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Forbes has reported that almost one-third of the more than two million vehicles Ford sold in America last year went to fleet buyers, which could be a cause of concern for the American automaker.
While it would appear that it could only be a positive thing that Ford is heavily favored among rental and commercial fleets, it has its downsides as well. For one, fleet operators purchase their vehicles in bulk and normally hold on to them for only a year or two. As a result, huge discounts are given from the manufacturers and the market becomes flooded with used vehicles after a couple of years, reducing residual values.
But the upside is that rental fleets help increase brand and product awareness with potential consumers that normally would never look at that vehicle to begin with. At the same time, a rental car that’s been poorly taken care of could leave a negative impression about a vehicle’s brand.
Ford is likely to be concerned about its fleet sales though, especially as 45-percent of its Focus production is heading to fleet inventories while the car struggles in the retail market. The next few years will be important to Ford, as General Motors and Chrysler continue to improve with great vehicles and larger profits while Japanese automakers Nissan, Honda and Toyota begin to bounce back.
The Saturn Vue is back, but you won’t be able to buy one. That’s because the Chevrolet Captiva Sport, essentially a rebadged Vue, will only be available to fleet customers.
With either a 2.4L Ecotec 4-cylinder or a 3.0L direct injection V6, the Captiva will offer an adequate powertrain for all types of customers, but we would think that fleet buyers would choose the 4-cylinder in light of the way gas prices are going up with no end in sight.
Having already been homologated for U.S. sales, the Captiva Sport should offer Chevrolet a good way to keep up in the all-important fleet market without compromising resale values of products like the Equinox crossover or the larger Traverse.
The taste of irony must be bitter for Ford Motor Co, as its dying Mercury division outsold Lincoln, Ford’s luxury division, in the month of June.
Mercury sales were up 26.2% compared to June, 2009, while Lincoln sales dropped 11% in that same time period. Leading the charge was the Mariner SUV, which reported a 37.5% percent increase in sales. However, the data did not cite whether fleet sales were included, as Mercury is tremendously popular among big fleet buyers like rental car agencies.
Ford canned the Mercury brand to focus its attention on its Lincoln brand, which is taking dead aim at Cadillac. Lincoln is expected to receive on onslaught of new product, starting with the redesigned MKX crossover this summer.