicles sold will be fully autonomous, giving a meaning to the century-old term ‘automobile.’”

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