What makes a popular fleet car?

Car popularity has always been an issue of debate and popularity amongst fleet cars is a similarly contentious subject. Does popularity really mean quality and reliability, or does it mean something altogether less reassuring? For most, any given car's popularity is a combination of factors, some emotional and some practical, but is it possible to separate the two contributors?

Without segmenting the fleet industry too much (the industry varies from tool of the trade cars to all ranges of functional equipment like mine trucks and industrial diggers) it is sufficient to note that there are some cars (Toyota Camry, Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon being the most notable) which appeal to almost all segments of the fleet market. These cars are intensely popular amongst fleet buyers but the real question is why?'

Why so popular?

After researching fleet purchasing trends from Fleetcare’s databases it would seem that there are specific elements which make a popular fleet car;

  • Mid to large sized engine - Usually between 2.0-3.5 litres (slightly skewed by the larger Commodores and Falcons)
  • Usually mid sized body with 4 doors - ordinarily Sedans with SUV’s gaining some ground
  • Good (but not great) fuel economy
  • A familiar brand image - the newer brands like Great Wall or Chery don’t currently hold large market share
  • Easy to source parts for maintenance
  • Long standing model with a positive track record - the main players have models which have been in the market for decades
  • Mild styling - exotic cars don’t seem to feature heavily

Interesting recent trends

In a general sense the traditional mid sized cars have been suffering from reduced Australian sales of late. According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) “medium” sized car sales are down significantly (close to 10%) year on year, compared to 2010. This drop could be accounted for by softer than usual economic growth if it were not for the parallel increase in SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) market share.

Another trend of note is the drive towards fuel efficiency. Holden, Toyota and Ford now feature fuel efficiency as key selling point of their vehicles. This is in marked contrast to previous attitudes in the industry and all three manufacturers have improved the fuel efficiency of their most popular fleet models. With big room for further fuel efficiency amongst the more prominent fleet cars, further movements in this direction should be expected.

What should Fleet managers take from this?

Inertia is a very powerful business phenomenon, purchasing the same model you did last time seems safe and comfortable, but will it help you achieve your goals as a Fleet Manager? While nobody advocates abandoning a solid strategy which works, it is important to understand why some vehicle purchases work out and some do not. Fleet Managers should exercise the same level of care with each purchase decision and always keep an open mind with a view to alternatives. Just because a given car purchase made sense the year before does not mean that there are no better options out there right now.

What is your favourite fleet car?

What do you think makes a great fleet car?

Please leave your comments below.

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