Fleet Car/Truck of the Year!
Automotive Fleet Magazine has opened the polls for their 2008 Automotive Fleet Fleet Car and Truck of the Year awards. The nominees include 64 car and 37 light truck models ranging from Audi to Volvo. Voting, which is limited to professional fleet managers, runs through October 15. Nominees are to be considered based on cost, maintenance, reliability and overall operating expense. The past two years the Chevrolet Impala and Ford F-150 scooped the honors. If sales are any indication, the two models look set to score a hat trick. In the first six months of '07, fleets claimed 80k Impalas (54% of production) and 67k F-150s (21% of production). Percentagewise, the Pontiac Grand Prix and Dodge Avenger beat both models, with 78 and 79 percent of production siphoned-off for group sales. Despite the anti-fleet [s]excuse[/s] message's new status as Detroit's explanation du jour for lackluster sales, we know for a fact that many mid-level managers embedded within The Big 2.8 are pulling for their vehicles to snatch the gong.
I can hardly wait.
Well, here we have to go again with the truth... It's not just an "excuse." Ford's fleet sales to rental car companies is down 110k units this year. That's about half the decline so far this year. GM's rental fleet sales are down almost as much. There has also been weakness in commercial fleets due to less construction spending, especially hurting the F-150 and Silverado/Sierra. This represents about a quarter of the loss for both companies. Their retail sales, honestly, haven't been nearly as bad as it would seem. I mean, they're both still down - still lots of weakness in their product lines - but Ford's retail is probably down like 6% (as opposed to 12% overall) and GM a bit better than that. And luckily both companies are sort of fortifying their fleet queens (Crown Vic is now all fleet, for example) and backing off on the newer models (only about 200 Edges were fleet last month out of over 9,000 sales - that's a better percent than most Toyotas and many Hondas). And, it turns out that Toyota or Kia is probably the biggest fleet gainer this year, especially in the rental car market as GM and Ford cut back. There are also good and bad fleet sales. Rental = bad. Commerical/government = good because of how and when the units are resold. I would say for overall fleets definitely one of the Chryslers is the winner - probably the Avenger or the PT Cruiser (there are always so many out there when I pick up my car - usually an Impala or a Camry). For trucks, probably still the F-150 because they sell so many to commerical and government fleets. I don't see too many around Hertz/Avis/et al, although I see quite a few large SUVs like the Tahoe, Expedition and Armada. So, if you broke it up, one of the large SUVs would probably be the worst in terms of what fleets they are selling to.
I drove one of those fleet Avengers recently. It was quite peppy, but nevertheless managed to convey the overall feel of a Yugo I once had the mispleasure to sit in. The tinny, cardboard doors more than anything else, I think. And rear visibility? Chrysler says: Mwahahaha... there is none, so remove the rear view and get on with it. Great car for Italian driving, if only it had the looks, the power, the shifter, the interior...