Automotive Fleet magazine is perhaps the most comprehensive publication covering all spectrums of the fleet industry. From telematics to tire pricing trends, they cover the spectrum of items encountered by professional fleet managers.
These fleet vehicles of the year are chosen at the end of the calendar year, thus making 2019 the most recent, with fleet managers voting for their pick. These winners should be a better reflection of real life as actual experience with how these vehicles behave in service is considered before votes are cast. An award winner based upon emotion or what performs best on the skidpad it is not.
So let’s get started.
Car Of The Year: The Toyota Camry
This reflects how Toyota has identified an expanding market for themselves as the discontinued Ford Fusion was the winner for 2018 and 2017. Why should Toyota run from it? Business is business and the Camry is presenting itself as having the lowest total cost of ownership.
While passenger car sales to fleets can be a double-edged sword (think Chrysler Sebring convertibles and later model Ford Crown Victorias), these sales are moving the iron and filling a market need. Perhaps some think Toyota shies away from fleet sales, which might once have been the case, but times change. In February 2018 Bloomberg News reported Toyota sold 24,281 vehicles to fleets, primarily rental fleets, in January 2018, with demand being up 69% from the prior month.
For comparison, Nissan sold 21,550 fleet units that same month.
The Camry being available as a hybrid was also an enticement for fleet buyers. Says Dan Fordiani, group manager of Toyota fleet sales: “on our commercial fleets when you look at Camry hybrid volume, in our year-over-year performance, our hybrid volumes doubled…We are seeing a growing momentum with our fleet customers on a greener focus, and they certainly recognize hybrids…Any hybrid is a viable way for them to accomplish their goals.”
SUV Of The Year: The Chevrolet Equinox
2019 was the inaugural year for this award, created due to the ongoing shifts in the market.
The third generation Equinox is proving to be a popular vehicle for many types of fleets and it has showing itself to be an effective tool for employee recruitment. Its AWD availability is also making happy owners in areas that see frequent snow fall.
General Motors’ fleet efforts with the Equinox have included expanding the production allotment going to fleets in 2018 and the creation of a 2FL trim for 2019. This 2FL trim is a combination of safety features bundled together, features that may be standalone options on retail models.
Mike Batchik, a fleet product manager at GM, says about the 2FL: “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.”
Truck Of The Year: The Ford F-150
For the fourth time in ten years, the F-150 has won this award. Until this year, this category also included SUVs, although the Chevrolet Silverado won for 2018.
Commercial vehicle demand increased again last year while 2020 is the last year for this generation of F-150. The sheer variety of body styles, drivetrains, and options on offer greatly resonates with commercial customers. One of these offerings is Ford’s “fleet relevant content”.
According to John Ruppert, general manager of Ford’s fleet and government sales: “Examples of fleet relevant content are durable vinyl seats on work trucks and automatic emergency braking…Fleet customers and our advisory boards have said there are certain things they want. Then there are things that we do for the retail portion of our business, but maybe aren’t as relevant for fleet.”
Ford has also made several items available on lower trim fleet models, such as the 3.0 Power Stroke V6 diesel and 8-way power driver’s seat.
The referenced article from automotive-fleet.com says the next generation F-150 will have both hybrid and all electric versions available. This generation will be introduced later in 2020 but no timeframe was provided for electrically motivated models.
Commercial Truck Of The Year: The Ford F-550 chassis-cab
This win comes from the April 2019 issue of Worktruck Magazine but was found at automotive-fleet.com.
Kevin Koester, Ford’s medium duty truck marketing manager, stated versatility is the appeal of the F-550. He stated they are always refining the truck to make up-fitting easier and quicker. Ford is the only manufacturer to have continuous production of Class 4-5 trucks for over twenty years, something reflected in its market share. Ford has 73% of the market among the F-450 and F-550 audience and over 80% market share with utilities and government.
With the ongoing changes in product and the market itself, 2020 will be an interesting year in the fleet world.
It is interesting that there is no category for vans, vehicles which have almost no market outside of fleet business. My guess would be that the Ford Transit would be the winner based on the number seen on the roads in my area, but there are still a lot of the old-style Chevrolet vans in service here too.
It seems that the top fleet vehicles over time have been one of two kinds – either stuff nobody really wanted at retail but which offer a certain something in fleet applications (like the Sebring and later Crown Vics you mentioned) and fleet models of some of the most popular cars made because of their strong resale value and low ownership cost. The Camry would fit right in here.
While we see a lot of the Ford Transits around [Baltimore] too, the most prevalent fleet van seems to be a tie between the Nissan NV and the ProMaster like Paul’s (before the customization of course ;o).
Seldom see a Nissan NV here, but lots of Transit and almost as many ProMaster in the Los Angeles area.
That “old-style Chevrolet” van has been around since 1995, making it 25 years old this year. Remember how ancient the previous-generation Chevy vans seemed by the end of their run? The current Express van is now even older…
As you say commercial vans are sold to commercial fleets almost exclusively. So if they buy what they think is the best then yeah the Fords win with the Transit selling about twice as fast as the #2 Chevy. The Transit Connect does even better.
Sorry JP. Livery and taxi fleets loved the Crown Victoria – highly durable and easy maintenance. The chassis can survive curb impacts that would strand other vehicles. I was riding in such a vehicle in NYC when the driver cut a corner at speed and so bad over an 8” curb that the vehicle rear end kicked around sharply. The impact would have ripped out the rear suspension on other cars and CUVs, but not the Vic. The Vic kept rolling without any vibration.
When Ford announced the discontinuation of the Panther cars, fleet owners scoured the market to buy out any Panthers they could find – new and used.
The City of Las Vegas (and I assume some other cities as well) have a mandate to use only alternative-fuel vehicles. The city-owned F250/350 have Powerstroke Diesel engines running on 100% BioDiesel and the F150 run on CNG.
The passenger vehicles have been a mishmash of what’s available at any given moment. The 1st-gen Ford Escape Hybrid was popular in its time, as was the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight (2nd gen). I’m starting to see Hybrid Camry as the fleet turns over.
There are a number of gov’t agencies that mandate the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles when one is available, which means there are a lot of flex fuel trucks, even if they only run on gasoline. But yeah the gaseous fuel prep package is an important option to even be qualified to sell to certain fleets and that is the real reason behind the 1/2 ton diesels coming to market.
This only reflects one particular company’s rental fleet…last month in Philadelphia, the “You pick one” aisle for those who were renting at midsize sedan level and up (but not Prestige level or Specialty) featured cheap Kia and Hyundai sedans. There was a smattering of compact crossovers and a very few one-of-a-kind outliers. Someone was already looking at the Jeep Cherokee. I took a Chrysler Pacifica.
I saw an interesting commercial pairing yesterday at a water main repair near my house. A city water department F150, white and very generic looking, and a silver Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid whose doors bore signage for a water meter repair and calibration company.
Makes sense to me. The Hyundai Ioniq gets good fuel economy and is pretty inexpensive.
I think Hyundai has been prioritizing fleet sales in recent years. Rental agencies seem to have lots of Hyundais (as G Poon notes above), and the federal government operates a whole lot of Sonatas. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Ioniq becomes popular for agencies requiring a low-emissions fleet vehicle.
Fleet pickup here is either the Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux either 4×4 or 4×2 depending on need, where I’m working now Hilux is weapon of choice trim level depends on where in the food chain your job sits,management vehicles tend to be clean and nicely equipped inside, irrigation crew utes are just a blob of mobile mud, how long they last depends on what they are used for too, Trucks at this place are Isuzu 8x4s either tipping flat decks or non tipping flat decks or bulk bin tippers, we haul bulk vegetables into Mc Cains for proccessing either grown by the company I work for or outside suppliers. We also haul waste product out for use as supplementary feed for dairy cows its a busy little 24/7 operation.
Interesting! Safety equipment should be made available to anyone who wants it in any trim level and not just that way on a fleet purchase. Sucks if you need a particular type of vehicle and are willing to buy a new one but then have to pony up for a more expensive trim level than desired just to get something that will hopefully never be needed but you’d rather have just in case…
For a number of years GM made rental fleet bound vehicles w/o the side airbags that were standard on retail versions.
Yes I recall that specifically Enterprise had a lot of Impalas configured that way, not sure about other brands or companies. That’s an even worse situation as I find it fairly unconscionable that Enterprise would then sell these cars and most consumers would have NO idea that their rental version didn’t have the same safety features as was standard on any other Impala produced at the time. I perfectly understand decontenting and it makes some sense on a rental from the rental company’s viewpoint even if it makes the manufacturers car look worse from a possible eventual buyer’s perspective but removing safety equipment? Shouldn’t happen.
That is one that griped me, also. Amortize the items, place them on every unit that comes down the line regardless of destination, and make happier customers. I’m not seeing a downside.