By HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer
KAHULUI – As Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. blessed the site of the Pflueger Acura dealership Tuesday, he recalled his childhood, when he rode his bike through a pasture that is now Triangle Square.
From cows to cars in six decades. The area was part of Haleakala Dairy then – "that's how Dairy Road got its name." By the early 1990s, A&B Properties had tabbed the area for a factory outlet mall.
That never happened, but the area has gradually evolved into the home of the island's luxury automobile dealers.
Alan Pflueger, president of Pflueger Auto Group LLC, said Tuesday that from a personal standpoint, "I'd rather have been born here," and from a business standpoint, "I'd love to have been here maybe 10 years ago."
As it is, when Pflueger's first Neighbor Island dealership opens next year, he projects sales of 25 new cars a month, and he does not expect that to cut into Acura sales on Oahu, where Mauians have had to go for their Acuras until now.
He considers that might even be a conservative goal. Depending on how fast the Kahului location grows, he says, he expects a work force of 20 to 30 people.
Pflueger is taking over all the remaining vacant space at Triangle Square – a new car dealership next to BMW of Maui on Hana Highway and a large used car lot on the Haleakala Highway side of triangle that also includes the Servco-Lexus Maui dealership.
"I think we have a product that will do exceptionally well on this island," says Pflueger.
He acknowledges that Mauians "love their trucks," and while Acura does not make a truck, it does make an SUV, the MDX.
Pflueger says he will have a big selection of late model trucks on the used car lot.
On Oahu, Pflueger sells both Hondas and Acuras (and Cadillacs, Hummers, Buicks, GMCs and Subarus). The two dealerships are separate although the autos come from the same manufacturer.
When angling to open on Maui, competing dealers first had to persuade American Honda Motor Co. to rank Maui as an "open point," car dealer lingo for a place that could support a dealership but does not have one.
Once American Honda decided to allow a dealer to venture onto Maui with Acuras, various dealers made their proposals.
It was by no means inevitable, Pflueger says, that his firm would be selected, even though there are no other Acura dealers in the county or that Pflueger was the first Honda dealer in the United States when it opened in Honolulu in 1969.
Selling autos is really a one-on-one business, he says, and the "two key factors" to getting the nod from American Honda were sales success elsewhere and a stellar customer satisfaction record.
"I could sell a ton of cars," says Pflueger, but without that second ingredient, "I can guarantee I won't be chosen."
The dealership was originally planned to open this fall but construction (by Arita-Poulson General Contracting) is not quite ready to start.
Pflueger praised A&B for "being patient" during the permitting process, which was extra detailed because of the Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary across the roadway.
Maxwell reminded the crowd that before Triangle Square was developed and before it was a dairy, the area had been part of a "king's fishpond," of which Kanaha is the remnant.
Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2005 The Maui News.
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