General Motors is planning to push hard alternative-fuel options and maintenance services for commercial fleets in 2011. The auto giant said it is building off growing sales to what had been a moribund market during the recent global economic downturn.
In a conference call with reporters, Brian Small, gm ofGM Fleet and Commercial Operations, said the company’s sales to commercial customers rose 11% in 2010 with continued growth expect in 2011, although sales to government fleets are expected to lag due to budgetary constraints.
“We’re seeing fleets starting to reinvest in their vehicles in an expanding effort to replacing aging equipment,” Small said, pointing out that GM’s commercial sales jumped 41% in the fourth quarter last year after dipping 2% in the third quarter. In particular, GM reported that sales of cargo vans doubled in Jan. 2011 compared to figures posed in Jan. 2010.
To capture more sales in the now-expanding commercial market, GM is rolling out new factory-installed alternative fuel options this year for its cutaway van chassis, along with a new maintenance service called FleetTrac , aimed at helping commercial customers schedule vehicle repairs at outside repair shops without using a fleet management firm.
Small said GM’s Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cutaway 3500 and 4500 vans will come with a “single-source” liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) option for the 2012 model year. GM selected Knapheide Manufacturing Co. to install two different LPG systems into the 159-in. wheelbase cutaway Express and Savana vans, with CleanFUEL USA and Bi-Phase Technologies serving as tier-two suppliers for the 49- and 75-gallcapacity LPG fuel system, respectively.
The cutaways will be built at GM’s Wentzville, MO, plant and transported to Knapheide’s nearby facility for fuel storage/delivery system installation. Upon completion, vehicles will then be sent to the upfitter chosen by the customer for body installation. Cutaways available for LPG conversion cover various commercial, school bus, shuttle bus and RV applications.
Both the Express and Savana LPG cutaway vans will be covered by GM’s three-year, 36,000-mile, new-vehicle limited warranty and five-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, said Small.
He added that the GM’s initial order book for the LPG cutaways is full, but would not say which customers are purchasing them.
GM will introduce FleetTrac later this year. Small said the system offers consolidated billing and additional features that reduce the administrative burdens associated with fleet maintenance.
“Our customers have consistently asked us to help simplify their fleet management processes,” Small said. “FleetTrac has been built specifically with the needs of self-managed fleet customers in mind. It will help us offer our customers convenience while simultaneously helping them reduce their administrative workload and costs.”
Available to fleets of all sizes, FleetTrac consolidates vehicle maintenance invoices, documents vehicle repair history and minimizes the process for repair authorization. Invoice details are delivered through a secure website and can be customized to fit any business structure.
Small noted that the system does not have enrollment or processing fees and also includes flexible client-specified purchase policies and 30-day payment terms.
He added that both the LPG vehicle option and FleetTrac service “are all about building value for the customer. We always recognize that price is going to be a key consideration, but it’s just one factor in the ‘value equation’ in this segment. It’s all about helping our commercial customer worry less about their fleet so they can focus on serving their ultimate customer.”