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2008: One of the Worst Years in Fleet History

I can’t recall a year as tumultuous as 2008. The year started with the Jan. 1 termination of the $1.8 billion merger between GE and PHH and ended with the near bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler. In between, we witnessed record fuel prices, then a spectacular freefall in fuel prices, a dismal used-vehicle market, unprecedented credit gridlock, the inability of some fleets to order new-vehicles, and fleet delivery disruptions due to a UAW strike and an epic Midwest flood that submerged rail lines. READ MORE

Fleets Scramble to Cope With Extended Plant Shutdowns

The dramatic decrease in sales has prompted automakers to make significant adjustments to production schedules. A number of fleets are affected by the unanticipated, longer-than-normal, plant shutdowns. These fleet managers expect order-and-delivery (OTD) times to increase in 2009 due to revised production schedules. These fleet managers say the extended plant shutdown schedules, for all intents and purposes, shortens the 2009 model-year, which early-order cut-off dates will only aggravate. READ MORE

Forecast for 2009: A Litany of Uncertainty

On the eve of the 2009 calendar-year, fleet managers are bracing for a new year filled with uncertainty about the economy and the long-term viability of the Detroit Three. There is a long litany of uncertainties voiced by commercial fleet managers about what may unfold. Many fleet managers view the changes currently roiling the industry as "tectonic shifts" in how commercial fleets will be run in the future. READ MORE

A Tough Time to Operate a Fleet

Twenty-five years ago, there was a utopian vision of what fleet management would be like in the 21st century. However, this new century has been far from utopian. Its reality is more like a maelstrom. In eight short years, fleet managers have been buffeted by one major crisis after another, most of them unprecedented and severe. The first decade of the 21st century is shaping up to be one of the most tumultuous in the history of fleet management. READ MORE

Don’t Let the Auto Industry Become Collateral Damage to the Credit Crisis

GM, Ford, and Chrysler will testify Dec. 5 before the House Financial Services Committee in an effort to secure a $25 billion emergency bridge loan. It is imperative that this emergency funding be approved. Failure to do so will have negative repercussions to the fleet management industry. Here's why. READ MORE

Are Executive Vehicle Fleets Becoming Politically Incorrect?

In today's economic environment, push-back is emerging at some companies about company-provided executive vehicle fleets. As the economy worsens and ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer monies are being used to prop up financially distressed companies, a negative perception is growing about executive compensation and the different perks tied into these compensation packages. READ MORE

The Credit Crisis Impact on Fleet? Look to 1973 for Clues

Fuel prices hit record highs. The cost of financing a fleet doubles. Used-vehicle values plummet. Dealers are unable to sell the vehicles they have in inventory. Geopolitically, the U.S. is embroiled in war and the macro-economy teeters on recession. If you think I'm talking about 2008, think again. The year was 1973. READ MORE

Used-Vehicle Market Nosedives in October: More Downward Movement Anticipated

October was an extremely difficult month to remarket vehicles in the wholesale market as resale prices took a precipitous drop. Wholesale pricing, based on mixed mileage and seasonally adjusted, declined a record 6 percent in October. The lack of credit to both dealers and retail buyers has been the key catalyst contributing to the downturn in the wholesale market. The market forecast is gloomy until the credit gridlock is resolved. READ MORE

Don't Let Drivers Grow Complacent with Lower Fuel Prices

The recent drop in fuel prices has been as breathtaking as the earlier run-up in prices. If sustained, these reduced fuel prices will begin to make a dent in overall fleet fuel expenditures. However, there is the risk that lower prices may bring about driver complacency. A large part of fleet fuel expense is controlled by drivers. Many of the hard-won increases in fleet mpg can be negated by drivers reverting to less fuel-efficient driving behaviors. READ MORE

94% of Fleet Managers Don’t Know the Whereabouts of Their Fleet Vehicles

Do you know the location of your fleet vehicles during work hours? The most likely answer is no. In fact, nine out of 10 fleet managers have no idea where their fleet vehicles are at any given time. This assertion is based on a recent study that revealed 94 percent of those who operate corporate vehicles are completely unaware of their fleet’s location during work hours. However, this may soon change as a result of growth in the deployment of mobile resource management (MRM) systems. READ MORE

Vehicle Quality is Up, But So is Cost per Repair

Vehicle quality has improved dramatically with fleets experiencing a decline in the frequency of vehicle repairs. However, the average cost of repairs has been increasing. The forecast is for the cost of fleet maintenance to increase again in 2009. There are five factors exerting upward pressure on cost per repair. READ MORE

Fleet Operating Costs Increase Again in 2008

Although gas prices started to decline in August, the year-to-date cost of fuel in 2008 has increased 30 percent compared to last year. The price for replacement tires rose 5-10 percent in 2008 due to higher oil prices and the shift by manufacturers to larger diameter tires. Also, fleet maintenance and repair costs increased across the board in 2008. The cost for non-warranty maintenance services was up 5 percent for fleets. READ MORE

Replacement Tires: A Growing Fleet Expense

Replacement tires are the third-largest expense category for fleets. In the past three years, this expense category has grown as a result of multiple price increases from all major tire OEMs. In 2008, year-to-date tire replacement costs have increased 4-10 percent. This follows a 3-4 percent price increase in 2007 and an 8-10 percent price increase in 2006. The consensus is replacement tire prices will increase again in 2009. READ MORE

Fuel Continues to be the No. 1 Threat to Fleet

The number one threat to fleets continues to be the price of fuel, despite the fact that fuel prices have been declining due to the global economic slowdown. Year-to-date, the cost of fuel has increased 30 percent in 2008 compared to 2007. The Energy Information Administration is projecting fuel to average $3.82 per gallon in calendar-year 2009. Fuel is the potential game changer of the fleet industry. Consider two recent examples as harbingers of things to come. READ MORE

Federal Reserve Invokes Emergency Powers to Support the Commercial Paper Market

Today, Oct. 7, the Federal Reserve Board announced that it is invoking emergency powers to create a special fund to support the U.S. commercial paper market. The announcement by the Federal Reserve allows corporations to bypass the current credit gridlock gripping the nation’s economy. This has an impact on the fleet market since one source of financing for large fleets is the commercial paper market. READ MORE

Anti-Idling Programs: A Quick Way to Reduce Fuel Spend

Reducing unnecessary idling is the simplest and easiest way for a fleet to reduce fuel costs. Besides wasting fuel, excess idling also causes unnecessary emissions, noise pollution, and needless engine wear-and-tear. The amount of unnecessary idling varies by fleet, but some fleets have recorded idling as much as 35 percent of the time. READ MORE

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In a 24-year fleet career that began in 1964, Helen Smorgans managed fleets for Johnson & Johnson corporate and 10 other J&J companies. She was co-founder of the NAFA New Jersey chapter and also served on the organization's National Board of Governors.

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Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and entered the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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