Fleet Enema Helps Sales Backlogs

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
fleet enema helps sales backlogs

All 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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  • Buick61 Buick61 on Aug 18, 2008

    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.

  • Bunter1 Bunter1 on Aug 18, 2008

    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. Bunter

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  • Kcflyer LC 500
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