Over the past several years, the big three U.S. automakers have reduced the percentage of fleet deliveries relative to their overall sales, according to a study by Merrill Lynch. The study, which also followed trends in leasing, noted that lease rates have been lower than normal, because low rate financing has moved many private consumers to buy, rather than lease, their new cars.The study notes that fleet sales followed their traditional pattern of an increase in the fourth quarter, but the overall trend has been flat for all three companies. According to the study, GM remained the least dependent upon fleet sales, with fourth quarter fleet deliveries amounting to only 18 percent of the total, while Ford is most dependent on fleet sales, with fourth quarter deliveries amounting to 25 percent of total deliveries.On the leasing side, DaimlerChrysler has the highest lease rate in the big three, with Chrysler Group leases running 17 percent of total retail sales in the fourth quarter. GM has the lowest rate, at seven percent. The study noted that GM’s rates are lower than the rest of the industry because it is the leader in low rate financing.