Sales into large fleets, not including sales into dealer and manufacturer fleets, increased 27.7% year over year in March to 225,200 units, according to an early estimate from Cox Automotive released April 6.
Combined sales into large rental, commercial, and government fleets have seen eight consecutive months of double-digit, year-over-year increases. Sales into rental fleets were up 46% year over year, sales into commercial fleets were up 6.9%, and sales into government fleets were up 39.4%. Higher inventory levels and improved fleet sales combined to lift overall industry new-vehicle sales results in March.
Fleet Sales Are Up 41% Through March Compared to Q1 2022
Fleet sales are up sharply in Q1. According to a Cox Automotive analysis of Bobit fleet data, Q1 2023 fleet sales are up 41% over the same time last year. This reflects both strong demand from traditional fleet buyers and increased supply from greatly improved OEM inventory levels.
Fleet Share of Retail Sales Increases Again in March
Including an estimate for fleet deliveries into dealer and manufacturer channels, the remaining retail sales were estimated to be up 5.6%, leading to an estimated retail SAAR of 12.9 million, up 1.5 million from last year’s pace, and up 0.6 million from last month’s 12.3 million pace. The fleet market share of 18% was a 2.4% gain compared to last year’s share of 15.5% and was a 0.2% increase from last month’s estimated 17.7% market share. For comparison, nearly 22% of all vehicles sold in 2019 were through fleet channels. In 2022, the market shifted dramatically, with the fleet share of sales closer to 16% in many months as automakers focused on keeping retail channels stocked.
“Fleet sales are really hot right now,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, in a news release. “We expected fleet sales to increase as new-vehicle inventory improved, but the fleet sales pace has come back more quickly than expected. If there is consumer buying weakness in 2023, fleet sales could ramp up even more as there certainly appears to be unmet fleet demand, especially in the rental channel.”
Among the large manufacturers, Nissan, followed by Stellantis, had the largest increase in fleet volume compared to March 2022. Toyota had the largest decline from last year.