• In response to the rising number of pedestrian accidents involving electric vehicles too quiet to hear approaching: Toyota has offered a solution for its customers overseas:

    Toyota Motor Corp. announced that it will begin selling an onboard device in Japan designed to alert pedestrians and others audibly to the presence of a quiet vehicle, such as a gasoline-electric hybrid.

    The device will be available in Japan through authorized Toyota dealers and Toyota parts and accessories distributors for retrofitting on the third-generation Prius.

    The onboard device automatically emits a synthesized sound of an electric motor when the Prius is operating as an electric vehicle at speeds up to approximately 25 km/h. The sound -- aimed to alert but not annoy -- rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle's speed, thus helping indicate the vehicle's proximity and movement.

    The device is designed to meet Japan's new Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism guidelines for hybrid and other near-silent vehicles.

    Toyota also plans other versions of the device for use in gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles as well as fuel-cell hybrid vehicles planned for launch. 

    [via Automotive Fleet]

    (Tags: Toyota, Prius, noise, engine, safety)

    Photo courtesy of Beth and Christian Bell and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • A new Toyota Tundra pickup struck an oak tree off a rural road in Washington state in 2007, killing the 29-year-old driver, in what in many ways seemed liked a common sort of tragedy.

    When this April the driver's parents and a U.S. senator finally prevailed upon Toyota to examine the contents of the truck's crash data recorder, the electronic readings suggested a collision that was far from ordinary.

    The data indicated the truck had been going 177 mph when it hit the tree, much faster than what the pickup possibly could go, safety experts said. Yet a separate reading from the recorder put the speed at 75 mph before impact.

    As the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration conducts its investigation into unintended acceleration in Toyotas, the crash data recorders or "black boxes" in the vehicles have become a primary piece of evidence. But long-standing reservations about the reliability of the data -- some of which have been voiced by none other than Toyota officials -- raise doubts about how much the safety agency can rely on them to determine the cause of the crashes.

    "The Toyota EDRs are so unreliable that even Toyota has challenged their reliability in court," said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety. "Given the demonstrated errors, NHTSA can't rely upon them in its investigation."

    Toyota has been reluctant to reveal the contents of the crash data recorders, which some have used in lawsuits against the company. The family of the driver of the Toyota Tundra that struck the oak in Washington state repeatedly asked the automaker to provide a reading from the data recorder, but Toyota refused. It wasn't until Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) pressed the company in hearings in March that Toyota offered to read the data.

    [via The Washington Post]

    Photo courtesy of Dion Gillard and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Many fleet managers deal with drivers remotely because they manage nationally dispersed fleets. Most never meet the majority of their drivers. My question is: Do you really know who is driving your company-provided vehicles? Often the "at-work" persona of an employee is not the true indicator of their behavior when no one is watching. Recently, someone forwarded me a link to a chat room for pharmaceutical reps. I did a search of posts that included the phrase "company car" and, in short order, I was shocked at some of the comments written about their use of company cars and how drivers play "the system" to their advantage.

    Here is a suggestion from one pharma rep on how to avoid personal use charges while vacationing:

    ".... (Before you go on vacation), you need to take the company car into the dealership to repair a 'weird noise and vibration on the right front part of the car' the afternoon of the day before you leave. Since your car is in the dealership, you'll need a rental vehicle. You will have to go and get a rental from Enterprise. The Enterprise guys all want to be pharma reps, so take down all their personal info to pass on. Then, ask if you can get upgraded to a luxury or SUV. Free car for a week, no mileage reporting, and free gas. Have done it for years."

    I don't know about you, but I was floored when I read this post. This scam never occurred to me, but I can see how it could easily slip through the cracks and not be detected by the fleet manager. This scam could be thwarted by working with HR to check whether car rentals coincide with the start of vacations.

    But it doesn't stop there... read the full article here.

    Fuelman’s webinar “Hidden Cost Savings:10 New Ways to Reduce Your Fuel Costs” will take place on September 21st at 2pm EST. Look for details coming soon at www.fuelman.com.

    Photo courtesy of Mike Renlund and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Drowsy drivers are a major problem in the fleet world, especially in long-haul trucking.  Now a new study hopes to find new ways of combating this issue:

    The Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic, in association with NeuroTrials Research, recently received a driving simulator to test new sleep medications. The clinic is the only accredited sleep disorders center in Georgia to house a driving simulator.

    The Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic will be testing patients on their alertness and reaction time during monotonous drives and on curvy roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. The driving simulator gives physicians the opportunity to safely study the science behind drowsy driving.

    "We're excited to be using the driving simulator to test the effects of sleep medications as well as sleep disorders on everyday tasks that impact the health and safety of our patients," said Carlo Noble, the sleep lab coordinator.

    Designed to reflect the look and feel of the driver's seat, study participants will easily recognize the positioning of familiar objects. Positioned behind the wheel, three computer monitors mimic the range of vision from a real vehicle. Two cameras, one facing study participants and one facing the screens, record the simulation.

    Sleep technicians at the clinic monitor patients during their drive. One technician sits with the study participant inside the room during the simulation. Technicians do not intervene unless a participant falls asleep during the drive and "crashes."

    "We are proud to be contributing to the science of sleep-wake disorders by utilizing the latest innovative, experimental techniques to assess the effects of new medications on sleep disorders," said Dr. Russell Rosenberg, director of the Atlanta Sleep Medicine Clinic. "Improving sleep quality and treating chronic sleep disorders can lead to better health and increased public safety."

    [via Automotive Fleet]

    Photo courtesy of jithesh and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • The city of Omaha, Nebraska still operates a 1988 Kenworth truck as a part of its municipal fleet.  The old vehicle is a reminder of how cities under budget constraints must deal with their situation.

    The truck has 774,000 miles on it, and it's still part of regular operations, according to the Omaha World Herald. It is used to haul sewage, and because it is used almost entirely on the highway, high mileage has not been a major problem. The city hopes to break a million miles with the old workhorse, according to Omaha equipment services manager Marc McCoy.

    Although delaying fleet purchases is an easy way to save money, repair costs also go up as vehicles age. The older fleet also takes more gasoline and oil than newer vehicles, McCoy said.

    The city spent $64 million repairing its fleet and other equipment from 2002 through 2008.

    Even small repairs can require significant downtime, said McCoy. When wiring goes bad, his team can spend weeks looking for the faulty line.  Repairs for the city's park fleet can be tricky because several tractors have been around since the 1960s. In many cases, the parts don't exist any more, so city mechanics try to make their own in the welding shop.

    The age of a fleet can also present a public safety issue. In the past three months, one of the city's Crown Victoria police cruisers with 175,000 miles on it has been in the shop five times. The $3,500 in repairs is more than half the car's Blue Book value and has caused a valuable service vehicle to be off the streets, and away from its duties.

    If your fleet is facing budgetary issues, saving money shouldn’t come at the expense of safety or other operations.  We suggest saving some money with a fleet card.

    Photo courtesy of John Lloyd and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

  • Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne complained bitterly earlier this week about Automotive News coverage that said much of the Chrysler sales recovery in recent months is based on an unusually high reliance on fleet sales, reportedly around 39 percent of its total sales — a number Chrysler won’t confirm or deny. In particular, he objected to an indirect suggestion that fleet sales are a dirty little secret.

    “To suggest that fleet sales is sort of a dirty word is a bizarre concept,” he said in an Aug. 9 conference call with analysts and reporters. He said in several different ways he took exception to calling fleet sales “dirty.”

    Marchionne correctly pointed out that Chrysler is hardly unique in selling plenty of cars to fleets, and he said that money from fleet customers is just as good as anybody else’s.

    Marchionne’s reaction aside, what’s important about fleet sales is that they’re typically less profitable per unit than sales to individual retail customers.  Precisely how much less profitable fleet sales are is a closely guarded secret. For that matter, per-unit profits are a trade secret all around, for fleet or for retail sales.

    Within the fleet number it’s also important to distinguish between sales to government and commercial fleets, which are said to be relatively profitable, versus sales to daily rental fleets, which aren’t.

    To be precise, Marchionne’s reaction this week wasn’t to the story itself, it was in response to a video promotion over the weekend for Monday’s print and online issue of Automotive News. In the promotion, which was e-mailed to subscribers who had opted-in to get the weekly blurbs, Editor Jason Stein called fleet sales a “dirty little word in the sales recovery of 2010.”

    [via BNET]

    (Tags: Fleet Sales, Chrysler, Sales)

    Photo courtesy of Steven DePolo and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Mazda Motor Corp. is recalling 215,000 MY 2007-2009 Mazda3 and Mazda5 vehicles because of reports of sudden failure of the power steering assist, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

    Some drivers have reported that they've suddenly lost power steering assist while driving, making steering the vehicle more difficult. This poses a safety risk. 

    Because of a short supply of parts, the first phase of recall notification will begin around Sept. 15. The second phase is expected to begin in September as well but may extend into February 2011. 

    Owners can reach Mazda at (800) 222-5500. 

    [via Automotive Fleet]

    Photo courtesy of Christopher Alba and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • CPO Sales Taking Off

    Aug 18, 2010

    If you’re looking for new fleet vehicles, now seems to be a good time to look into certified pre-owned vehicles:

    Certified pre-owned sales came roaring back in July, which was the strongest CPO month the industry has seen in more than two years.

    In fact, a slew of brands reported all-time records for CPO sales, according to Autodata Corp.

    Overall, Autodata Corp. indicated that there were 153,259 certified units sold in July. The last time CPO sales reached this level was May 2008, the company noted.

    July's figures marked a 19.1-percent gain over the prior-year period. The CPO market notched an 11.2-percent gain from June.

    In addition to discussing their results from July, several automakers also shared with Auto Remarketing how they are utilizing the Web as an effective avenue for selling CPO vehicles.

    For instance, Toyota — which hit a best-ever July with sales of 29,344 certified units sold — has benefited greatly from using the Web to move certified units, including some traction gained on the hybrid side of the CPO market.

    "Interactive for us is a huge part of our marketing," shared Scott Heyer, corporate manager for fleet, TRAC and TCUV at Toyota Motor Sales, USA. "We just recognize that more and more consumers are turning to the Internet for information, shopping and consideration."

    Toyota launched a website specifically for hybrid CPO vehicles in early 2008, and this has helped to push sales for these vehicles up significantly. For instance, there were 7,262 hybrid CPO vehicles sold by Toyota in 2007. That number jumped to 17,348 in 2009. 

    [via Auto Remarketing]

    Photo courtesy of The Consumerist and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • New OrleansThe New Orleans Equipment Maintenance Division is allegedly housing dozens of unrepaired police cars and city vehicles due to the budget crisis. In some cases, they’ve sat there for months, reported The Times-Picayune.

    "The real issue is budgetary," said Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The Equipment Maintenance Division had a $3.2 million budget in 2009. In 2010, the division's budget has been cut by 13 percent $2.8 million, and could be cut still further by the end of the year. That means there simply isn't money available to repair cars that have been damaged in accidents, Berni said.

    Police vehicles consume between 60 percent and 65 percent of the division's budget, and the Police Department is feeling the pinch.

    "We've got a bunch of cars stacked up right now that need body work, but there's no one to do it," said Assistant Chief Marlon Defillo at a recent NOPD statistics meeting.

    Defillo asked his police commanders to remind their officers to be careful not to get into any scrapes with their cruisers, because there's no telling when they'll get fixed. Of the NOPD's 1,376 vehicles, 78 are awaiting repair at this point, according to City records.

    The city refused permission for a reporter to speak with supervisors at the plant and said the Police Department has adequate vehicles to carry out routine operations.

    Battered police cars made up the majority of abandoned vehicles at the plant on a recent afternoon, though the yard also featured ambulances, fire trucks, and street sweeping machines.

    Mayor Landrieu is set to release his 2011 budget in the fall.

    [via Government Fleet]

    Photo courtesy of Ron Riering and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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  • Ford Motor Company is offering four new truck engines with six-speed automatic transmission as standard in the 2011 Ford F-150.

    Each engine delivers improved fuel economy, outstanding performance and class-leading capability, according to the automaker. This versatile new powertrain lineup enables F-150 customers to choose the engine that best suits their needs.

    Available at launch are a 3.7L V-6 and a 5.0L V-8, each with fuel-saving and performance-enhancing twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) technology, and a version of the 6.2L V8 that is the base engine in the 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty.

    A 3.5L EcoBoost engine, specially tuned and calibrated for the F-150, will be available in early 2011. With this engine, the F-150 will have up to 20 percent better fuel economy compared with the outgoing 2010 F-150.

    "Our new engine lineup allows greater flexibility for customers to select the powertrain choice that best suits their needs," said Barb Samardzich, vice president of powertrain engineering. "We are in the midst of a powertrain revolution, with 30 new powertrains over the next two years."

    The new engines for the Ford F-150 follow the all-new engine lineup for the 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty introduced earlier this year and highlighted by the 6.7L Power Stroke V-8 turbocharged diesel, which delivers best-in-class torque, horsepower, and fuel economy, according to the automaker.

    For full descriptions of the new powertrain options, click here.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

    Photo courtesy of The Car Spy and re-used under the Creative Commons license.

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