The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Ed Bobit: There's Good News for Fleets (Finally)

February 2003, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

"The new vehicles are going to he Ford's first reed stab at the mid-size car segment in a long time."-Mike Wall, industry analyst for IRN, Inc.

"It's a segment where we have lost, ground in recent years but it's exactly were we intend to make our stand - beginning now."-Bob Lutz. chairman of GM North America & vice-chairman for product development

"You could say we took our eye off the ball."-Richard Schaum, top engineer & head of car development at DCX's Chrysler group


For the record, it's been consistent since 1903; either Ford Motor Co. or GM's Chevrolet Division has laid claim as being the best-selling car brand in the U.S.

So, you say, "Why is this significant?"

The answer came last month from Tom Libby, an analyst with J.D. Power & Associates. Based on registration of brands' sales histories since 1990, he stated that "Within a matter of months, Toyota will consistently be selling more cars in this country than any other brand."

U.S. automakers still dominate the truck market, but cars made by Toyota are outselling those made by Chevrolet this year and are poised to overtake Ford cars in the first quarter of 2003, USA Today reported.

A little research shows that the mid-size market is where the abnormally high volume is recorded for car sales. In fact, it is also the core high volume for fleet sales as well.

In the 2001-model year mid-size cars registered 1,900,000 retail and nearly 690,000 were to fleets for a 26.6 percent fleet share of market. Interestingly, about 73 percent of the fleet registrations were recorded by the three domestics collectively. Compare this with the domestics only getting 33 percent of the retail mid-size market.

Since then, GM has held pretty firmly just under 30 percent overall (down from 40 percent ten years ago) but the other domestics have slipped some. It's been an awesome wakeup call. And good news for fleet buyers.

GM plans to introduce 10 new or redesigned mid-sized cars through 2005. This includes new versions of the Chevy Malibu, Pontiac Grand Am (plus a convertible) and Grand Prix, and Buick Regal. Bob Lutz stated, "We're going to bring that same focus and determination to the car side that GM brought to light trucks."

In early December, Ford announced that the successful Taurus would not be "solely a fleet car" and would remain in production at least into the '07 model year. Two weeks later Ford apparently "got a better idea" (remember that slogan?).

Ford will remain competitive building a brand new mid-size car off the Mazda6 *** chassis and plans to have the front-wheel drive car on your selector lists by mid-decade.

Not to be outdone, DCX's president, Dieter Zetsche, outlined his company's plans for a 2004 calendar year Dodge LX and Chrysler LX; sedans with rear-wheel drive.

No one wants to give up on this market although it has been heavily ignored for some years. What's more good news for fleet buyers? These will be exciting all-new products that will please your drivers with an even wider selection. It'll mean higher resale values because retail buyers will be in line.

All this in less than two years' time. Stay tuned.


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