Less reliance on fleet sales in March

Automakers continue to cut their reliance on U.S. fleet sales as car rental companies strategically reduce vehicle purchases.

In March, the seven automakers that account for about 95 percent of light-vehicle fleet volume trimmed fleet sales by 2 percent compared with the same month last year. At the same time they boosted retail volume 7 percent.

In the first quarter, fleet was down 6 percent, and retail sales were 3 percent higher.

As daily rental companies have assumed more responsibility for selling their own used stock in recent years, their purchase patterns have changed. As a whole, they are keeping vehicles longer before reselling and buying fewer new units.

The Detroit 3, Toyota Motor Sales and Nissan North America reduced their reliance on fleet sales in March and for the first quarter.

Hyundai-Kia Automotive was the exception, increasing fleet 20 percent as retail volume dropped 3 percent in the first quarter.

General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler Group still have the highest fleet mixes of the major players because they dominate the two other fleet sectors: sales to government and commercial buyers.

In March, for example, Ford was the top fleet seller with 78,100 units and No. 3 in retail with 166,000 units. Its sales mix was 68 percent retail, 14 percent commercial fleet, 5 percent government and 13 percent daily rental, said Erich Merkle, Ford's top sales analyst.

GM said its 5 percent fleet decline in March was planned, while noting that its commercial fleet rose 5 percent.

For Chrysler Group, March retail sales jumped 19 percent and fleet fell 3 percent, reducing its fleet mix to 23 percent from 26 percent a year earlier.

You can reach Jesse Snyder at jsnyder@crain.com -- Follow Jesse on Twitter: https://twitter.com/spartyjesse



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