The Truth About Cars » fleet The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:01:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » fleet BMW’s Fleet Special Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:36:46 +0000 418d


A vast number of new cars sold in the United Kingdom end up going to fleet buyers, with strict guidelines dictating what can and cannot be purchased for a company fleet. One of the main stipulations is “no coupes”. But BMW seems to have found a way around that.

The 3-Series is already a popular “executive car”, especially as a company car for upper management. BMW UK claims that 60 percent of 3-Series buyers are from corporate fleets. But the new 4-Series coupe will obviously fail to pass muster. But with the 4-door 4-Series Gran Coupe (aka fastback), BMW is betting big that it will emulate the 3-Series’ success.

Just-Auto reports that the Gran Coupe will get an exclusive 418d trim level targeted at fleets. The 418d will make 143 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, but also emit 121 grams of CO2 per km (just shy of the magic 100 gram mark), enabling better fuel consumption and more favorable road taxes.


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AlixPartners Study: Every Car Shared Means 32 Lost Sales Wed, 05 Feb 2014 11:00:12 +0000 enterprisecarshare

According to a report from consulting firm AlixPartners, each and every car in the Zipcar or car2go car-sharing fleets means 32 lost vehicle sales. Based on a survey of 2,000 adults in 10 major cities who use car-sharing services, the report says that Americans would have bought an additional half million new or used cars and light trucks since 2006 if they did not have access to those services. That figure is expected to grow to 1.2 million by the end of the decade.

The report expects that the number of drivers using car-sharing services will grow from less than 1 million today to 4 million by 2020.

For every car in its fleet, the average car-sharing service has about 66 members, a number that will grow to 81/car by 2020. Almost half of regular users end up not buying a car, the report said.

The study looked at car-sharing in: Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, San Diego, Boston, Portland, Ore.; and Austin, Texas. Car-sharing is expanding, but that growth is currently limited to affluent, urban areas near universities. Should the autonomous car become a reality, though, it could spur dramatic growth in car-sharing.


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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Impala (With Video) Mon, 26 Aug 2013 12:30:15 +0000
2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-001
I have this feeling that our most impressionable automotive years are our high school years. Maybe it’s because I was so eager to drive that I noticed anything with wheels. Maybe it’s that auto shop class where I got to wrench on a Wankel (that sounds wrong doesn’t it?). Whatever the reason, it seems many of my brand and model name identities were formed in the mid 1990s. For me, “Impala” doesn’t conjure up the W-Body abomination GM has been selling for the past 13 years. Instead “my” Impala has always been the 1994-1996 Caprice Impala SS with the 5.7L Corvette LT1 engine. This is my benchmark on which every Impala must be judged.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Before we dive in, it’s important to know that for 2014 there are two Impalas. Say what? In a stroke of genius (honestly) GM decided to keep selling the old Impala as a fleet only model. This isn’t the first time GM has done this, the Chevrolet Captiva Sport is a fleet only version of the defunct Saturn VUE. By offering a one car to the public and the other to rental and government fleets, one can logically conclude the used market will contain fewer white Impalas with tan cloth interiors over time. This can only be good for resale value.

The fleet-Impala continues on the ancient W-Body first used in 1988 while the new Impala rides on the same Epsilon platform bones as the Cadillac XTS and Buick LaCrosse. If you had hoped the Impala name would be tied to the RWD Caprice like it was in 1994, you aren’t alone.
2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior, Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes



If you recall my review of the Cadillac XTS a year ago:

Engineers took the Epsilon II platform (shared with everything from the Opel Insignia to the Roewe 950), stretched it to 202-inches long and hey-presto, the XTS was born. Unfortunately Cadillac wasn’t allowed to change the platform hard points, so the same 111.7-inch wheelbase and 62-inch track as the rest of the Epsilon rabble remains. With the wheelbase staying the same, the cabin had to be pushed as far to the wheels as possible to maximize interior space. The result is a sedan with awkward proportions.

When I first saw photos of the Impala I was worried the same awkwardness would translate to Chevy’s flagship, but it turns out the XTS’s proportion problem is mostly caused by the Art & Science design theme. When you dress the platform in super-sized Camaro clothes, things turn out better than expected. The slot-like grille, wide headlamps and plenty of horizontal chrome make the Impala look wide while the XTS’s grille makes it look narrow.

Chevy penned a side profile with a bit more visual interest than most of the competition (I admit that isn’t saying much) thanks to the “haunches” designed into the rear doors and quarter panel. Sadly the designers opted for roof-line that starts lowering at the front doors making the car look better but reducing rear accommodations. Speaking of the rear, the 2014 backside is more exciting than before, but that’s not saying much. Things change a little if you step up to the LTZ model which gets integrated trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips. Still, nobody seems to be spending much time on their back bumpers and trunk lids these days.

Overall the Impala is attractive but I think it slots behind the Chrysler 300 in terms of style and I don’t think it will age as well as the more “generic luxury” lines of the Kia Cadenza. Parking the new Impala next to a 1996 Impala I ran into at the grocery store, I have to admit my high school memories are rose-colored as the 1996 Impala SS looks frumpy in comparison. I can’t end this section without commenting on the 2014 Chevy SS, AKA the Holden VF Commodore, AKA the Chevy Lumina (Middle East), AKA the refresh of the Pontiac G8. Yes, it’s back. While I have no doubts a rear wheel drive sedan with a 6.2L V8 will be a blast to drive, the SS looks like the fleet Impala with some makeup and loses the Impala v SS aesthetics battle.

2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


The Impala’s interior elicited more polarized reactions than I had bargained for during my week. While I’m a fan of the overall style, I can see how the flowing shapes may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The Impala’s build quality has certainly improved over the last generation and comparing the Impala to the Toyota Avalon can now be done with a straight face. Sadly in that head-to-head the Impala comes up short. The problem isn’t panel gaps or seams, it’s certain design choices coupled with plastics choices. The air vents you see in the center if the dash and the climate control bank are cast out of hard plastic and look cheap nestled between the attractive stitched upper dash and soft molded lower dash. My cynical side thinks this was deliberate so that Buick could have something to improve on. Test driving the Impala at night reveals the cabin’s party trick, chrome that glows blue/green when darkness falls. It looks a great deal less gimmicky than I assumed it would and the light strip is totally invisible by day. The light-up chrome is part of the $1,140 premium audio and sport wheel package.

Base LS models get cloth seats, LT models start with a leatherette and fabric combo, but most Impalas on the lot will have either the LT’s leather/alcantara combo (*bumping the base price to $32,695) or the LTZ’s “premium” leather seats which swap the faux-suede inserts for real cow. Regardless of the seat covering the Impala’s thrones are big and soft and 12-way power adjustibility. Unlike the seats in the Chrysler 300, you sit in the seats, not on the seats, a considerably more comfortable proposition. GM includes a 4-way adjustable lumbar support in all models and many of the Impalas I sampled had the optional 12-way seats on the passenger side as well, something you won’t find in the Azera or Cadenza.

2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior, Night View, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The fleet-only Impala has a wheelbase just one inch shorter than this new consumer model, but due to its 1980s era platform design the space isn’t used efficiently. This is most evident in the back seat where this Impala delivers nearly 6 inches more rear leg room bringing this big boy up to a hair under 40 inches. This make the Impala the largest overall in the segment with front legroom higher than the former winner the Hyundai Azera and legroom nearly tying with the Chrysler 300′s 40.1 inches. At 18.8 cubic feet the Impala’s trunk is four cubes bigger than the Avalon, two cubes bigger than the 300 or the Korean twins and just 1.2 cubes smaller than the Taurus’ cavernous booty. Like the Taurus the Impala’s rear seats fold but it is worth noting that GM’s pass-through is larger and “squarer” than the Ford and the seat backs fold nearly flat with the load floor.

If size is what you demand, the Impala wins the battle with the most overall space. If however quality is more your bag, you’ll find higher quality parts in the Avalon, Azera, Cadenza, LaCrosse and in many ways even the Chrysler 300. The Impala fights back with supremely comfortable seats, but thanks to GM’s parts sharing the same can be said of that Buick.

2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


If you’re a regular reader, you will know that I have recently praised GM’s low and mid-range touchscreen systems as some of the best in the business. The IntelliLink/ChevyLink system in the Chevy Volt and Buick Verano ranks second for me below the latest version of BMW’s iDrive. This is not that system. I an odd twist of infotainment badge engineering, the Impala (and the 2014 LaCrosse) uses a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE software. For Chevy duty GM swapped out the expensive capacitive screen (looks like a modern smartphone) for a resistive unit and added a few physical buttons to improve navigation in the system. Sadly all of CUE’s flaws are present including: random crashes, general sluggishness, unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software. Like CUE some multi-touch gestures are supported but the cheaper touchscreen has troubles deciphering your intent. The system is hard to avoid as every Impala I could find had the system and the only way to escape it is to buy an absolutely base Impala LS as it is the only one without the 8-inch system.

On the bright side, some of CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system recognized more natural speech commands than the Kia/Hyundai or Toyota systems do and the media library functionality is excellent. Instead of treating the three USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device. The base 6-speaker system has an oddly hollow sound, but the up-level 11-speaker Bose branded system would be competitive in any near-luxury sedan. To get that sound system the Impala will set you back $33,835 as you can’t select the $1,140 sound and wheel package without a number of other options packages.

2014 Chevrolet Impala Engine, 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Under the hood you’ll find the same three engines as the Buick LaCrosse. Things start out with a 2.5L direct-injection four-cylinder engine good for 195 HP and 187 lb-ft of twist. This isn’t the engine you want. Not listed on the Chevy website yet due to its late introduction there is a 2.4L “eAssist” drivetrain that GM has stopped calling a hybrid. Delivering identical performance numbers to the 2.5L four-banger, the mild hybrid system delivered 29.8 MPG average during our week with the nearly identical LaCrosse. If fuel economy is your thing, stop here.

Although my soul is sad there is no Impala SS model for 2014, the 3.6L direct-injection V6 delivered better performance than in every situation except for the 2006 Impala SS which barely beat the 2014 in the 0-30 run but was still slower to 60. The reason isn’t just the V6′s 305 horsepower (2 more than the 2006′s 5.3L V8) or the respectable (for a V6) 264 lb-ft of torque(59 less), it’s the 6-speed automatic. The Ford/GM unit is closely related to the transaxle found in the Taurus but GM’s programming results in shifts that seem slightly faster and a hair firmer. The high revving six, weigh reduction vs the Cadillac XTS AWD and Chevy’s tire selection enabled our Impala tester to wheel-hop its way to 60 in a scant 5.52 seconds. This number was met with some head scratching on our Facebook page but I tested the number three times with the same result. It is worth mentioning that the Acura RLX posted similar numbers and a 5.52 second run isn’t out of the ordinary for a 305HP sedan that weighs around 3800lbs.

Need more performance? There have been persistent rumors about an Impala SS coming at some point and Cadillac has decided to drop their 410HP twin-turbo V6 into the XTS, will they offer a similar powerplant for the 2015 Chevy? It’s hard to say with the 2014 Chevy SS positioned as the performance sedan with a bow-tie.

2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior, 19-inch wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesDrive

The Impala benefits from Buick and Cadillac’s noise reduction efforts and it shows on the road with easily the quietest ride in the bunch. My snazzy new noise meter proved more complicated than I wish to admit and as a result I erased the readings, however the Impala was quieter than the active noise canceled Acura RLX, Kia Cadenza and Lexus ES350 I tested.

The Impala has a unique suspension setup that uses neither the Hi-Per Strut (HPS) suspension from the LaCrosse and XTS, nor the magnetic ride control from the Cadillac. Instead we get a traditional MacPherson strut arrangement with a redesigned strut tower for improved rigidity and rebound springs tuned to keep body-roll from turning into body-wobble. This is important because the Impala is a softly spring sedan in the classic American tradition. The combination works better than it looks on paper despite the loss of the HPS design which was created to vanquish the torque steer demons. Speaking of torque steer, there wasn’t any in the Impala during our tests. So much for that Hi-PerStrut. There’s still plenty of tip, roll and dive on winding mountain roads but the new Impala never felt sloppy or uncontrolled. Broken pavement was a problem for the Cadillac XTS with the suspension paradoxically feeling both too hard and too soft at the same time, the Impala’s traditional setup never exhibited this problem. If you jump up to the 20 inch wheels, be warned they have a negative impact on the serene nature of the Impala’s ride transmitting more road imperfections into the cabin than I thought possible.

2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to the competition, the Cadenza feels slightly unsettled at times but is nearly as competent. The Azera’s chassis and suspension tuning aren’t quite up to snuff. Toyota’s Avalon gives the Impala a run for its money with similar road feel and a slightly sportier tune to the dampers. The Chrysler 300 is a tricky comparison since it’s the only RWD sedan in the bunch, but the 300′s driving dynamics are superior to the Impala despite being slower to 60. The lack of AWD is disappointing in the Impala leaving the Buick LaCrosse to be the better handling twin thanks to its slightly more precise suspension knuckles and available AWD.

Without a doubt the 2014 Impala is the finest Impala ever made and perhaps the finest large sedan to wear the bow tie. The base 2.5L four-cylinder Impala snags a 0-60 time only a few tenths off the 1996 Impala SS with its 5.7L V8 while delivering 31 MPG on the highway. The eAssist delivers a similar experience with a surprising 35MPG highway score and 29MPG combined, a 60% increase in fuel economy vs “my” Impala. The 2014 V6 model may not sound as good as that 1996 LT1 but the numbers can’t be denied, the new Impala is the new Impala benchmark. But is it the best full-size American sedan? Not quite. A fully loaded Impala manages to be $2,000 more than a comparable Taurus Limited and about the same price as a similarly optioned Taurus SHO. I’d take the Taurus SHO. The Chrysler 300 is about the same price, but brings superior dynamics, a ZF 8-speed automatic and you can get the 5.7L V8 for not much more. Even the Avalon, which ends up being slightly more expensive than delivers comparable handling a nicer interior and a nav system that doesn’t crash randomly. The Impala’s biggest problem however is the 2014 Buick LaCrosse. In typical GM fashion, there is little daylight in pricing between the sister-ships and the Buick delivers a nicer interior, a few improved features, slightly better dynamics, optional AWD and a slightly more premium brand. Just like the Impala SS vs Roadmaster debate in 1996, you just have to get past the Buick’s looks.


Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Aggressive styling.
  • Ginormous back seat.
  • Cadillac for Chevy prices.

Quit it

  • Some interior plastics are underwhelming.
  • CUE based infotainment is slow and buggy.
  • The Buick LaCrosse has a better interior for almost the same price.

Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.33 Seconds

0-60: 5.52 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.33 Seconds @ 97.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 22.5 MPG over 549 miles

2014 Chevrolet Impala Engine 2014 Chevrolet Impala Engine, 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-001 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-002 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-003 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior, 19-inch wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-005 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-006 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior, Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-008 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior, Leaping Impala, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-010 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Impala Exterior-012 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-001 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-002 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-004 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-006 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-007 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-008 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-009 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-010 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-011 2014 Chevrolet Impala Interior-012 2014 Chevrolet Impala Trunk 2014 Chevrolet Impala Trunk-001
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Fleet-Only Cars: A Great Idea Tue, 19 Mar 2013 15:51:01 +0000

One of the most interesting things to come out of the recent Chevy Impala launch – aside from the fact that GM thinks it can sell the thing for $40,000 – is that the current, unloved Impala will live on as a fleet-only special called the “Chevrolet Impala Limited.” To that, I say: great idea.

I’ve been a proponent of fleet-only cars ever since the 1997-2003 Chevrolet Malibu was rebranded the Chevrolet Classic, a name which would’ve been appropriate when it debuted. In fact, I think there should be even more fleet-only cars – an idea that’s unpopular in the automotive industry, but highly praised between my ears. Allow me to explain.

The Fleet-Only Car World


Today, GM is the lone brand in the fleet-only game. In addition to the new Impala Limited, they have three other models:

1. The Chevrolet Caprice, which is only sold to police departments, who flip it on eBay to guys who inexplicably can’t wait for the SS.
2. The Chevrolet Captiva Sport, which – despite bring a rebadged Saturn Vue from five years ago – is still better than virtually every current car-based Jeep.
3. The Chevrolet Malibu Classic. Yes, the “Classic” name lives on in the form of last year’s Malibu, which can be sold to rental car companies instead of today’s Malibu so that renters can transport rear passengers with legs.

While GM is the sole brand offering fleet-only models today, that hasn’t historically been the case. As everyone on TTAC knows, the Ford Crown Victoria was fleet-only for its final few years on the market. And the entire Chrysler Corporation was fleet-only from about 2003 until December of last year.

Advantages of Fleet-Only

The most obvious benefit of fleet-only models is that you don’t torpedo the resale value of the rest of your lineup. Here’s an example: last year, GM sold 37,000 Captiva Sports, each of which will eventually be available at your neighborhood CarMax. They also sold around 218,000 Equinox units. Some of those may have even been sold outside of Detroit. Southfield, for example.

If GM didn’t have the Captiva Sport, the Equinox number would’ve jumped to somewhere around 255,000. That’s way too many units. The ensuing used-market flood would’ve plunged resale values, which in turn would plunge new-car values. Economists refer to this as The Chrysler Effect.

Chevrolet would then have two choices: boost sales by lowering credit standards and adding incentives, or redesign the thing. And I think we all know which one they’d pick.

But with the Captiva Sport, the Equinox can stay in relative balance with supply and demand. Which, in GM terms, means two grand cash back or zero percent interest for 48 months.

The other benefit of fleet-only sales is, quite simply, keeping the factories running. We all know the automakers have to sign long-term, high-volume deals with the unions, or else the world risks a strike and the very real possibility that we may have to go a few weeks without the Chevrolet Sonic. Even if GM makes no money on all those Captiva Sports, it’s better than losing money by idling the plants and paying the workers anyway. Economists call that The Mitsubishi Effect.

Disadvantages of Fleet-Only

Of course, fleet-only sales do have one massive disadvantage.

Let’s say you’re John Smith and your personal car is a Camry. You’re landing at the Des Moines International Airport, so named because occasionally a flight from Toronto to Los Angeles makes an emergency landing there. (Actually, there is one single non-stop flight from Des Moines to Cancun, which is essential to the airport because otherwise they’d have to change all the signs.)

You show up at the Enterprise counter to claim your rental car and the perky woman behind the counter informs you that you’ll be driving a Chevrolet Impala with the same tone she’d use to announce that you’ve been bumped to first class, or that you’ve won a year’s supply of dish soap.

You walk out to your car, which turns out to be an Impala Limited. You throw your bags in. And nine miles later you decide that you never, ever, under any circumstances ever want to come into contact with any Chevrolet product ever again. You silently pat yourself on the back for buying a Camry.

This could be a slight problem for a brand that’s trying to add new buyers.

The Solution

As with most things in life, the key is moderation. Fleet-only cars are a great idea, but only if they’re not terrible. While it makes for easy jokes, the Captiva Sport is the perfect execution of a fleet-only car: it’s not so bad to look at, it’s not so bad to sit in, and it’s not so bad to drive. And it doesn’t harm Chevy’s reputation, since the average person hasn’t even heard of it until they go to CarMax, where they’re parked three-deep on every horizontal surface.

The Impala Limited, however, is the exact opposite, so I hope it doesn’t last long. There are a lot of John Smiths in this world, and they’re buying Camrys every day.

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Current-Generation Chevrolet Impala Gets A New Lease On Life – Will The Bench Seat Get One Too? Thu, 20 Dec 2012 14:00:58 +0000

Christmas has come early for our beloved commenters Zackman and Mikey – GM has confirmed that the current generation Chevrolet Impala will be produced until June, 2014, ostensibly for fleet duty and used car market fodder.

The announcement was buried in a press release for the Camaro’s move to Michigan, with GM proudly stating that

The consolidated line at Oshawa Assembly will continue to produce the current generation Chevrolet Impala and Equinox until June 2014.

Chevrolet has a history of churning out previous bodystyles as fleet only specials; witness the Captiva Sport, aka the Saturn Vue, as well as numerous old bodystyle Malibus badged as the “Classic”. The big question here is, of course, how long will the bench seat remain in production. Does it die with the transition to fleet-only sales, or will it live on in Avis lots across the land?

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A Snapshot Of January Sales: Honda Civic Is America’s Third Best-Selling Car Thu, 02 Feb 2012 17:51:41 +0000

One month is far too premature to make any predictions about 2012′s sales race, but we still got our hands on the data, thanks to independent analyst Timothy Cain. As usual, the Ford F-Series and Toyota Camry were the top dogs.

The top 5 best-selling cars were the Camry, followed by the Nissan Altima and the critically panned Honda Civic. The Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Impala rounded out the Top 5, though I’d bet my life on the vast majority of Impala sales being fleet-based (Cain claims that it’s impossible to get the data, but GM mysteriously stopped publishing it some time ago, once reports on the fleet/retail breakdowns were being published by analysts such as himself). Just missing the cut is the Chevrolet Cruze.

On the truck side (or shall we say, truck/utility) the F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Honda CR-V are atop the podium, followed by the Dodge Ram and the Ford Escape. The re-designed CR-V is evidently off to a strong start, and it will be interesting to see how buyers take to the 2013 Escape when it launches later this year.

Check out the full breakdown here


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Ford Hit With $2b Ruling In Commercial Truck Case Sat, 11 Jun 2011 16:24:41 +0000

An Ohio judged has ruled [full ruling in PDF here] against Ford in a 2002 case alleging the automaker overcharged dealers by selling commercial trucks at unpublished prices between 1987 and 1998. According to the summary judgement, Ford’s “CPA” program violated its contract with dealers by publishing “unrealistically high” wholesale prices and using “secretive, unpublished discounts” on an uneven basis, thereby overcharging some 3,000 dealers by an average of $1,650 for each of the 474,289 medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold in the applicable time period (about $1.2b of the ruling is for unpaid interest). The story is intriguing in its illustration of the differences between consumer and dealer incentives: while consumer-end incentives can be applied on a market-by-market basis, dealer invoice prices must be evenly applied across all markets according to Ford’s contract with its dealers. The story is also of major significance considering Ford’s still-shaky financial position, with automotive gross cash exceeding total debt by a mere $1.4b. Ford will appeal the ruling, but because the damages awarded are material rather than punitive, an expert tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ford’s appeal could be “interesting.” Which doesn’t sound like great news to us…

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Is Ford… Underperforming? Fri, 15 Apr 2011 22:16:06 +0000

Ask an industry-watcher to name an automaker that seems to be doing things right, and chances are one of the top choices would be Ford Motor Company. And though Ford is enjoying favorable perceptions in the media, according to the company’s own internal goals, it’s actually underperforming. And in a key metric, no less: retail market share. Bloomerg reports:

Ford in the first quarter had 13.6 percent of the U.S. retail auto market, which excludes sales to fleet buyers, according to researcher That trailed the 14.1 percent target Ford’s board set for executives to match or exceed this year, according to the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker’s government filings.

Though Ford outsold GM last month in terms of pure volume, and though GM’s retail market share seems to have been at one of its lowest levels in years, it was still higher than Ford’s (15.6% compared to 13.6%). Last year, Ford hit only 44% of its corporate market-share goal and 58% of its target for the American markets, while coming up .1% short of its 14.2% US retail market share goal. Still, Ford’s strong profitability last year points to the fact that market share isn’t everything, even though retail market share is heavily weighted in Ford’s executive bonus formula (as it reflects “consumer acceptance”). But will Ford continue to give up market share in order to protect profits if executives have incentives to “buy” market share with spiffs? At this point, only time will tell…

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Chevy Captiva-ted By Fleet Sales Fri, 11 Mar 2011 20:03:59 +0000

Remember the Saturn Vue? The Theta-based crossover is known around the world as the Chevrolet Captiva (or Daewoo WinStorm… yes, really), and soon it will be known in the US as GM’s latest fleet queen. With some 86% of GM’s fleet sales last year coming from Chevy (about a 35% mix for the brand), GM is apparently trying to insulate its newer products from the fleet queen image, and as a result it’s decided to import the Captiva Sport from Mexico in order

to help satisfy growing demand for compact crossovers by fleet customers.

Keep in mind, this is not the latest Captiva to come out of GM-DAT, but rather the outgoing model that has been in production since 2006. But, according to GM’s release, this isn’t a weakness. Alan Batey, U.S. vice president, Chevrolet Sales and Service explains

It says a lot about our ability to draw on international programs and proven, quality crossovers that we were able to identify and federalize a strong new entrant such as Captiva Sport for the U.S. market. We turned to our global network for a solution to quickly meet the rising demand from local fleet customers and continue to meet strong retail demand for the Equinox.

And if this attitude seems shocking, it’s time to start getting used to it: GM is rumored to be planning this same strategy when it releases its updated Chevy Malibu next year. According to long-standing whispers, the outgoing model will continue to be produced as a fleet-oriented “Classic” model. Perhaps it’s time for GM to roll out a fleet-only brand?

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Weekend Head Scratcher: What Is The Future Of Limos and Livery Cars? Sat, 19 Feb 2011 17:12:51 +0000

In his write-up on the new Town Car-replacing livery version of the Lincoln MKT, Jack Baruth takes on the practical issues at stake, writing

I’ve put plenty of miles on both the MKT and the outgoing Town Car. Make no mistake, the MKT is quieter, faster, more spacious, and possessed of a vastly superior level of interior technology. If you told me that I would need to run one up a curb at sixty miles per hour for the purpose of avoiding a wandering falafel vendor across 110th Street, however, I wouldn’t think twice before reaching for the old-style keys. Ford has their work cut out for them.

Well, livery fleet owners think Ford’s got its work cut out for it too… but not for the practical wear-and-tear reasons that Jack points out. No, the problem, according to the owner of one Chicago-area limo company [via AN [sub]] is that

What I heard from most people is that they’re dissatisfied. It’s mainly the appearance, which is a crossover vehicle. People are used to what they consider a luxury vehicle for their clients and this has got a bit of a van styling to it.

Yes, as is so often the case in the great automotive discussions of our day, aesthetics trump all. And in this case, the shallow critique might actually be fairly valid. Not only is the MKT seen by some as being “unrelentingly grotesque” (to borrow a phrase), but limos are typically the most traditional, conservative vehicles on the road. Though clearly the better vehicle, would a baleeen-grilled crossover impart the same sense of timeless gravitas as a black Town Car? Another limo fleet owner encapsulates the issue with a rhetorical question:

When you say limo, I know what that means now, but will it mean the same thing a year from now? Will I be thinking about the Lincoln or will I be thinking about all kinds of vehicles?

Well, is the MKT up to filling the Town Car’s shoes? Or will limo and livery buyers look to a more traditional replacement (hello, Chrysler 300)? Is the livery car’s conservative image about to be blown wide open, or is it more resilient than that?

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Quote Of The Day: I Can Stop Any Time Edition Tue, 15 Feb 2011 23:39:35 +0000

Bloomberg [via AN [sub]] reports that Chrysler’s fleet sales mix was at 25% in the month of January (according to Edmunds anyway, as Chrysler doesn’t release fleet numbers), the lowest level since a Cash For Clunkers-fueled August 2009. According to the same Edmunds data, however, the industry average fleet mix is just under 20%… and Chrysler’s 2010 average was 38%. But now that Chrysler’s been under 30% fleet for three months, sales boss Fred Diaz figures meeting the industry average is just a matter of time. Specifically:

By the end of the year, we will definitely be at industry average. That’s the goal; that’s our plan.

Considering Chrysler’s fleet sales fell from 56% to the 25%-range over the course of the last year, it sounds like the last few steps of this journey will be the most difficult. Especially when you remember that Chrysler’s also trying to increase volume some 45% this year. That means some 300,000-450,000 more Americans will have to decide to buy Chrysler Group products this year than did last year if the Pentastar wants to achieve both its volume and fleet goals. That’s going to take some serious selling…

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What’s Right With This Picture? Lincoln MKT Hearse Tue, 07 Dec 2010 15:42:55 +0000

In the wild, panthers are endangered. In the automotive world, Panthers will go extinct sometime in the third quarter of 2011, when the last Lincoln Town Car Executive L rolls off the line. If you think Panthers get a lot of lovin’ around these here parts, you should attend a convention of folks for whom those LTCELs are tools of the trade. Chances are that if you’ve used a limousine or livery service in the past 20 years, you’ve sat in the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car Executive L. That’s why it was big news at Limousine Charter & Tour magazine’s LCT Leadership Summit a couple of months ago when Ford’s fleet marketing manager, Gerry Koss, announced that replacing the soon to be dearly departed Town Car in Ford’s livery fleet fleet will be livery and stretched limo versions of the Lincoln MKT.

It made some sense. For all its ungainly proportions, the MKT has a lot of interior space. Koss pointed out that the MKT has more legroom, headroom, and cargo space than the Town Car, all valuable features to livery operators and their customers. Ford focus tested the MKT livery version with both of those groups, to, they claim, very positive response. Besides the extra space, all wheel drive availability in the MKT appeals to fleet operators in northern climes.

In addition to the standard livery version of the MKT, Koss said that Ford would be making a heavy duty version that will be provided to Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifiers for conversion to limos and hearses. The heavy duty MKT can be stretched up to 10 feet. Ford will start taking orders for MKT professional cars in 4Q 2011 with production beginning in Jan. 2012.

The limo and hearse biz is not too much different from the custom and performance market. The tuners have SEMA and Goodguys and livery operators have events like the aforementioned LC&T Leadership Summit and the National Funeral Directors Association annual show in Chicago.

That’s where Ford previewed a MKT hearse based on prototype heavy duty MKT that had been provided to Eagle Coach for conversion. After the show was over, the car was returned to Dearborn where it was spotted driving around and now it is on sale at an Eagle dealer. As you can see from the photos, it’s actually not a terrible looking car. I think it’s the best looking American based hearse conversion in a while, and possibly better proportioned than the original MKT.

First, before we get to the MKT’s styling, let’s face it, most coffin carriers of the past 30 years have looked kind of funny. Hearse rear ends grafted to downsized aero shapes results in vehicles that look like an engorged tick. The massive front end of the 1970 Cadillac Hearse that Paul featured around Halloween balances the larger rear end. Some feel that the best looking hearses were Cadillacs from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Cars were taller back then so the rooflines high enough to handle a coffin looked more natural.

The MKT already has a long, high roofline so the raised hearse roof isn’t much of a visual stretch. Also, the MKT has that awkward kink in the beltline. On the stock MKT to my eye that raised haunch clashes visually with the gracefully declining roof. Though the roof of the MKT hearse is raised, it rises naturally from the pitch of the windshield and then it flattens out quickly. Think shooting brakes and sport wagons. It even has a a spoiler and a quasi Kamm back.

The Eagle MKT hearse looks to be stretched in the middle and also the rear haunches are extended. That really improves the look of the MKT’s beltline, and also works very well with the long, flat roof. Even the large and often criticized grille (the baleen look can work – see the MKR concept car) is balanced by the increased bulk. It’s not perfect, the side glass doesn’t quite work, but overall I kinda like it. Almost sporting looking, for a hearse.

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Could GE’s EV Mega-Buy Be Bad For Consumers? Thu, 11 Nov 2010 19:35:25 +0000

The Auto Prophet brings up a point that completely escaped our discussion of General Electric’s EV mega-buy:

By gobbling up EVs, GE certainly helps to jump-start the industry, but they also gobble up future tax credits that consumers would have gotten, unless GE opts to forego the EV tax credit. Which would be bad business.

Yup, GE’s huge EV buy will be good for GE… but it won’t be so great for the 25,000 Americans whose tax credit will slurped up in the process. After all, the credit expires after a manufacturer sells 200k qualifying vehicles, so every credit GE uses brings GM and Nissan that much closer to the day they have to ask consumers to pay full price for their pricey EVs. No wonder GM is already pushing for an extension of the credit past 200k units.

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The Top 20 Fleet Queens Of 2009 Mon, 08 Nov 2010 18:22:20 +0000

Fleet sales data can be some of the toughest numbers to find, but thanks to a post from commenter GarbageMotorsCo, we’ve got some pretty comprehensive numbers for last year’s fleet performance [courtesy:, PDF list here]. Overall fleet levels have been higher this year, but by identifying the most popular vehicles with fleet buyers (in terms of fleet sales as a percentage of overall sales), we’ll at least have some hints about this year’s performance. To help give a more accurate picture, we’ve left out obvious commercial vehicles (mainly large vans, and the queen of all fleet queens, the Ford Crown Vic (95% fleet)), as well as discontinued models like Chevy Uplander (57%) and Pontiac G6 (44.7%). We also left out hybrid or CNG versions of nameplates. Two vehicles with limited sales last year (GMC Terrain and Kia Forte) are on the list, even though they may not be on a similar list for 2010 (the Honda Insight is not on the list, despite selling all 193 of its 2009 sales to fleets). Hit the jump for our full list.

The Top 20 Fleet Queens of 2009, as a percentage of overall sales

Lincoln Town Car: 74%

Mercury Grand Marquis: 66.1%

Chevrolet Impala: 57.1%

Chevrolet Uplander: 57%

Chevrolet HHR: 54.8%

GMC Terrain (limited sales): 51.2%

Ford Taurus: 50.4%

Mitsubishi Galant: 50.1%

PT Cruiser: 48.3%

Kia Amanti: 46.5%

Volvo S60: 45%

Dodge Charger: 44.8%

Ford Explorer: 43.7%

Hyundai Accent: 43.6%

Dodge Caravan: 43.2%

Dodge Avenger: 40.8%

Kia Forte (limited sales) 40.3%

Chrysler Sebring: 39.8%

Kia Sedona: 39.3%

Kia Rio: 38.5%

]]> 62 Chrysler Breaks Its Fleet Sales Promise, Tops Industry at 39% Mon, 11 Oct 2010 17:12:48 +0000

According to Automotive News [sub], both General Motors and Hyundai-Kia have reduced their fleet sales percentages in the last year, as the two firms seek retail-level pricing for their recently-improved products. Ford and Chrysler? Not so much. As the top-selling brand in the US, Ford is simply using fleet sales to boost itself to the top of the pile. Winning the annual sales volume race is good for morale, but The Blue Oval should be careful not to delude itself into unrealistic expectations. For Chrysler, on the other hand, the continued practice of sending 40 percent of sales to fleets is big, big trouble.

Not only has Chrysler been barely making its minimum “survival volume” numbers (and some months, not), it also had a “come to Jesus” moment on the fleet issue back in April. At the time, Chrysler swore it would limit fleet sales to 25 percent of overall volume, but since that announcement, its fleet percentage has held steady at around 40 percent. For a company on the brink, the lost profits are just as important as the lost credibility. Meanwhile, each new Chrysler that ends up in a fleet cements the perception that Chryslers are the automotive purchase of last resort. And at this point, the perception probably isn’t too far from the truth.

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Detroit Dominates Year-To-Date Fleet Sales Mon, 09 Aug 2010 17:25:23 +0000

Automotive News [sub] takes a stab at calculating the numbers that Detroit doesn’t want you to see. Best of all, AN says the numbers are based on “internal documents.” During this morning’s financial results conference call, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne railed against AN’s “crusade,” implying that the industry paper of record is nursing a vendetta against Chrysler… which is usually a good sign that a media outlet is doing its job well. It’s also a sign that Marchionne knows his firm’s fleet dependence is a problem.

Why is AN going after fleet numbers? Because everyone knows Detroit is using them to help create the perception of a completed turnaround ahead of GM and CHrysler’s IPOs (to say nothing of midterm elections). Or, as AN diplomatically puts it:

Automakers traditionally have not broken out retail and fleet totals in monthly U.S. sales reports. But with growing interest from dealers and analysts, Ford and GM have started detailing basic fleet and retail information.

Count TTAC as part of that “growing interest.” Especially since the drive for greater transparency is clearly making certain executives very defensive. But, as AN points out, the response has not been so uniformly reflexive. After decades of fleet-free sales numbers ruling in Detroit, Ford and GM are breaking ranks to help prove that their addictions aren’t of the terminal variety.

George Pipas, Ford’s chief sales analyst, said the automaker cut its July fleet percentage to 25 percent by slashing daily rental fleet volume.

He said Ford is emphasizing commercial and government fleet sales — generally considered more profitable than sales to daily rental fleets. Sales to daily rental fleets are less than half of Ford’s fleet total this year.

By comparison, more than two-thirds of Chrysler and GM fleet volume goes to daily rental fleets.

And though not every manufacturer is getting on board with fleet-sales breakouts, nearly all of them agree that the second half of 2010 will see fewer fleet sales.

Manufacturers expect the pace of fleet sales to slow in the second half. Ford, Chrysler and GM say fleet will be a smaller part of their sales mix by year end. Pipas expects fleet volume to be about 30 percent of Ford’s sales for the full year. Henderson said GM’s full year fleet mix will be 25 to 26 percent, similar to 2009′s 25 percent.

Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel said, “For the full year, fleet sales will be roughly 25 percent of our total sales.”

With Chrysler running at 40 percent fleet, it will have to cut back significantly to make a 25 percent fleet mix by year-end. If Chrysler’s sales start dropping off, we’ll know why. Meanwhile, the fact that consumers don’t seem to even be considering Chrysler paints a troubling picture ahead of its new product flood in the second half of the year.

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Inside Chrysler’s Sales Increase: 40 Percent Fleet Mix And Industry-High Incentives (And Climbing) Wed, 05 May 2010 17:33:46 +0000

To say that Chrysler’s 25 percent year-over-year sales increase last month came as a surprise would be pushing the boundaries of overstatement. Chrysler’s sales and market share have been in decline for a long time, but over the past several years, the tailspin seemed to have become terminal. So, how did the Pentastar (barely) make its 95k minimum volume level and increase sales by 25 percent over April 2009? Fleet sales, for one thing: according to The Freep, estimates that a full 40 percent of Chrysler’s April sales went to fleet customers.No wonder made a big deal about publicly finding Jesus on the fleet sales issue… at the end of the month (to say nothing of the conspicuous absence of retail sales numbers in its April report and massive increase in Sebring sales). And the bad news doesn’t end there. Not only did Chrysler top all automakers in per-vehicle incentives last month according to Edmunds’ monthly True Cost Of Incentives index with $3,374 on the average Mopar’s hood, they’re actually increasing incentives even further.

The Detroit News‘ Alisa Priddle spins the news hard, saying ChryCo is “sweetening sales” and justifying the incentive binge by arguing that it is necessary:

to remain competitive in an industry being pushed by uncharacteristically higher spending from Toyota Motor Corp

Interestingly, the DetN cites an Autodata figure of $3,664 for Chrysler’s April incentive spend, which is actually several hundred dollars more than Edmunds’ number. In any case, Toyota spent at least a thousand bucks less per vehicle than Chrysler ($2,498 according to Edmunds, $1,945 according to Autodata), so the Pentastar’s trouble moving product still comes down to the product itself.

So what are the Chrysler incentives? “Attractive financing” or $3,000 cash off Chrysler-brand products, $4,000 cash back for Jeep Liberty, Grand Cherokee or Commander (plus $1,000 for financing through GMAC), $500 in Mopar accessories for Wrangler buyers or $2,000 worth for Challenger buyers, $2,000 off Dodge Avenger, Nitro or Grand Caravan, $3,000 off a Charger or Ram, and much, much more.

Bizarrely, the DetN’s Priddle characterizes Chrysler’s incentive strategy as a

policy of restraint, as dictated by new CEO Sergio Marchionne

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GM April Sales Up 6.5 Percent, Core Brands Up 20 Percent Mon, 03 May 2010 17:58:14 +0000

For yet another month, GM’s sales [full April sales report in XLS format here, press release here] managed to be both promising and disappointing, depending on how you cut them. GM’s “core brands” were up 20 percent cumulatively, with Cadillac and Buick leading the way with 35.7 percent and 36.4 percent increases respectively (Chevy up 17.4 percent, GMC up 18.4 percent). And though GM is especially eager to boost sales numbers at its two premium brands, thanks to their low baseline sales, the solid percentage gains resulted in surprisingly small volume improvements. The General’s overall volume was up only 6.5 percent compared to April 2009, a month when the just-canceled Pontiac outsold both Buick and Caddy.

Buick’s big boost came from the LaCrosse, which sold 5,236 units for an increase of 272 percent over last April. Enclave approached the 5k mark, with 4,599 units moved last month, for a more modest gain of 23 percent. Lucerne lost 38 percent of its April 2009 volume, at 2,346 units.

The big news is Cadillac-land is the SRX, which vaulted over last April’s modest sales of the outgoing model, with a 587 percent improvement to 3,904 units. Actually, that’s the big positive news. The really big news is that Cadillac’s bread-and-butter CTS is utterly stagnant with consumers right now, actually sliding 15 percent to 3,278 units. This despite GM recently making the CTS the poster child for “the return of affordable auto leases”. STS and XLR sales fell by 54 and 73 percent respectively, while DTS and the Escalades all added between 20 percent and 30 percent, to keep Cadillac’s overall volume up. Still, with new CTS Sportwagons available, and a Coupe coming soon, Cadillac needs to see its most important sedan pick up the pace if it wants to stay on Ed Whitacre’s good side.

GMC’s Acadia narrowly improved on last April’s sales, up 2.4 percent to 4,877 units. That performance just barely pipped GMC’s Terrain, which sold 4,404 units. Sierra was GMC’s top-selling nameplate again though, up 13 percent to 9,360. Canyon moved only 527 units, Yukon was down 21 percent to 1,942 and Yukon XL added 46 percent to 1,693.

Chevrolet’s Malibu improved 13 percent, making it the most popular car in the Chevy lineup at 16,536 units. Impala fell 8 percent, to 16,144. Cobalt had a strong April, with volume up 29 percent to 13,701. Equinox sold 11,987 units and Traverse added ten percent for a total of 9,020 units. Camaro continued its strong sales streak, moving 9,150 units. Silverado was Chevy’s top-selling nameplate, at 29,618 units, and even the Colorado avoided a Canyon-like dropoff, logging just over 2,000 sales. Tahoe volume fell 23 percent to 6,309, while Suburban added 15 percent to 5,087 units. HHR fell 19 percent  to 5,383 units.

According to GM, fleet sales for its four “core” brands totaled 58,000 units, a two percent drop compared to April 2009.

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With Fleet Sales Booming,Chrysler Vows To Limit Sales To Rental Firms Tue, 27 Apr 2010 22:49:22 +0000

Fleet sales were up 47 percent in the first quarter of this year, driving sales at a number of automakers. Ford, in particular, is targeting fleet sales unapologetically by touting a recovery in resale values for the Blue Oval Brand. Ford’s Mark Fields tells the Freep:

We love fleets at Ford…Ford remains focused on our disciplined approach to daily rental, making sure we help keep growing residual values

At Chrysler, which suffers from some of the lowest resale values in the business thanks in part to a longtime addiction to fleet sales, the response seems a bit more… conflicted.

Chrysler’s Peter Grady tells Automotive News [sub] that Auburn Hills is serious to getting fleet business to 25 percent of its sales mix, and that it will cap sales to rental fleets. He explains:

Our growth will come from large commercial and government markets

Of course he doesn’t mention that 58 percent of Chrysler’s February sales went to fleets (though AN [sub] does), nor does he specify details about the rental sales cap. But some kind of rental fleet sales reduction shouldn’t be too hard. Chrysler’s previous rental-fleet dumping grounds, Dollar-Thrifty, has been bought by Hertz, drying up the most loyal renter of Mopars. And the sale is no coincidence: according to Forbes, Dollar-Thrifty was vulnerable to takeover at least in part because of its exposure to Chrysler, and its plummeting resale values. Besides, as Automotive News [sub] has reported, Dollar-Thrifty dumped Chrysler before Chrysler dumped it. But then, Chrysler has been here before with the whole “capping fleet sales thing.” It hasn’t worked yet.

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Infiniti Version Of Straight-To-Rental Nissan Leaf Planned Tue, 23 Mar 2010 17:55:58 +0000
One of the biggest conundrums facing the folks tasked with marketing the forthcoming first generation of mainstream electric cars is branding. On the one hand, firms want their mainstream brands associated with the green halo of having an electric car in its portfolio. On the other hand, electric cars aren’t cheap. From a pure pricing perspective, it makes more sense to brand expensive EVs as luxury products. GM struggled with this problem when it developed its Converj version of the Volt, ultimately deciding that the common-sense arguments for branding the $40k Volt as a Cadillac weren’t as important as boosting Chevy’s profile with an EV offering. Nissan, meanwhile, has decided that it has room for both a Nissan-branded Leaf EV and an Infiniti-branded luxury version.

Top Gear reports that the new Infiniti variant of the Leaf:

will use the same platform as the Leaf, but a different body. So it will be the smallest Infiniti. But all Infinitis are supposed to have high performance as well as being luxurious, so the motor power will be turned up compared with the Leaf’s.

Normally this would result in a shorter range, but the Infiniti electric car won’t be launched until 2014 or so, when Nissan is ready with its next generation of battery, which should hold enough charge to cope with the increased power.

At a projected (although not assured) price point of about $25k, there should be more room in Nissan’s portfolio for an upmarket EV, especially since it appears to be quite a few years off. Meanwhile, to make sure that the Leaf is sufficiently pedestrian to be differentiated from the Infiniti version, Nissan has announced [via Treehugger] that the rental firm Hertz will add the Leaf to its lineup starting in 2011.

A fleet queen EV? No wonder a luxury version is being planned. In seriousness though, acceptance of the Leaf by a major car rental firm will go a long way towards alleviating concerns about the pioneering EV. If nothing else, the rental program will be able to help target the leaf at its most important markets, and offer potential customers an opportunity to test the car obligation-free.

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Incentives, Fleets Fattened February Sales Wed, 03 Mar 2010 15:23:03 +0000

Chrysler once again topped Edmunds’ True Cost Of Incentive index last month, despite failing to significantly improve its sales over February 2009′s miserable showing. The only upside is that Chrysler basically held even with reduced incentives, as the entire industry is spending about 14 percent less on incentives than it did a year ago. Another interesting point of analysis from Edmunds:

Comparing all brands, in February smart spent the least, $341 followed by Scion at $426 per vehicle sold. At the other end of the spectrum, Lincoln spent the most, $5,568, followed by HUMMER at $5,195 per vehicle sold. Relative to their vehicle prices, Saturn and HUMMER spent the most, 14.9 percent and 13.6 percent of sticker price, respectively; while Porsche spent 1.4 and smart spent 2.3 percent.

But Toyota and GM will help carry those numbers up next month, with huge incentive spends planned. Meanwhile, after many automakers found religion about retail sales last year, fleet sales are back in a big way. And they’re no longer seen as something to be ashamed of.

Automotive News [sub] reports that only 35,832 of Chrysler’s 84,449 sales last month were to retail customers, with the remaining 58 percent going to fleets. Despite the fact that this combined with Chrysler’s chart-topping incentives doesn’t exactly speak to the company’s viability, Chrysler spokesfolks were unapologetic, saying:

Fleet sales were very strong this month, and our company sales reflect that. We still expect our total fleet sales for the year to be around 25 percent. It’s a good viable business for us. It shows that large companies have faith in our company to order. We make money on fleet sales

And none of the automakers are being snobbish about fleet sales. Ford’s fleet sales rose 74 percent compared to last February, and GM’s fleet sales rose 114 percent, making up nearly a third of all GM sales according to Automotive News [sub]. GM’s leasing (another former sin) also rose last month, to make up ten percent of all deliveries.

This time last year, fleet sales, incentives and leasing were considered part of the huge collection of problems that brough American automakers to their knees. Now that they’ve received their bailouts, the old habits are coming right back. And there are always excuses: sure they make some profit and yes, they will always be part of the business. But with incentives going up and Toyota looking vulnerable, a discount war is looming on the horizon. If Detroit once again gets caught up in a negative spiral of volume-pushing through incentives, fleets and leasing, any chance of a sustainable turnaround could be hamstrung. Those who fail to learn the lessons of the last several years have no business being in business.

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Fleets Flirting With Ford’s Fusion Thu, 21 Jan 2010 21:00:48 +0000

Ford’s fleet business has traditionally been in trucks and full-sized vans, a fact that explains why you’ve never seen an E-Series van in anything other than fleet white. But with residuals on the Ford Fusion staying higher than, well, the Sebring and Malibu, Ford’s recently-refreshed midsized sedan is becoming an attractive fleet option as analysts project a pickup in corporate fleet buying this year. Ford’s Jim Farley tells Automotive News [sub]:

We’re seeing a whole new group of clients come to us saying we want to buy Fusions. We’ve never had that before, at least in the recent past, and that has really grown our commercial fleet business.

Never had this before? Really? What about Crown Vic/Towncar? What about the third- and fourth-gen Taurus? What about the V6 Mustang Convertible that every rental storefront has at least one of? Besides, what happened to reducing profit-sucking fleet dependence? Oh well, something had to replace the Pontiac G6. And if anything kills a model’s resale, it’s heavy fleet sales… if that’s what is drawing the corporate interest, it won’t last long.

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London Olympic Committee: EVs Are Gimmicks Fri, 20 Nov 2009 22:26:44 +0000 We are not amused (courtesy:Reuters)

We didn’t want a big fleet of electric vehicles. We’re only just over two years or so away from the games and time is running out to create a viable network. Many of the vehicles will be used for around 18 hours a day. It’s hard graft, and we knew BMW could supply the vehicles to meet these demands.”

Paul Deighton, CEO of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) explains to Autocar why the games won’t be relying on electric vehicles in 2012. Nissan had presented a bid to be the games’ official vehicle supplier which proposed using Leaf EVs for over half the planned fleet. A “small proportion” of BMW’s winning fleet proposal will be electric MINI Es, and all proposals were required to achieve a fleet average of 120g/km of CO2. But that hasn’t stopped Nissan from getting petulant.

Nissan spokesfolks tell Autocar:

As part of our proposition, more than half of the vehicles we were going to supply would have been Leafs. Through LOCOGs decision, London has missed out on a significant opportunity to build confidence in electric vehicles in the UK. We have the vehicle and we had the chance to do something with it in the UK.

Nissan reps went on to say that the chances of quickly implementing an electric infrastructure in the UK have taken “several steps back.” London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has committed to installing 25,000 EV charging stations across the city by 2015, tried to see the upside.

We hope that BMW, through this sponsorship agreement, will take the opportunity to demonstrate their long term commitment to electric vehicles and showcase their new MegaCity [aka BMW's long-rumored Neo-Isetta EV] car at the 2012 Games.

In an industry that always has something around the next corner, it’s interesting to see a window emerge for the viability of electric vehicles. After all, if the Olympics thought an EV-heavy fleet was practical, they’d have done it. Having attended an Olympic conference on sport and the environment (don’t ask…), I can say there’s not an eco-gimmick that PR-happy organization won’t try. The city of London was behind the idea. Unless BMW put a 7-series in every LOCOG member’s driveway, Nissan’s EVs simply weren’t up to snuff.

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