In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, General Motors Fleet & Commercial Operations (FCO) general manager stated that GM was on track to beat its total for fleet sales last year. Peper said that business in the first quarter had been very successful—coming in 25% over the same quarter a year ago.
“Both heavy-duty pickups and full-size van sales are up,” he related. “For Q1, full-size pickup sales to commercial buyers were up 33% and van sales rose just under 37%.”
According to Peper, higher sales can be attributed to several factors. “The average age of the vehicle fleet out there is now 11 years [and this is driving demand.]
“We also have a wide array of vehicles fleets can choose from, including the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended-cab bi-fuel pickup introduced at the NTEA Work Show, which we ‘re now starting to take orders on,” he continued. He said that this truck is but one of two such vehicles that have the fuel system fully warranted by the manufacturer and that the GM/Chevy bi-fuel trucks have more useable bed space than competitive models.
The bi-fuel pickups are powered by a CNG- capable Vortec 6.0L V8 engine that GM said “seamlessly transitions between CNG and gasoline fuel systems.” The trucks offer a range of more than 650 mi.
Peper also said that commercial buyers in search of alternative fuel options, especially bi-fuel and CNG; those desiring vehicles that offer a high degree of driver safety; and those seeking the lowest cost of ownership—including fuel efficiency and depreciation—are increasingly turning to GM.
He noted that when it comes to fuel choices, there is much interest from commercial buyers in GM’s CNG-powered Chevy Express and GMC Savana full-size vans and that the company is “anxious to see how the bi-fuel pickup with CNG appeals to customers. And our large vans with gasoline engines have better fuel economy than Ford’s. We also offer LPG on cutaway vans. It all amounts to quite a few options for our customers.”
Joyce Mattman, director of GM Commercial Product & Specialty Vehicles, pointed out that the company’s full-size vans with dedicated CNG fuel systems “appeal to customers with access to natural-gas fueling infrastructure; so they are mostly commercial buyers.
“ The interesting thing with the bi-fuel pickup is that capability will allow drivers to take the vehicle where there is no CNG stations,” she continued. Mattman added that GM will be looking closely at “how many bi-fuel trucks we sell to retail vs. commercial customers.”
Asked if GM was considering broadening its vehicle portfolio with a van larger than the Chevy Express/GMC Savana models-- perhaps imported from Europe—Peper replied that the OEM is “always looking at various [vehicle[ segments but we have no plans on other vans to speak of.”