Geared Up

Hybrids are hot at the biggest First Hawaiian International Auto Show in years, but you’ll also find plenty of muscle

Steve Murray
Wednesday - March 16, 2011
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Nick Cutter

Barry White never crooned about the big and busty Duesenberg, and Danielle Steele has yet to wax romantic about a muscular and hard-to-tame Lamborghini. Too bad. They missed out on the chance to highlight a truly American form of romance - the love of scorched pavement, extreme horse power levels and roads so well-traveled they are immortalized in movie and song.

But love is also conservative, reasonable and financially sound. Love has four doors, a child safety seat and treats gas as the precious commodity it is.

An automotive contradiction? Not at all. Hard to find? Nope. At least not this weekend. The First Hawaiian International Auto Show is back for another year of fantasy, respectability and, believe it or not, free pizza.

While the standard dream vehicles by Ferrari, Lamborghini and Lotus will be on display along with Audi, Acura, Cadillac, Lexus and BMW, the vehicles that will really be moving the needle are the hybrids and electric vehicles that in a few years could radically alter the way we drive.

Dennis Short

For decades manufacturers have been trying to come up with alternative-powered vehicles that offered gas savings without sacrificing the performance and comfort buyers demand. They may finally be getting it right.

Nick Cutter, president-elect of Hawaii Auto Dealers Association and president of Cutter Management Company, says manufacturers that had been facing bankruptcy have rebounded and are offering vehicles that not long ago were still in the concept phase.

“Two years ago when Chrysler and General Motors were in bankruptcy, it was a pretty lean show. They had no new product to show, no stories to talk about. But now that’s changed and everybody has just a slew of new products. This year we have very unique products that didn’t exist last year. We have the Nissan Leaf, we have the Chevy Volt, we have the Mitsubishi I Car, we have several hybrid cars. These are new creations by the manufacturers to address our energy needs and mileage requirements.”

Eric Fukunaga

In addition to the gas miserly vehicles, the show also has a first-of-its-kind display that highlights how hybrid and electric vehicles, along with wind, wave, geothermal, ocean-thermal and solar energy systems, can lessen Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuel and meet the goal set by Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative.

The Initiative, which began in 2008, calls for the state to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030 - with 40 percent coming from locally generated sources and 30 percent from increased efficiency.

Hawaii currently gets 90 percent of its energy from

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