By on August 15, 2008

ChryCo, the Demon Dealer of Fleet StreetAll car manufacturers would like you to believe they're turning their back on fleet sales. It simply doesn't pay to be known as a "pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap" automaker– even if that's exactly what you are. Hence manufacturers' quarterly reports that highlight models whose rental sales have fallen. I repeat, rental. Lest we forget, companies and government agencies are also significant bulk buyers. So, BS aside, who leads the pack in the fleet sales that all carmakers say they don't rely upon to drive up their numbers and keep the factories humming?

Surprise! Chrysler is the admiral of the fleet. Statistics for the first half of the year reveal that fleet sales make up 35.6 percent of their total 2008 sales. Of those, fully 75.1 percent went to the rental companies. Jeep's fleet sales are low, but if you look at the Dodge division, 39.4 percent of their production went to fleets, led by the lame duck Magnum (75.4 percent) and Avenger (65.5 percent). 

That's nothing compared to Chrysler Division, though. Just under half— 44.9 percent – of their '08 model year cars have gone to fleets, with 63.8 percent of PT Cruisers and 66.1 percent of Sebrings at the head of that line.

Ford claims decreased fleet sales is one of the main reasons their sales are down this year. Yet 32.7 percent of their ‘08 sales sailed with the fleets. As Crown Vic and Town Car sales are restricted to taxi and livery use, only 41.5% of Ford's fleet sales have been to rental companies. 

Breaking it down by division, the Crown Vic is the undisputed leader, with 94.2 percent of production serving fleet duty. Taurus and Taurus X are next, with 48.1 and 54.8 percent respectively, accounting for 34.1 percent of the nameplates' total sales. Bulk buyers scarfed 55.3 percent of Grand Marquis sales. And that helped drive 31.5 percent of Mercury's sales to the fleets. There is some good news for FoMoCo. Even with 59.9 percent of Town Car production sold for fleets, Lincoln's overall fleet share is only 23.4 percent of production

GM may have cut fleet sales, but over a quarter (26.4 percent) of their production found its way into fleets. Over half of those (57.8 percent) went to rental companies. Excluding models built specifically for commercial use, Chevy's Impala led the parade; 49.9 percent of total production sold to fleets. Trailblazer (39.6 percent) and Cobalt (38.7 percent) were next. Even though GM says the new Malibu is going great guns, 33 percent of the ‘08's went to fleets. Overall, 31.5 percent of Chevy's production ended-up in the fleets.

Pontiac is GM's hands-down fleet champion. Four out of every ten ‘08 Pontiacs ended up in the hands of fleet managers. They're loading the fleets with Grands Prix (64.6 percent of production), G6's (44.8 percent) and G5's (30.5 percent). The other GM divisions averaged less than 15 percent fleet sales.

Most of the imported nameplates also averaged below 15 percent total fleet sales. Kia led the imports, with 34.3 percent of U.S. cars going to fleets, the majority of which went to rental companies.  Sedona and Rondo are almost tied with 46.2 and 45.6 percent fleet sales respectively. 

Mitsubishi was the second most popular fleet queen amongst the import brands. A bit over one quarter (25.7 percent) of Mitsubishi's sales were to fleets, almost exclusively for rentals. The Galant the most popular (45.3 percent). Endeavor was a close second (42.6 percent). 

Mazda was close third, trailing Mitsu by 0.4 percent (25.3 percent). Like Mitsubishi, almost all of the fleet sales ended up in rental lots. The Mazda6 and Mazda5 were the most popular models, with 59.5 percent of 6's and 47.7 percent of 5's available for daily use at a nominal charge.

Hyundai used the fleet market to sell 23.9 percent of their vehicles, again with almost all going to rental companies. Forty percent of Sonatas and 25.3 percent of Azeras were fleetward bound. 

As for the other transplants, there were a few interesting data points– even if the manufactures didn't show anything surprising overall.

Toyota (who says they restrict sales to fleets) unloaded 25.6 percent of their Avalons in that manner, mostly to rental companies. Volvo found fleets to be a good dumping ground for S40 (48.9 percent) and S60 (45.5 percent). And although the overall sales numbers are low, 20.2 percent of Jag X-types joined them. 

There may be some real interesting results once July and August's figures are posted. For example, Nissan's inventory of Titans dropped from a 400+ day supply to just over 100 days in July. Toyota and other manufacturers have huge numbers of full-sized pickup trucks they also need to off-load, stat. Anyone fancy a Tundra for a company car?

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29 Comments on “Fleet Enema Helps Sales Backlogs...”

  • avatar

    “Anyone fancy a Tundra for a company car?”

    Not unless it comes with a company paid gas card.

  • avatar

    Unless I missed something here is what I got for a retail top 20 through 6 months.

    1. Silverado 216k
    2. F-series 194k
    3. Camry 181k
    4. Accord 170k
    5. Civic 148k
    6. Ram 125k
    7. Altima 119k
    8. Corolla 114k (Matrix free #)
    9. CRV 100k
    10. Tundra 87k
    11. Sierra 85k
    12. Prius 75k
    13. Odyssey 74k
    14. Tacoma 73k
    15. Impala 66k
    16. Focus 63k
    17. RAV4 61k
    18. Cobalt 59k
    19. Tahoe 57k
    20. Edge 57k

    Frank, do you have a retail rank for the manufacturers? I’m thinking Honda maybe ahead of Ford and Toyota close to GM.
    Numbers anyone?


  • avatar

    When I was in Banff Alberta, on vacation, I have to tell you, I have never seen so many Mitsubishi Galants in one place in my life. (The only greater congregation of Galants would probably have to be outside the factory in Normal, Illinois awaiting truck-shipment to dealers – er – rental car companies).

    Especially also saw lots of Ford Focus (Foci?) rental cars.

    The other surprise was how many Prius rental cars there were.

    I think Mitsubishi has a phenomenal looking next-Gen Galant waiting in the wings (google Galant ZT photos) and extremely good Dundee, Michigan, US built four cylinder engines co-developed with Hyundai (with Chrysler – but don’t be fooled, these are Hyundai designs) which they haven’t been able to use yet. The reason being, their financial crunch from being left at the divorce court by Daimler-Chrysler (ok really, Daimler). A precurser to what happened to Chrysler a while later.

    Anyone willing to step up to the altar with Daimler Benz, after seeing what happened to Mitsu and Chrysler, deserve what they get later.

    Of course, in the case of Chrysler, it was “karma” or “kizmet” because – how they got treated? Is how AMC workers got treated in Kenosha once Chrysler took over. “Promises promises” “whoops, never mind, we lied.”

  • avatar

    Bunter, looking at your list, and parsing out “trucks” – I’m amazed to see Prius is #6 best selling car in the United States. What really surprises me is that it beats Impala.

    I’m assuming these are total retail sales figures you’ve given us to peruse NOT including fleet dumps (to extend the enema analogy a bit more).

    I’m seeing (cars only)

    #1 Camry
    #2 Accord
    #3 Civic
    #4 Altima
    #5 Corolla
    #6 Prius

    before we even get to the Detroit 2.8

    #7 Impala
    #8 Focus
    *9 Cobalt

    Any idea where the Hyundai Sonata would end up on a car-only list?

    Are we all aware of the huge significance of the above list?

    The auto market is moving AWAY from trucks (and station wagon trucks known as SUVs)

    The top 6 actual automobiles sold in the country are non-Detroit 2.8. This, despite a huge swath of the country not even serviced by any non-Detroit 2.8 dealers.

    Once the non-Detroit 2.8 start adding dealers in “flyover country” it’s going to be game over for Detroit, isn’t it?

  • avatar

    Interesting article…but not all fleet sales are equally bad. Sales to governments or corporations aren’t the same as sales to rental car companies. The former two entities usually don’t dump their vehicles on the used-car market within 18-24 months, in my experience.

    This is especially true of police departments, taxi companies and livery car companies. They generally use the vehicle until there is nothing left.

  • avatar

    Frank, do you have a retail rank for the manufacturers?

    From the same tables as the fleet sales numbers:

    GM 1,241,978
    Toyota Motor Sales 1,038,983
    Ford Motor 735,652
    American Honda 682,083
    Chrysler LLC 585,088
    Nissan North America 436,015

  • avatar

    It appears to me that Ford has their hands on a new Checker taxi. If they slightly update Crown Victora’s power plant to be a little less thirsty and cheaper to maintain, they have a perfect platform that can be fed to taxi and police fleets for another 5-7 years or so, at least. Fleets love uniformity, and Crown Victoria provides that better than any other car.

    Easy money, and given how nice the platform is, it’s great advertising for Ford. Almost everybody rides in cabs every once in a while, and those that don’t have the dough for cabs can always get a ride in the back of a police cruiser. No other car on the market requires a NEGATIVE amount of advertising budget.

  • avatar

    Fleet® enema. Nice one.

    You will be missed.

  • avatar

    menno- but the top 2 vehicles sold retail are still trucks and they’re not going away anytime soon.

  • avatar

    There’s a bunch of the new Malibus sitting at my local airport in the rental car lots (in fact I counted over 30 Malibus from just one rental company). Had my Silverado in for some warranty work (they sure do get tired of me when I bring it in to honor their warranty) – and talked to the fleet sales guy – building was attached to the main dealer and he noted that about 30% of the new Malibus they sell go to local area fleets.

    But anyway…by MFGR it seems Honda has one of the lowest fleet sales #s – much smaller than the D2.8, even Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, etc. This is in addition to the fleets wanting to buy up Fits b/c of their versatility and economy (friend of mine is trading out their entire fleet of Colorados for Fits as they tested 2 cars with full loads of wire spools and handled it without any problem). Why buy $22k Colorados that get 19mpg than you can get a Fit that’ll do it for $15k yet gets 33mpg (they travel a lot).

  • avatar

    Yes, I’m noticing that more service companies with fleets are using xBs and Fits in lieu of small pickups.

    Here in Reno/Tahoe area many of the taxi cabs are now xBs. If Toyota were to offer it with the hybrid system they could own the market.

  • avatar

    menno-yes those are retail only numbers from yesterdays Fleet Central release.

    Checker, er, Chryslers numbers are scary.

    To be fair to Ford and GM, they have been cutting fleet but the market drops (and plain old market share loses) keep the percentage up.

    I saw plenty of new Malibu taxis in Vegas last spring. The promised in ’04 that the previous ‘Bu wouldn’t go that way. They lied.
    They promised on this one. They lied.

    Time for Rick and company to get to there natural venue.

    Frank, I’ll definately miss you. In this industry “analysis” usually means printing the most obvious, and often incorrect, conclusion with out a second (or even first?) thought.

    You have been a breath of fresh air. I sure hope you and RF have someone lined up to do “By the Numbers”. With charts. I look forward to it every month.



  • avatar

    Can you please explain exactly what the following statement means? I am confused:

    Ford claims decreased fleet sales is one of the main reasons their sales are down this year. Yet 32.7 percent of their ‘08 sales sailed with the fleets. As Crown Vic and Town Car sales are restricted to taxi and livery use, only 41.5% of Ford’s fleet sales have been to rental companies.
    Are you saying that excluding CV and TC sales, 41.5% of the remaining products were fleet sales??

  • avatar

    You have been a breath of fresh air. I sure hope you and RF have someone lined up to do “By the Numbers”. With charts. I look forward to it every month.

    Thanks. I’m hoping I can keep doing the BTN and other analyses in my spare time.

  • avatar

    Rday :
    Ford claims decreased fleet sales is one of the main reasons their sales are down this year. Yet 32.7 percent of their ‘08 sales sailed with the fleets. As Crown Vic and Town Car sales are restricted to taxi and livery use, only 41.5% of Ford’s fleet sales have been to rental companies.
    Are you saying that excluding CV and TC sales, 41.5% of the remaining products were fleet sales??

    32.7 percent of Ford’s overall sales have been to fleets: rental companies, government, and business fleets (including taxi and livery services). Of those fleet sales, 41.5% went to rental companies. The other 49.5% went to government and business fleets. That non-rental fleet number is the highest of all manufacturers because of the high numbers of Crown Vics and Town Cars that went into business fleets instead of to rental companies. All other manufacturers make the bulk of their fleet sales to rental companies.

  • avatar

    Can someone please explain to this uneducated Canadian what is Chapter 7 and 11 please?

  • avatar

    A bankrupt company, the “debtor,” might use Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code to “reorganize” its business and try to become profitable again. Management continues to run the day-to-day business operations but all significant business decisions must be approved by a bankruptcy court.

    Under Chapter 7, the company stops all operations and goes completely out of business. A trustee is appointed to “liquidate” (sell) the company’s assets and the money is used to pay off the debts.

  • avatar

    These fleet numbers only include direct factory-to-fleet sales. That is, for example, if a local dealer sells an xB or Fit to a business to use for local deliveries, it’s not counted. Same goes if they buy a Ranger or Silverado. Lots of businesses around here use first gen xBs for such a thing, usually with printed graphics advertising said business covering the entire car. But those sales were probably at full retail or at least no cheaper than what anybody else who was buying a similiar product from the same dealer, so they are less of a problem, finacially. Rental car agencies get huge discounts on all of those Chrysler products; they probably paid 50% MSRP or less. (Of course, you can get 50% off MSRP a Ram at your local dealer now, as well…)

  • avatar

    I guess alot of people are renting cars.

  • avatar

    Does Ford profit from fleet sales of the Crown Victoria?
    I assumed that all the R&D costs were paid off many years ago.

  • avatar

    Best and brightest, help me out. Either nissan has a fire sale rivaling the dodge rams, or is it possible the titan plant shut down? Thats a huge difference in the number of titans collecting dust and pigeon crap.

  • avatar

    Crown Vic/Town Car is probably the most profitable car on a unit basis right now. It’s not like they’ve invested heavily in the last 20 years and the 80’s vintage tooling is fully depreciated. So on a return on capital basis I guess nothing else can touch it. Honestly, that is probably one of Ford’s best markets. #1 market share within a large niche, profitable products that are well regarded by loyal customers, pricing power…better than a Tuarus X, that’s for sure. Ford is nuts if they don’t update this soon and hold on to the business. GM is nuts if they don’t go after it. And Chrysler certainly will go after it with their RWD platform. After all, cop cars sell for more than rental cars.

  • avatar

    Rix, there was a time when Chrysler was a very big, perhaps the biggest, supplier of cop cars. It appears Ford is going to hand over to Chrysler its police pursuit business. If, that is, Chrysler’s RWD platform survives.

    I too have wondered why the Panther platform supposedly isn’t viable. Maybe Ford figures many law enforcement agencies are eventually going to switch to something else. Even so, lots of cop cars will still be sold. Also, a body-on-frame RWD platform is ideal for third-party adaptations for limousine, hearse and other special purpose bodywork. Keep making Grand Marquis until the last geezer dies, but jeez louise, give ’em a reason to rationalize the new model is better than their old one. If Mustang can have a jillion “special editions,” why can’t Ford offer some cosmetic improvements to the GM and TC? Hey, at least make an effort, guys!

    The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has bought some Chevy SUVs. Lousy gas mileage, and not the best for high-speed handling, but ample room for people and all the gear a trooper has to haul around. It’s gotta be more accommodating than the Camaros and Mustangs they once tried. Properly-adapted SUVs might be the future for police vehicles.

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    Fleet® enema. Nice one.

    I agree!

  • avatar

    I have driven many fleet company cars over the years. While I assume the price paid for any car sold to GE Captital (the nations largest supplier of fleet vehicle to businesses) or some other huge fleet provider is very low, it isn’t always the price that dictates the model purchased.

    For example, at Honeywell (a few thousand cars/year supplied by GE Capital) right now the driver has the choice of an Impala or a Malibu. I not to long ago had my choice of Taurus, or Impala at a previous employer. Others (the drug companies for one) have a pretty wide range of selection as drivers are given an MSRP allowance only. My point is that if a car is desirable to many people, as the current Malibu seems to be, it will get a certain number of corporate fleet sales because of driver selection, not just price.

    Daily rental sales are truly cost driven. The one change I expect to see in the daily rental fleets very soon is a big drop in Chrysler vehicles.

    To a rental company the cost is initial price minus resale value. The resale value of the 25,000 mile one year old Chrysler product they need to get rid of is terrible. Once they calcualte they are better off paying more up front for something else with a higher resale value, good by Chrysler.

  • avatar

    I’m starting to see goofy looking Dodge Chargers showing up in police livery here in Northern Virginia.

    Since there haven’t been any Mopar cruisers here in decades, I guess they must be giving them away now.

  • avatar

    A lot of the ’08 Malibus that went to fleet are actually last generation Fleet-Only Malibu “Classics.” Let’s not forget that they’re two Malibus out there for 2008.

  • avatar

    Buick61-While no doubt true, we’re seeing plenty of new ‘Bus in rental lots and livery.
    Also keep in mind that those “classics” are being reported as Malibu sales and GM is bolstering the total reported numbers with them.

    Fact is the Camry and Accord each outsell the ‘Bu, G6 and Aura combined by a large margin at retail with a fraction of the dealerships. Shoot, throw in the Impala too and it’s still a horse race.

    The new Malibu is a good car, but a lot of people are waiting for GM to show that they are a good company (translate: let’s see how they stand up).

    Just some thoughts.


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