Why Is Hawaii Called Toyota Tacoma Capital of the U.S.?

The Hawaiian Islands combined are larger than Rhode Island but smaller than Vermont. The population is a little harder to identify because it’s mostly tourists. We bring this up because Hawaii calls itself the Capital of the Toyota Tacoma. While it is the best-selling vehicle there, can it be the capital?

Toyota Tacoma ticket | Lui Kit Wong/Tacoma News Tribune/MCT

But the reference is not because the Tacoma sells better in Hawaii than, say, California. It refers to the Tacoma being the best-selling vehicle in Hawaii. Like 16 years in a row best-seller. This is confirmed by Popular Mechanics which says the Tacoma sells eight times faster there than in the entire U.S. Hawaii is also the only state where the Tacoma is the best-seller.

According to KW Auto Body, which does a huge business in the Hawaii bump and dent trade, it thinks it knows why. It posits that 37.64 percent of the island residents are American Asians. As a whole, they make up seven percent of the U.S. And, they tend to favor Asian vehicles, partly because of their proximity to Asian nations in the Pacific Ocean.

What do Hawaiians say about the Toyota Tacoma?

Toyota Tacoma and Camry vehicles at Port of Los Angeles | Bing Guan/Bloomberg

While this may or may not be true, Toyota is consistently the largest automobile manufacturer in the world. So why isn’t the Toyota Camry or, for that matter, the Nissan Sentra the best-selling, if that were the case? 

It decided to do an unscientific study, asking locals with Tacomas to explain why they like the rugged trucks. “The Tacoma is a well-built truck with a strong 4×4 pedigree and lots of custom parts,” was one comment. “Tacomas have all the functions of a pickup truck and great fuel economy,” and, “the truck is sturdy and yet small enough to fit in the small parking spots Hawaii is known for.” 

Are there better reasons why?

2012 Toyota Tacoma TRO Sport 4×4 | Jim Mahoney

On many of the islands, access to homes is through dirt roads. A 4×4 is a necessary convenience. Even paved roads can sometimes be less than the best due to Hawaii weather. Also, many of the islands’ residents are independent workers in construction, or otherwise need a truck for their professions. 

And its popularity means it has a higher resale value. So looking ahead, buyers know they’ll get more for their Tacomas come trade-in time. And then there are all of the reasons any truck buyer looks at, including gas mileage, low repair costs, reliability, extensive dealer network, and they’re relatively easy to work on.

2012 Toyota Tacoma | Jim Mahoney

Why Is the Toyota Tacoma the Best-Selling Small Pickup?

Toyota doesn’t break down sales in each state for the public. Overall sales in 2022 were over a quarter-million sales. Though far from F-150 sales, which were 640,000, it is still a sizeable amount of trucks. But regardless of the reasons bandied about, it is quite a feat that of all vehicles, the Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling vehicle in any state.