EDEN PRAIRIE, MNIncreased prices for replacement tires and higher labor rates were the driving factors in fleet car maintenance costs rising 5 percent for the 2008-calendar year compared to 2007. Results are based on data from a fleet passenger car maintenance study conducted by GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services of 70,374 passenger cars during the 12-month period from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2008.

Tire expenses continued to increase in 2008 in reaction to the higher cost of oil, a key ingredient in manufacturing tires. The trend to larger 17- and 18-inch wheel sizes also added to replacement tire expenses.

In addition, labor rates continued to rise in the automotive service industry due to rising internal business costs, higher skill set demanded of technicians, and parts delays.

Overall preventive maintenance (PM) expenses remained flat in calendar-year 2008 compared to 2007, with the PM incident rate also declining as fleets increased adoption of extended oil change intervals recommended by several OEMs and oil life monitoring systems — resulting in fewer PM repair shop visits, less driver downtime, and lower overall PM costs.

Though the incident of catastrophic expenses for powertrain failures has decreased across the board among commercial fleets, the increase in powertrain warranties by OEMs may result in higher maintenance costs for fleets.

Despite rising maintenance costs, the overall increase in vehicle quality for 2008 has helped offset other maintenance cost increases.