For the 1984 model year, Automotive Fleet statistics show that import manufacturers registered(52,087 new cars in the U.S. fleet segment, or just two percent of total import registrations. Most of those manufacturers, of course, had been operating in a restricted marketplace. But now that market place has begun to undergo some important changes.
Late in March, President Reagan acted to end the four-year-old Voluntary Restraint Agreement on Japanese car exports to this country. Wary of an American backlash over the mammoth U.S. trade deficit, however, the Japanese government promptly imposed its own quota on U.S. -bound imports, permitting the 1.85 million allowed (luring the last year of the old agreement to rise some 24 percent to 2.2 million cars for the year beginning April 1.
While the new quotas don't apply to non Japanese imports, they're bound to have an effect on all segment U.S. auto industry. Exactly what arc those effects predicted to be ? And now do the importers plan share of the increasingly important fleet market? We solicited comments from all import manufacturers; the following companies commented as to changes in their outlooks:
NISSAN: Jim Tavasci National Fleet Sales Manager
Under the new Voluntary Restraint Agreement, Nissan is going to have more vehicle available for the 86 model year than we did in '85. But our increase of some 12 percent is much less than that granted to other importer's.
Therefore, we will be looking to our U.S. plant in Smyrna, TN, for stepped- up production of the Sentra, an economy-sized, front-wheel drive passenger car that has proved very popular with fleets. The Sentra currently accounts for more than 63 percent of our car-fleet sales, and there will probably be additional Sentras Available for fleet use in '86.
Fleet sale of Nissan trucks-which are not affected you the restraints -will continue strong. That's clearly indicated by our 1984 truck-fleet sales of 19,000 units, an increase of 62 percent over the 12,000 units we sold to fleet in 1983. This year is off to a fast start, too, with a 10 percent hike in fiscal-year sales and a 36 percent climb in the calendar-year pace.
Upwards of 10 percent of Nissan's total sales are now going to the fleet segment. And fleets will become an even more important part of our business as the market continues to expand.
TOYOTA: Don Esmond, National Fleet and Truck Manager
Toyota's gain of about 11.8 percent under the new arrangement is disappointingly short of the increase we need to meet the demand in the marketplace. Despite that, we will boost the number of cars made available to fleet accounts during the coming model year.
Even with the voluntary restrictions imposed by the Reagan administration, Toyota has maintained and increased its leadership of the import car- and truck-fleet market. Today, fleet business accounts for more than 10 percent of Toyota's total volume.
In calendar year '84, we registered more than 53,000 fleet cars, mostly the subcompact models Corolla and Tercel. That figure represents a 13 percent increase over the previous year. We attribute the growth primarily to the aggressive pursuit of fleet accounts by our dealer body, and to Toyota's increasing level of participation in organizations such as AFLA, NAFA. and AGRA.
Over the last few years, of course. our biggest growth opportunities have come on the truck side. In calendar year '84, our fleet-truck sales totaled more than 43,000 - an 84 percent increase over '83. This year we expect to exceed 55,000 units. And that will allow us to maintain our leadership among the import fleets.
ISUZU: Gerard Murphy, Fleet Sales Manager
As you know, the Voluntary Restraint Agreement has been modified for the next Japanese fiscal year to allow Japanese importers in the U.S. a more ample opportunity to sell passenger cars during that period.
American Isuzu Motors Inc. is very pleased to receive this increase in passenger cars that will be shipped from Japan during the period beginning with April, '85, and ending in March, '86. However, because the amount of passenger cars is somewhat under the potential sales that our dealer body could pursue if there were no restrictions at all, we will continue to aggressively emphasize our truck line. That line includes our P'Up pickups - fleets accounted for 24 percent of their sales last year - and our Trooper II four-wheel-drive sport/ utility vehicles.
Both of these lines have been improved and expanded over previous models by the addition of larger gasoline engines, a turbo diesel, an expanded cab version which we call the "Spacecab," and other improvements that should help to continue the success which Isuzu has had in the U.S. in the past.
We expect to deliver about 10,000 units under the Isuzu Dealer Fleet Sales Program in calendar year '86.
Our fleet program includes provisions for both the above-mentioned trucks, as well as our all-new subcompact entry, I-Mark, which has been totally redesigned and represents the latest in form and function for the fleet buyer.
We are very proud of our Isuzu dealers who delivered 9,602 fleet units in '84. This amount certainly didn't beat out the giants in the industry, but it did achieve the highest fleet percent of sales (19.4 percent) of any manufacturer in the United States in '84. Remember that our measurement was only for those vehicles which are fleet- eligible and - in '84 as well as '85 - the Impulse is not included in our fleet-eligible totals.
The message from Isuzu Fleet, then, will be P'Up trucks, Trooper II and I-Mark, with heavy emphasis on our trucks. The economy looks outstanding. Interest rates continue to drop. Our product offering is broader than ever. Our dealers remain enthusiastic. It's hard to envision a better mix than those to produce another outstanding year for Isuzu and Isuzu Fleet.
MAZDA: Rod Hayden, Senior Vice President and General Manager
We do not expect any change in our fleet market penetration due to the increased number of passenger car imports for 1985. But we hope to improve our position in the truck- fleet market due to our newly designed B2000 series. If the passenger-car-market softens in the next eight to 12 months, perhaps we will more vigorously pursue passenger-car fleet sales, but I don't see this happening as Mazda's increased allotment should just fill consumer demand.
MITSUBISHI: Bob Stallsmith, Vice President of National Sales
Early indications are that, with the increase in the available of Japanese cars, the market will become much more competitive. If this happens, I'm sure that the importers, including Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, will take a much more aggressive position in terms of fleet.
PEUGEOT: John Kubernat, National Special Sales Manager
Peugeot has developed a new level of awareness and acceptance in the retail market since the introduction of the Model 505. The Peugeot 505 boasts comfort, durability, fuel efficiency, and a quality image in a roomy five-passenger, four-door sedan and station wagon. These qualities enhance the 505's application for fleet use.
To increase its competitiveness, Peugeot has just announced a three year/36,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty. The Peugeot power-train limited warranty is now five years or 50,000 miles. Peugeots are available with gas, turbo-gas, and turbo-diesel engines.
VOLVO: Tom Stelley, Special Sales Manager
We at Volvo Car North America (VCNA) feel the fleet sales market offers us a significant volume and product exposure opportunity. The Special Sales Department has been responsible for the development of fleet sales programs as well as the attainment of fleet sales objectives since its inception in 1980. We believe now, as then, that Volvo automobiles with their reputation for quality, value, dependability, and longevity definitely have a place in the fleet market
Our ambitions in 1980 were for modest growth in executive and small business fleets. To this end, we announced the Volvo Dealer Fleet Program. We felt that by supplying our dealers with product over and above their standard vehicle allocation, Volvo dealers would be able to activity pursue fleet sales in their local markets. Many of the dealers have accomplished just that.
Along with the Dealer Fleet Program, VCNA initiated a Direct Fleet Program in an attempt to place representative volumes of Volvo cars into daily rental service with major North American daily rental companies. This program has been an exposure bonanza. We estimate that we have been able to generate more than 2 million paid Volvo test drives from the over 12,000 units placed into daily rental service during the past four years.
VCNA is committed to growth for Volvo and its dealers in fleet market. We feel that our success with fleet customers during the last five years supports our claim that "Volvos that work for a living are good for business." Not only for ours, but for our customers' as well.