Article

Revving Up: Start Calling Yourself a Fleet

Small businesses that run work vehicles often don’t even know they are a fleet — and they’re leaving money on the table.

January 2013, Business Fleet - Department

by , Executive Editor - Also by this author

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The ironic thing about you, the readers of a magazine and website called Business Fleet, is that many of you don’t even know you’re a fleet. In fact, you don’t even know what the word “fleet” means. But that’s understandable. While most trade publications focus on a specific industry, Business Fleet readers come from disparate ones. You’re more worried about producing baked goods, laundering garments, building houses, installing heating ducts or removing pests than you are about managing your work vehicles better.

You don’t have the title of fleet manager; rather, you are company owners, C-suite executives, controllers, office supervisors, maintenance managers, and on down to chief cook and bottle washer. You have your primary job functions, and every once in a while you remember, “Oh yeah, I have these moving objects to keep track of.”

I’m being a bit facetious. After all, if you’re reading this, you do care about your fleet, at least a little. However, I’m guessing that many of you aren’t taking full advantage of being a fleet.

(For a full article on the benefits of fleet, click here.)

I’m really talking about qualifying for fleet status with the auto manufacturers. You probably buy or lease your vehicles from your local dealership, and that relationship has served you well over the years. You get a fair price without any need to haggle, and you probably keep your dealer honest by shopping him every now and again, as is your right and duty. But has your dealer even told you that you might be eligible for fleet status?

Fleets with less than 100 vehicles make up a majority of the U.S. commercial fleet and “non-fleet” market. Ask your dealer to find out if you qualify as a fleet in order to get incentives and other services not available in retail vehicle sales.
Fleets with less than 100 vehicles make up a majority of the U.S. commercial fleet and “non-fleet” market. Ask your dealer to find out if you qualify as a fleet in order to get incentives and other services not available in retail vehicle sales.

Qualification is not as demanding as you might think. It’s generally based on a minimum number of work vehicles registered to your company, the threshold often being 15 units, or if you’ve bought and registered five vehicles in your company’s name in the past 12 months or model year.

After qualification, you get a fleet number, and that’s where “being a fleet” actually matters. First, you are eligible for fleet incentives, which are valid for the entire model year and are often greater than retail incentives, which can fluctuate monthly.

You’re also now able to order a vehicle. And that means you can get the vehicle spec’d exactly to fit your work needs, with specific accessories that aren’t packaged together with the bells and whistles found on a retail unit. You probably remember paying for those extras when you bought off the lot, right?

Another benefit to ordering through fleet is the ability to have dealer’s advertising fees waived off your invoice, which could save you hundreds of dollars per unit.

Ordering, of course, takes some pre-planning. Order-to-delivery times average seven to 12 months and sometimes more. It is not easy for small companies to shake the “need-it-yesterday” mentality. But now that you’re officially a fleet, it’s time to start acting like one.

Ask your dealer to find out if you qualify as a fleet. If he hems and haws and tells you he’s already giving you the best deal out there, it’s a tip off that he’s more focused on retail sales. Go out and find yourself a new dealer that concentrates on fleet. There are plenty of them out there who are looking for your business.

Forgive me if you already have a fleet account and this is old news to you. But there are just too many companies out there that are officially fleets and don’t know it — and they’re leaving money on the table.


Read more articles from the Business Fleet January/February magazine issue here.

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