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.