Showing great discipline amid declining sales, the Detroit 3 have held back on the temptation to dump vehicles on fleet customers in order to boost numbers. As we reported last month, selling vehicles to corporate fleets and daily rental companies has been a long-practiced method to offload automobiles when sales slow down. Unfortunately, it also results in lowered residual values in the marketplace as these vehicles are dumped in quantity at auctions at the end of their service. Over the years, some models have even earned a "fleet" or "rental vehicle" stereotype, additionally damaging their public image, and sales, at the retail level. The Ford Taurus, for instance, was only sold to fleet customers during the last generation's final year of production, which may have further damaged the brand and affected sales of the renamed 2008 Taurus.
Even though the Detroit 3 are limiting fleet sales, it is still a large chunk of their business that accounts for nearly 35 percent of total U.S. sales for Ford and Chrysler. While fleet sales to Chrysler, GM, and Ford are down, other automakers are increasing their volume. It is reported that Toyota sold an additional 10,000 units to fleets during the first four months of 2008.