Fleet buyers want to expand, add alternative-fuel vehicles, survey finds

Middle-market companies are looking to expand and tweak their aging vehicle fleets in light of the improving economic outlook and rising fuel costs, an industry survey released today found.

GE Capital surveyed about 400 executives who oversee fleets for companies that range from $10 million to $1 billion in sales. It found that about 27 percent plan to expand their fleets in the next year, and almost half will look to add alternative-fuel vehicles over the next five years to mitigate fuel costs. Just 4 percent already operate alternative-fuel vehicles.

Executives said their primary fleet costs were maintenance and fuel, with more than half expecting costs to increase this year. The largest expenses this past year came from older-vehicle upkeep and unscheduled repairs.

In a fleet services study released in May, GE Capital reported that general maintenance costs decreased 4 percent in 2013 from 2012 levels.

Though fleet maintenance costs have been an area of concern, the respondents -- which included retail, construction and health care executives -- reported overall improvement in their companies’ performance, with better financial results and higher employment. They also expressed confidence in the local and national economies.

The most common method of acquiring new fleet vehicles was leasing, according to the survey. Thirty percent of executives said they leased vehicles, while 28 percent used cash on hand to purchase vehicles.

For the top seven automakers, fleet sales increased 7 percent in May from a year earlier, Automotive News reported this month.

You can reach Kathleen Burke at kgburke@umich.edu

Tags: Retail Fleet