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Steve Murray

Driven

With the annual Hawaii Auto Dealers Association auto show coming up, MidWeek looks at the generous men and women of Hawaii’s auto industry, and their remarkable acts of philanthropy – whether providing an electric car to state teacher of the year Chad Miller of Kailua High, helping the people of Japan after last year’s triple disaster or sending a Make-A-Wish kid on a dream trip. You could say they’re driven to give back to their community

With the Hawaii Auto Dealers Association annual car show returning this weekend to the Convention Center, MidWeek takes a look at the generosity of the men and women of the Hawaii auto industry for their philanthropy. Yes, you could say they’re driven to giving back to the community

Chad Miller, a language arts teacher at Kailua High School, was more than a little surprised when he was named the 2012 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year. He was equally shocked to find out that the featured prize was the use of a Mitsubishi iMiEV for one year. As gas prices have continued to climb, the appreciation has grown.

“It’s awesome. I love the car,” says the former John Carroll University defensive lineman, whose teammates included New England Patriots assistant coach Josh McDaniel and Washington Redskins line-backer London Fletcher. “My girlfriend (Hilina Fukutomi) and I drive it every day. We get to park for free almost anywhere, and there are so many charging places that are coming up on the island that make it really convenient.”

The award also came with a charging station for his home and one for Kailua High School.

“It’s perfect,” he says. “It takes us almost anywhere we want to go.”

The car was more than just a cool bonus. Hawaii Auto Detailers Association (HADA) has determined this year’s focus to be Education, Energy and the Next Generation of Dealers, and the 114mpgE vehicle was a natural fit connecting two of the three focus areas.

“The electric car presentation to the teacher is significant this year in that it demonstrates Hawaii’s new car dealers’ commitment to education, the renewable energy transition and to the next generation of young people who are customers in the future,” says Pat Ah You, general manager of Cutter Mitsubishi, which donated the vehicle.

This wasn’t the first time Cutter Mitsubishi, or other HADA members, have provided time and resources to worthwhile community projects. In fact, HADA members have been donating the free use of vehicles to educators since 2000, and to date have donated 53 vehicles to the program that honors the state’s best teachers. When the Hawaii Congressional Gold Medal recipients were honored with a parade, they were riding in vehicles donated by HADA members BMW of Honolulu, Cutter Chevrolet, McKenna Windward Ford and Windward Dodge Chrysler Jeep.

Over the years, the organization’s 62 dealerships have committed thousands of hours and millions of dollars in support of local charities and community groups. The origin for much of this support began with the various founders who felt the need to support the communities that support their businesses.

“Servco was founded in 1919, and we have a long history of being involved with all sorts of community activities, starting with our founder Peter Fukunaga, who believed in giving back to the community,” says Rick Ching, president of Servco auto.

Sara Beth Cutter, marketing director for MJC Inc., agrees.

“He (father and company founder Gerald Cutter) has always been really, really, really active in the communities where he had businesses. The community has taken care of us here, they have taken care of us in Santa Barbara, and we just want to give back to them.”

While the various charities and community groups that have benefitted from Cutter’s largess varies as much as the vehicles being sold, a common element is that the programs are not primarily corporate driven but generated and embraced largely by the sellers, repair technicians and office staff who live and work in the area.

Jon Rasmussen, marketing director for Cutter Management Co., says Nick Cutter (president Cutter Management Co.) and Marc Cutter (president of MJC Inc.) have placed their trust in their general managers to identify and support the appropriate groups within the neighborhoods their dealerships serve.

“It comes from the employees to the boss,” says Rasmussen. ” It’s like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this Little League team that needs uniforms.’ OK, well, let’s do a fundraiser, let’s sponsor them, or let’s just write a check to get some uniforms.”

Other examples of the Cutters’ commitment include the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, Wounded Warriors, Muscular Dystrophy Association, various school projects such as Project Grad and athletic programs, MADD, Aloha United Way and, perhaps most heartening for those involved, sending a Make-A-Wish child to Dallas to meet his hero, NBA star Jason Kidd.

Ching, who has been with Servco for 27 years, has seen the same type of enthusiasm even during hard economic times.

“Right now it’s a tough time for a lot of agencies, and it is our employees who take the lead, finding out who needs help and supporting them in all sorts of ways,” he says. “They take special interest in a lot of things, and if our employees want to get involved, then Servco is very supportive of those efforts. We try to give them time to volunteer as well as the monetary support through our foundation.”

Servco sponsors two foundations: Fukunaga Scholarship Foundation, which provides college scholarships to Hawaii high school students wanting to study business, and Servco Foundation that provides scholarships and charitable donations to community organizations.

In addition to local beneficiaries, Ching says one of the most rewarding efforts was raising funds for Japan earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

“We were involved in some of the recovery efforts and, on a much more personal level, we had books of condolences that we put in our dealerships, that were messages for the people of Japan,” he says. “The amount of outpouring of support, encouragement and positive message that our customers and our employees wanted to bring to the people of Japan was incredible. We actually hand-delivered them to some of the people we work with in Japan, and it made an impact on them that the people of Hawaii wanted to personally write these notes in the books.”

And as far as Miller’s plans for the gift vehicle, he’d love to keep it.

“I definitely am going to be sad to give it back. I just had this conversation with one of my friends. I wish I had won it outright!”

2012 AUTO SHOW

The First Hawaiian Bank International Auto Show returns to the Hawaii Convention Center March 30 for three days of high-performance, sensible transportation and a fleet of vehicles topping 40 mpg. Among the manufacturers featuring such gas-sipping vehicles are Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. These will be easily identifiable by the 40 MPG badges along the highway carpet.

Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, Lexus, Suzuki and Subaru will have vehicles to test drive at the auto show, and those taking a test drive will receive a voucher for a free medium, onetopping pizza from Papa John’s.

Each attendee will have the chance to win $100,000 in cash. Contestants who register at the auto show will be randomly selected to pick from 250 prize bags, one containing the grand prize. Other giveaways include free pizza from Papa John’s, a Motor Trend iPhone app and a free subscription to Motor Trend magazine.

First Hawaiian Bank continues as the auto show’s title sponsor. The auto show also is sponsored by Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association and Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and produced by Motor Trend Auto Shows LLC, the nation’s largest auto show producer and part of the Source Interlink Companies Inc.

WHAT: The 2012 First Hawaiian International Auto Show

WHERE: Hawaii Convention Center

HOURS:

Friday, March 30, noon to 10 p.m.;
Saturday, March 31, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.;
Sunday, April 1, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

ADMISSION:

$8 (adults, 18 and over)
$6 (seniors, 62 and over)
$6 (military with identification)

All active duty military FREE on Saturday (with identification Saturday only)

Free for age 17 and younger

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