‘Big car’ sales driven by lower gas prices

Lower gas prices mean big sales for big cars and one expert said these lower prices may stick around for a while.

“Today, crude oil prices, the main ingredient for gasoline, is less than half the price it was a year ago,” said Nuuanu gas station owner Barney Robinson, “so that’s why we’re enjoying lower prices today.”

Hawaii consistently ranks among the highest average gas prices in the nation, but Robinson said the state no longer tops the list. It now trails Nevada, California, and Alaska.

“California has a supply problem,” explained Robinson, “and they have a boutique gasoline requirement, so when they have a supply problem, it always drives gas (prices) up there.”

Cruz Edward Urquidi of Pauoa Valley was filling the tank of his “gas guzzler,” a Dodge 1500 4×4. He was getting ready to take his family out for a drive around the island, thanks to the lower gas prices.

He usually spends at least $100 to fill his tank, but he said he now spends about $60.

“I work all the way out in Kaleloa,” said Urquidi. “It’s a good round trip of 40 miles from Pauoa Valley. Even if it goes down 5 or 10 cents, I’m happy. I remember when it was going up to $5. I was going to get rid of this and get myself a small Toyota or something. But I’m glad gas prices went down!”

Dave Rolf with the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association said there’s an increased interest in consumers looking to buy bigger vehicles as gas prices remain low.

“You see the movement from, let’s say a smaller car, to an SUV with more passenger room, with a sunroof in it, or can pull a boat,” said Rolf.

Rolf added that smaller cars and electric or hybrid vehicles aren’t as popular lately, but Hawaii residents are feeling more confident in car-buying.

Car sales have dipped dramatically since 2005, when Hawaii dealers saw 70,000 new vehicle registrations.

“It’s a really nice time to get a new vehicle,” Rolf said. “They’re crushing a lot of new vehicles as they go off the road. You have all these new ones coming on, 50,000 or so moving off the island, so it’s a balance.”

“Barring any supply or political disruptions, and depending on the world climate, the forecast will be more of these continued low gas prices,” said Robinson.

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