The Chevrolet Equinox was selected as the winner of the inaugural Fleet SUV of the Year award for 2019 based on public voting by professional fleet managers. SUVs were added to Automotive Fleet’s 2019 fleet vehicle of the year voting ballot to reflect the growing popularity of these vehicles in commercial fleets.
“It means a great deal to us and we don’t take it lightly when we win this award,” said John Schwegman, director, midsize pickup and commercial product, General Motors. “We’re very proud when we’re a recipient and we share that with our fleet customers, and it reinforces with them that they made a good purchase decision.”
Chevrolet has emphasized a fleet focus on the compact SUV Equinox for its latest generation, and has attributed discussions with fleets customers to what has helped shape the Equinox to being an ideal vehicle in the commercial fleet space.
“One of the things we try to do is keep the voice of the customer very close,” said Mike Batchik, fleet product manager, crossovers, General Motors. “We gather input constantly about what fleet managers need, what their employees want, and driver satisfaction, and blend that into the models we offer.”
Chevrolet created a fleet-only 2FL model for the 2019 model year that is loaded with standard active safety features that were essential to commercial fleet customers.
The Equinox is popular among many industries in the fleet space, including pharmaceutical sales reps, insurance companies, and medical sample collection agencies. The Equinox has worked well on the side of personal use for these fleets.
“It’s a great employee recruitment perk. Many drivers take their company vehicle home with them in the evenings and weekends. It’s a good family vehicle, but it also allows fleets to take customers and samples around,” said Schwegman. “It has the cubic volume needed in the rear and is a vehicle that makes it easy to maneuver in city traffic. It hits a sweet spot for many different applications.”
Third Times a Charm
The Chevrolet Equinox is currently in its third generation, which has brought with it a slew of changes that began for the 2018-MY.
Batchik attributes a competitive fuel economy, AWD capabilities, and a roomier interior as some of the biggest reasons why this generation of the Equinox has made such an impact to fleet managers.
One of the biggest changes for the latest generation was the introduction of new engines, including a 1.5L turbo engine that offers 170 hp and 203 lb.-ft of torque. It also offers an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 31 mph on the highway, which is not far away from the sedans that Chevrolet offers.
There’s also an available, switchable all-wheel drive that can be found on AWD Equinox trims. This will be especially beneficial to fleets that tend to navigate regions of North America that are regularly impacted by snow or rainy conditions system enhances traction and control by allowing the driver to travel in a more fuel-efficient FWD mode until the system is prompted to switch into AWD. This ultimately also hits on an area of concern for fleets: safety.
The Equinox is also available with a 2.0L turbo engine that is available with 3,500 pounds of towing capability. Mated with a 9-speed automatic transmission, it offers 252 horsepower with 260 lb.-ft. of torque and gives fleets the opportunity to further take advantage of what the Equinox is able to offer.
More and More Safety
Speaking of safety, the fleet-only version of the Equinox that was introduced for the 2019-MY has one eye focused directly on improving driver safety with the 2FL package.
This package includes a forward collision alert, low speed forward automatic braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, and rear parking assist.
“From a safety perspective, its a core part of what we value at General Motors, and we want to continue to push that,” said Schwegman. “Every core fleet vehicle that we offer, we have a strategy where we will be offering safety content, that will not necessarily be tied to higher level trims. The safety package will be allowed on mid and lower level trims, so fleets can opt into active safety technologies without adding other high-trim level content — keeping the vehicle within their budget.”
Further reflecting the safety benefits, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), gave the 2019 Equinox a five star overall safety rating, and received superior front crash prevention results.
TCO and More
Batchik said that Equinox provides great TCO, which has helped with the SUVs popularity in the fleet space, particularly with its resale value.
“Part of the attraction of the Equinox is its strong residual value, so in many instances if you compare a midsize sedan versus the Equinox, the acquisition price on the Equinox may be a little bit higher. But many fleets are realizing the resale value is much stronger on an SUV, more than offsetting that initial cost,” said Schwegman.
This, along with offering the latest technological capabilities, has further helped the TCO of the Equinox.
Speaking of technology, there is an available multiple-color driver information center on the dashboard that provides info drivers need such as speed, trip, and fuel information. The Equinox also features Apple CarPlay connectivity and Android Auto, that grants smartphone compatibility.
Schwegman said that the capabilities of the Equinox make it not only a great fleet asset, but it also serves well as a recruiting tool and when trying to retain top talent.
“Many of these companies are fighting for the best employees and best sales reps, and the Equinox is not just a small compact sedan, its an SUV that can fit five and is versatile,” Schwegman said.
Batchik stressed how this all plays into another key area of fleet management: driver satisfaction.
“If your driver doesn’t like their vehicle, you’re going to hear about it, so they try to pick a vehicle that’s going to give driver satisfaction so they can retain happy employees,” Batchik said.