The Truth About Cars » fleets The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:51:02 +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 » fleets Cadillac’s XTS Based Livery Fleet Fleet Announced: Sedan, Limo & Hearse. Livery Sedan to Have “More Luxury” Than Standard XTS Models Wed, 05 Sep 2012 13:57:27 +0000 Why does a hearse need a sunroof in the back? - GM Photo

With Lincoln abandoning the tradition Panther platform Town Car and moving to the awkwardly shaped MKT for its offerings to livery fleet operators, you might think that Cadillac would aggressively market their new XTS to the “black car” industry. The XTS, like the outgoing Town Car, is a traditionally styled luxury sedan. Cadillac just announced it’s plans going forward for professional vehicles, and while they are indeed based on the XTS. Cadillac will be appealing to fleet operators that want to offer something a bit more luxurious to their customers than the decontented Town Cars of recent years.

Cadillac’s David Caldwell said that Lincoln’s Town Car brand, “has for a long time been the far-and-away market leader for these – and that will likely continue to be the case. But we are doing something specific for this, in a different direction… We are offering the Livery Package with a bit more luxury inside than standard XTS models… which honestly will limit the volume quite a bit, but is the right approach for how we wish to present the brand.”

While that might be a clever long term strategy to reenter a market more of less defined by the outgoing Town Car, it carries risk for the XTS brand. The strategy does make some sense. Once upon a time limousines were the apogee of luxury. I’m not talking about custom stretch jobs with stripper poles and neon lighting, I’m talking about factory built Series 75 Fleetwood limos, with jump seats to accommodate extra passengers and mohair upholstery. The decontented Town Car town cars used by livery services of late do present an opportunity for a fancier livery service vehicle. The problem with making the XTS Livery Sedan package more luxurious than standard retail XTS models is that it runs the risk of upsetting some of those retail XTS customers when the car service they use has a more luxurious Caddy than they do. Mechanically, the XTS Livery Sedan will differ from retail units in that they will come standard with air-leveling rear suspension. They also will feature GM’s trick magnetically adjustable dampers and brakes supplied by Brembo. Livery passengers will enjoy a premium sound system, heated seats, the rear seat comfort option package, shades on the side windows as well as the backlight, plus their own climate control zone for the back seat. There’s a console in the back as well and if there aren’t enough 12 volt outlets for everyone’s electronics, the XTS Livery Sedan comes standard with a power inverter if you need AC mains voltage. Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system is also standard on the Livery Sedan and while the announcement didn’t say so, my guess is that folks in the back seat will have their own touch panel.

The XTS Livery Sedan will be factory built alongside of regular XTS models at GM’s Oshawa, Ontario facility. It’s a safe guess that with the way that wealthy and successful Chinese prefer being driven, quite a few of the XTSes that will also be built in Shanghai will have the same rear seat accoutrements. As for other “professional” cars, hearses and stretched limos, as with Lincoln’s professional car program, Cadillac will be working a small group of coachbuilders that have been certified as meeting the OEM’s standards for quality, engineering, and safety.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS


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Cadillac XTS: The High-Tech… Livery Car? Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:14:25 +0000

Though we haven’t even seen a production version yet, Cadillac’s forthcoming XTS has already lived a full, controversy-laden life. Initially suggested as a replacement for the DTS/STS, the Cadillac faithful quickly recoiled at the idea of a luxury “flagship” based on a stretched version of the Epsilon II midsized platform that underpins the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Malibu. But with the Cadillac Ciel Concept showing the way forward for a “true” Caddy flagship which will eventually become the brand’s standard-bearer, the XTS’s role has been somewhat redefined. Expectations for the XTS were walked back by GM CEO Dan Akerson, who famously said that it was

not going to blow the doors off, but will be very competitive

And this week the enigma that is the XTS only deepened, as Cadillac announced two bits of seemingly contradictory information about it: first, that it would spearhead a new high-tech interface (see video above) and second, that it would mark GM’s return to the livery car business.

Cadillac’s CUE system will debut on both the XTS, ATS and 2013 SRX, all of which debut next year. You can find out more about it by watching the video above, but according to a GM presser, the system will offer several industry “firsts” including

Proximity Sensing: As the user’s hand approaches the LCD screen, command icons appear. Icons can be customized and arranged by consumers to improve ease of use.

Haptic Feedback: Buttons on the fully capacitive faceplate pulse when pressed to acknowledge the driver’s commands and helps keep the driver’s eyes on the road.

Multi-Touch Hand Gestures: interactive motions (tap, flick, swipe and spread) popularized by smartphones and tablets allow tasks on the LCD screen, such as scrolling lists, zooming maps and searching favorites to be easily accomplished.

12.3 in. LCD reconfigurable gauge cluster (on select models) offers four selectable displays – Simple, Enhanced, Balanced and Performance – that can mix traditional vehicle data such as a speedometer and fuel gauge with navigation, entertainment and 3D vehicle image.

Natural Speech Recognition lets consumers speak logically with fewer specific commands to recall stored media or input navigation destinations. CUE’s text-to-speech feature will also allow consumers to receive text messages by system voice and to send recorded text messages in return.

Linux operating system, “open” software platform and ARM 11 3-core processor, each operating at 400 million of instructions (mips) per second. This hardware setup offers 3.5 times more processing power than current infotainment systems, and allow developers to write applications to CUE that be downloaded by consumers.

Though not unique to the XTS, GM is using the forthcoming model to highlight the system, and has released pictures of the production interior. Which makes a certain amount of sense, considering that Cadillac has long considered the XTS an “inside-out” design, focusing on luxurious appointments rather than dynamic performance or bold exterior looks. And that emphasis continues, as XTS marketing manager Patrick Nally tells Automotive News [sub]

A lot of people will not consider Cadillac that buy Mercedes or BMW… We will really impress people vis-a-vis the back seats of those cars.

Now, you might think that quote, with its import-conquering swagger, might be emphasizing how well Nally expects the XTS to do on the retail market… but it’s not. Quite the contrary, as it turns out. Here’s the full passage:

Speaking of the XTS, Nally said “the black car business is important to us.”

“A lot of people will not consider Cadillac that buy Mercedes or BMW,” he said. “They do not put us on their shopping list. There is an opportunity to get the right people in the vehicle who would not otherwise” be sitting in a Cadillac.

Nally said the appointments in the livery model will be nearly identical to the high-quality appointments in the retail version of the XT

In other words, the XTS is going to conquer the consumer market, by replacing the now-extinct Town Car as the livery car of choice… and given that its main competition will be a version of the Lincoln MKT, it might just have an opportunity on its hands. Assuming, of course, that private consumers are going to want to buy a vehicle that they mainly know from livery fleets. Fleet-sales-as-marketing is a ploy we hear fairly regularly, but thus far there’s not a lot of evidence that it works especially well. Particularly in the luxury space, where exclusivity is an important factor. But I suppose that this is what Cadillac meant when it said the XTS would replace the DTS and STS… it’s not a true exclusive flagship, but an everyday luxury car with a cosseting interior.

Automotive News [sub] says that “the chopping and stretching” of the ATS will “be handled by approved coachbuilders,” and it’s likely already underway. In fact, earlier this week when I was at Milford Proving Grounds, I not only saw several camo’d XTS prototypes testing, but also what appeared to be a long-wheelbase mule with a stretched Buick LaCrosse body. Whether it was a stretched XTS mule or a China-bound LaCrosse long-wheelbase model wasn’t clear, but it seems safe to say that the Epsilon II platform is going to spawn some form of LWB sedan. And, with expectations for the XTS already blunted by its humble underpinnings and Akerson’s seeming diss, a stolid, interior-centric, fleet-oriented model seems to be a logical approach for the XTS. Too bad that orientation is a bit at odds with Cadillac’s dynamically-driven “Red Blooded Luxury” branding approach.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Retail Versus Fleet Sales In July Mon, 15 Aug 2011 17:36:01 +0000 The debate over July’s sales results is going to heat up again with this infographic showing the fleet and retail results for the major US brands. And one thing is clear: Toyota and Honda’s tumble from the top was not disguised by a huge bump in fleet sales. Though retail volume at the top two Japanese brands dropped by between 20 and 30 percent, both cut way back on fleet sales as well… which is a highly recommendable move when supply problems hit. After all, you have to squeeze every last penny out of the remaining volume until inventory levels even out. On the other hand, both Ford and GM cranked up fleet volume last month, with Ford’s fleet percentage leaping to an industry-leading 31%. That gives Ford the lowest retail percentage of all major automakers, with GM only five points ahead. Chrysler was the only other major OEM under 90% for the month, at 84%. So those who argue that domestics are taking over the industry need to dial back their expectations a bit for the moment: between the supply issues and the fleet picture, it’s too early to determine what exactly is going on in the industry. But if the domestics trim back on fleet and Toyota and Honda continue to lose volume over the month of August, then we can start talking about the kinds of seismic shifts that some are already reading in the sales numbers.


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Nissan NV200 Wins NYC “Taxi Of Tomorrow” Contract Tue, 03 May 2011 15:40:11 +0000

Nissan’s NV200-based entrant into New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow contest has won the contract (reportedly worth over a billion dollars), reports Reuters, beating out two other finalists, one based on Ford’s Transit Connect, the other from Turkey’s Karsan Otomotiv. The decision may be taking a few New Yorkers by surprise, as Reuters reports that the Turkish entrant’s clear glass ceiling made it a crowd favorite, and that

Karsan also hoped to gain favour with city officials by promising to assemble the cars in Brooklyn, vowing to use union labour. The plant would have marked a return of auto-making to the city for first time in about a century.

Though New Yorkers may have preferred a locally-built model to take over from the 16 vehicles currently serving as NYC Taxis, the NV200 seems like a sweet little van. So congratulations, Nissan… now, are we ready to start talking about a civilian version?

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Return Of The Ram Vans: Fiat Ducato, Doblò Coming To The US Next Year Mon, 07 Mar 2011 16:16:55 +0000

With Sprinter back under the Mercedes sign, Chrysler Group is looking to Europe and Fiat’s Doblò (above) and larger Ducato to expand back into the commercial van segment, starting next year. The European commercial vans are a far cry from the last Ram-branded body-on-frame vans, as the Doblò is actually based on a 108.5 inch wheelbase version of Fiat’s SCCS platform, a development of GM’s Gamma subcompact platform. As a result, the front-drive Doblò comes with engines ranging from 1.3 to 2.0 liters, and are largely powered by diesel engines. The Doblò is available in everything from a two-door chassis cab pickup, a three-, four- or five-door panel van, or a five-door passenger configuration.Because the new Ram commercial vehicles will be imported starting next year, expect only the van variants to avoid the “chicken tax.

The larger, rear-drive Ducato offers a dizzying number of body variants, with wheelbases ranging from 118.1 inches to 149.6 inches, and offers only diesel engines in displacements from 2.2 to 3.0 liters with 100-155 HP. Until we get more details, it’s impossible to know which versions of these vehicles will come to the US, and whether the diesel and (for possibly even natural gas) versions will come as well. But the real question remains the same as it was a year ago:

how will these Euro-derived efficiency-oriented urban haulers jive with the Ram brand’s overbearingly bro-magnon branding?

ducatobus ducato6 ducatocamper ducato1 ducato4 doblo3 Doblo1 ducato3 doblointerior3 doblo4 ducato2 ducatoracing ducatotruck doblo2 doblointeriorretail doblointerior1 ]]> 26
“Fully Loaded Required”: How Politicians Score Sweet Rides Wed, 23 Feb 2011 00:18:50 +0000

You’d think that a place with “taxation without representation” on its license plates would pay close attention to fiscal decisions, but according to a fascinating Washington Post story, when it comes to cars, all bets are off. District of Columbia Council Chairman Kwame Brown has claimed for months that his leased Lincoln Navigator was simply issued to him by the District, but thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, it has been discovered that Brown simply bullied his way into a $1,900/month “fully loaded” Navigator lease that had to be sourced all the way from Kansas City.

The story might just seem aggravating if you may be asked to pay for D.C.’s $440m budget shortfall, but it’s also a fascinating insight into government vehicle sourcing. We’ve covered some strange government vehicle purchases before, but we’ve never before seen exactly how politicians go about securing their unnecessarily flash rides. The key: just insist on the best and don’t take no for an answer. Read the whole thing. [Hat Tip: Brady Holt]

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Ford Sales Up 25 Percent In January On Fleet Buying Binge. Retail Numbers Down 5 Percent Tue, 02 Feb 2010 19:08:34 +0000

Ford’s sales momentum continues unabated, as the Blue Oval has announced that its January sales were up 25 percent over January 2009 [full release in PDF format here]. Sales were led by a a strong performance from Ford-branded cars, which were up 54 percent as a category, with individual nameplates logging gains ranging from 33 percent (Focus, 10,389 units) to 121 percent (Taurus, 3,768 units). Ford Crossovers and SUVs were up 16.7 and 12.9 percent respectively, with most of the volume gains coming from CUVs like the Escape (+28.6%, 10,753) and Edge (+25.5%, 6,243 units). Ford truck sales were up 14.5 percent, with heavy commercial vehicles falling and the Ranger recording a strong 47.3 percent gain to 4,143 units.

Mercury saw a 5.8 percent increase, largely on a 112 percent jump in Grand Marquis sales (1,536 units), but with overall sales of 5,482, Merc still isn’t making a strong case for itself. Lincoln sales were up 15.5 percent, but again, much of the volume gains were from Town Car (+52.5 percent, 777 units), although MKX logged a 26.7 percent increase to 2,198 units. MKT is off to a weak start with only 715 units moved in January, while MKS and MKZ both fell by double digit percentages, to below 1,500 units. Volvo gained 42 percent, but managed a total brand volume of only 4,128 units.

Meanwhile, it’s important to remember that much of Ford’s bump this month likely came from less-profitable fleet sales. Ford’s release notes:

In January, Ford sales to fleet customers more than doubled last January’s depressed levels (up 154 percent) when most fleet owners deferred vehicle purchases due to the credit crunch and uncertain business and economic conditions.

Ford posted gains in every fleet market – commercial, government and rental. On an annual basis, a majority of Ford’s fleet sales are to commercial and government customers where the Ford F-Series truck and Econoline van have long been top sellers. Today, products such as Fusion, Taurus and Escape are popular choices among fleet customers.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Cool Über Alles Edition Wed, 18 Nov 2009 00:34:51 +0000 Interceptor!

Maybe Auto Bild missed the memo that police fleet Ford Crown Victorias have been called “Interceptor” since 1992. Either way, they’re arguing that Ford’s new “all-new Interceptor” should be a production version of 2006′s Ford Interceptor Concept. “With it the police’s new transportation would not only be more modern, but also properly cool,” they deadpan. “Ford has to assert itself to remain the dominant supplier of service vehicles. Starting with the Interceptor wouldn’t be bad: the concept looks cool. Next to it, the Crown Victoria looks like a real dinosaur,” is the sage conclusion. Not to mention a luxuriously spacious vehicle. Sorry guys, but short of the Interceptor’s influence on the Taurus (which will most likely underpin the “all new Interceptor”), this one sounds way too cool for reality.

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