General Motors sold the most fleet vehicles in 2014 on the strength of its daily rental fleet sales, while Ford delivered the most vehicles to commercial and government fleets amid a rising tide of vehicle sales to close out the year.
The fleet industry's three segments including commercial, government, and rental rose 5.7 percent in 2014 from 2013, as fleets registered nearly 2.36 million light-duty vehicles from nine manufacturers. Overall vehicle sales are projected to reach a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 16.9 million for 2014.
General Motors, which also sold the most daily rental vehicles, increased fleet sales by 7 percent and held steady with a 24 percent fleet slice of its more than 2.93 million total vehicles sold during the year. General Motors attributed its rising fleet sales to increased demand for its pickups and SUVs. Truck sales have been bolstered by fleets in the housing and energy industries, especially oil and gas exploration, said Jim Cain, a GM sales analyst.
General Motors also began selling its first mid-size pickups in December with 520 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks heading to fleets. About 80 percent of these trucks were the Work Truck model, while 20 percent were the LT/SLE mid-level trim. The truck was primarily sold to state and local government agencies, utilities, and auto parts suppliers.
Ford sold the most commercial and government fleet vehicles in 2014 as part of its 2.48 million vehicles sold. Total sales were flat compared to 2013 primarily due to updates needed to build the 2015 aluminum-body F-150 and a planned 15 percent reduction in daily rental sales, according to Ford.
Ford assembly plants in Kansas City and Dearborn, Mich., closed for 13 weeks so Ford could retool for the 2015 F-150. F-Series sales fell 1 percent for the year, said Erich Merkle, a Ford sales analyst.
Ford is seeing rising sales of its 2015 Transit full-size van, which was introduced in June. Transit sales reached 10,030 units in December, which accounted for about half of the 20,448 Transits sold in 2014. Ford also sold a record 43,210 Transit Connect compact vans in 2014, including 5,012 in December.
FCA US, formerly the Chrysler Group, doesn't release detailed data for its fleet sales. FCA sold more than 2 million vehicles in 2014, which marked a 16 percent increase over 2013. FCA also recorded a 28 percent increase in sales from its Ram Truck unit.
The commercial fleet segment saw impressive growth in 2014. The nine automakers sold 614,896 units, a 51,419 unit increase (9.1 percent) from 2013. Trucks, vans and SUVs led the way with a 13.8 percent gain, while cars fell 11.5 percent.
Sales to government fleets increased 11.3 percent to 252,657 in 2014 for an increase of 25,581 vehicles. Ford increased its sales to government agencies by 18 percent on the strength of its Police Interceptor Utility, which is the top-selling law enforcement vehicle. By the middle of December, GM began shipping its first Chevrolet Tahoe PPVs, which may have accounted for a flat year for GM in the segment.
The daily rental segment increased 3.7 percent in 2014 to 1.62 million vehicles. An additional 58,358 vehicles entered rental fleets compared to 2013. General Motors increased its rental sales by 2.4 percent in part due to a large late-year sale to Hertz Global Holdings. Hertz agreed to purchase about 350,000 2015 model-year vehicles, including GM vehicles, beginning in December. Hertz stated its intention in a Nov. 14 filing.
Meanwhile, Ford said its declining rental sales represent a conscious decision to de-emphasize this segment to protect residual values, Merkle said.
"We're pulling back as our daily rental was down in 2014," Merkle said. "It's simply because we want to focus on more profitable areas of our business."
By Paul Clinton