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The message was upbeat. In a briefing held for members of the trucking media, Brian Small, general manager of GM Fleet and Commercial Operations, said all indications are that the industry is moving forward. "The economy is improving and customers are reinvesting in their businesses," he said. "In 2010, our fleet business grew and we believe that businesses operating fleets will continue to expand in 2011.
“After growth of more than 21% in 2010, including eight consecutive months of gains,” Small continued, “we believe that fleet business will improve between 8% and 10% industry wide in 2011. Government fleet sales are lagging behind retail sales due to budget concerns, but commercial sales are already up this year and the rental business remains solid.”
Also helping drive companies to increase capital expenditures and replace older fleet vehicles, according to Small, are the rise in used vehicle values, up about 7% from October 2010 through January 2011. In addition, pent-up demand for new equipment is contributing to the industry’s growth.
Also part of that growth, Small related, are new product offerings, such as the 2010 model year Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cutaway 3500 and 4500 vans being offered with a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) option. The cutaways can be converted to meet a wide variety of commercial fleet, school and shuttle bus, and RV requirements.
“The LPG infrastructure has progressed rapidly,” Small said. “There are already more than 2,600 LPG fueling stations nationwide and that number is expected to significantly increase, so it’s easier for our customers to refuel across the country.“
GM fleet customers ordering the new LPG option for commercial vans first specify a cutaway chassis with the OEM’s Vortec 6.0L engine. From the company’s Wentzville, Mo., plant, the vehicle is then transported to Knapheide Manufacturing Co.’s nearby facility for installation of the LPG fuel delivery system. Two different LPG fuel storage systems are available, including a 49-gal. tank from CleanFuel USA and a 75-gal. tank from Bi-Phase Technologies. The vehicle is then sent to the upfitter chosen by the fleet for body and equipment installation.
GM also is focused on service and support for fleet customers, Small noted. To “dramatically simplify the vehicle maintenance process,” he said, the OEM has introduced GM FleetTrac, which is available to fleets that schedule repairs at outside shops without the use of a fleet management company. In addition, FleetTrac is offered without enrollment or processing fees.
“GM FleetTrac reduces administrative burdens for fleet managers by consolidating vehicle maintenance invoices, documenting vehicle repair history and minimizing the process for repair authorization,” Small explained. “Invoice details are delivered through a secure website and can be customized to fit any business structure. Through FleetTrac’s consolidated service billing, drivers also are able to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses and account reimbursement processes.”
GM FleetTrac agents are now located throughout the U.S. and are available to assist customers with program or invoice questions. “Our customers have consistently asked us to help simplify their fleet management processes,” Small said. “GM FleetTrac has been built specifically with the needs of fleet customers in mind.
“From new fleet vehicle offerings to service and support programs, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations is focused on providing overall value,” he stated. “We all benefit when we find ways to let our fleet and commercial customers do what they do best.”