LIHUE — During the first few months of 2017, the light truck market — pickups, SUVs and vans — has been surging.
Boosted by low fuel prices, the light truck share of the market increased from 48.7 percent in 2012 to 62.8 percent during the first three months of 2017, according to data from Hawaii Auto Outlook.
Across the nation, the light truck share of the market was 64.1 percent in the first quarter of the year, up from 49.6 percent back in 2012, according to the report.
In 2016, light trucks made up 73.4 percent of the new vehicle sales market on Kauai, the report said.
“Overall, the Toyota Tacoma pickup has been on a slight incline,” said Dan Nambu, general sales manager for Servco Kauai Toyota. “We have been lucky because sales haven’t dipped.”
Toyota, Honda, Ford, Nissan and Chevrolet had the largest unit gains. Registrations for each brand were up by more than 1,500 units. Subaru had the largest percentage gain, up 268 percent, according to the report.
“Subaru sales have been very good,” Nambu said. “Generally, Subaru has a very loyal customer following, and as more cars get on the road, it should help sales even more. A lot of the Subaru customers were not aware that we even carried the line on Kauai.”
The report said the rise in the light truck market stems from lower fuel prices, The national average for gasoline is $2.37 a gallon. In Hawaii, the state average is $3.05, according to AAA Gas Prices.
The Toyota Tacoma, according to the report, has been the No. 1 seller so far this year, covering 9 percent of the entire vehicle market. In fact, 7-out-10 best-selling vehicles in the first quarter of 2017 were light trucks, according the report.
“The incline in sales direction is economy-based,” Nambu said. “The economy appears to be on a plateau right now. Hopefully, it will climb, not take a dip.”
A spokesperson from Servco Auto Kauai said that Toyota Tacoma’s have consistently been the top seller among light trucks on the Garden Isle.
“People love the Tacoma 4x4s. I like to believe that the reason for that is because of its reliability. For us, besides the Tacoma there isn’t much else in terms of competition,” said the spokesperson. “Many other manufacturers have gone away from mid-size trucks but are looking to bring them back.”
A major reason why light trucks are so popular on Kauai stems from loyalty. Some Servco Kauai Toyota customers have owned two, three sometimes four generations of Tacomas.
“The Tundra sales are rising as well,” Nambu said. “Whenever a new model comes out, we have two extremes of customers — ones who are really excited about the new, and those who are more tentative and want to research more, or talk to friends who have the new model. We are fortunate Toyota redesigned the Tacoma in 2016.”