Detroit Dominates Year-To-Date Fleet Sales

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
detroit dominates year to date fleet sales

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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