Toyota, Hyundai drive muted fleet sales in Jan.
The industry usually sees a surge of fleet sales in the first quarter, but so far this year it is a different story. Fleet efforts by the Detroit 3 and Nissan were subdued in January, while Toyota and Hyundai-Kia made the only aggressive moves.
Among the major automakers, fleet sales rose 4 percent in January to 179,000 units, dwarfed by a 19 percent surge in retail volume.
Fleet sales represented 16 percent of Toyota Motor Sales' total, double the normal mix for the company. That's up 13 percent from unusually brisk fleet volume in January 2012, said Bill Fay, Toyota brand boss.
He said a late start to 2013-model Camry production caused Toyota's fleet bump this year.
"It will all balance out by the end of the year and be [back] at the 8 to 10 percent range," Fay said.
Hyundai-Kia America fleet sales soared 37 percent in January, hitting 14 percent of the sales mix compared with 10 percent a year earlier. That offset a 2 percent retail decline and gave the Korean brands a net 2 percent gain in volume.
But the four automakers with the biggest fleet mix in January 2012 throttled back this year.
Despite expanding its offering of commercial vehicles since last year, Nissan North America cut January fleet sales 26 percent, reducing its mix to 18 percent from 24 percent a year ago.
General Motors trimmed fleet sales 2 percent while its retail volume jumped 24 percent. That slashed its January fleet mix to 25 percent from 30 percent.
Chrysler Group will re-enter the commercial van market this fall with the Fiat Doblo-based Ram ProMaster, but in January fleet volume rose a mere 1 percent.
And while Ford Motor Co. boosted fleet volume 17 percent in January, its retail sales grew 24 percent, so the fleet mix dropped a point to 28 percent.
Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell says the replacement pattern for last fall's Hurricane Sandy likely skewed fleet patterns.
She said: "Some fleet could have been deferred to ensure retailers had enough units."
You can reach Jesse Snyder at email@example.com.