Somehow the very mention of fleet sales has become a dirty idea. Just bringing up the subject makes everyone back away into a corner.
Anything in excess is bad for you. That includes fleet sales.
Not long ago, fleet sales were just another way of keeping the production line running when dealerships wouldn't buy another car. Those fleet sales turned up in auctions and on dealership used-car lots with minimal miles and just about the entire new-car warranty. That played havoc with residuals and gave everyone a bad taste for fleet.
Fleet sales can be a useful way for a new brand to get its cars to rental companies. Hyundai has been successful putting products in rental fleets so they can be sampled by consumers who otherwise wouldn't have considered a Hyundai.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Nissan have a fascinating plan in which Enterprise will rent more than 500 of the new Nissan Leaf electric vehicles. It must be a good financial deal for Enterprise. And if the cars are in the Enterprise fleet used by insurance companies to provide loaners to people whose cars are in a collision shop, rather than in the airport-rental fleet, they can furnish good input for Nissan from local rental customers who use the vehicles in their normal day-to-day routines. It's a huge sampling program for Nissan and Enterprise.
Automotive News reports fleet sales because it's important to see the percentage of retail deliveries going to fleets.
I expect a lot more fleet sales from newcomers. It's simply a matter of time until the Chinese start selling cars in North America. And undoubtedly they will use fleet sales to test the waters with American consumers.
Fleet sales make sense when done in moderation.
There is no magic number for what percentage of retail deliveries should be fleet sales. But when a company sells too much fleet, everyone knows -- and it comes back to haunt the retail system.
Moderation in all things.