• A new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration examines the costs of post-collision repair among several major automakers. The result: if you’re concerned about repair costs, your best bet is a Ford.

    Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles all “cost less to repair after a collision compared to other automakers’ vehicles in the same segments” according to Motor Trend.  “Nearly 80 percent of Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln vehicles matched or beat the industry average in vehicle repair.”  Second place Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) placed about 40 percent of its vehicles below the average cost.

    The savings don’t end at the repair shop, either; insurance companies often take repair costs into account when calculating rates, so owning one of these low-risk autos will actually reduce your payments.

    Ford has made an effort to develop new repair procedures and techniques to lower repair costs for its customers.  It’s obviously working for them, as Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles lead ten of 26 segments in the study. 

    For a list of all the segment leaders, click here.

    [via U.S. News and Motor Trend]

    Photo courtesy of JD Hancock under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • General Motors returned to profitability in the first three months of the year, the automaker reported Monday. It was GM’s first profit since 2007.

    GM, which emerged from bankruptcy last July, earned $865 million on revenue of $31.5 billion. A year ago, GM’s predecessor company lost nearly $6 billion on revenue of only $22.4 billion, as sales plunged and the company hurtled toward bankruptcy.

    GM had reported losses the two previous quarters since emerging from bankruptcy. But the profit in the first quarter was expected.

    Worldwide vehicle sales jumped 24% to 1.9 million vehicles, as sales in the U.S. rose 15% and sales in China surged 71%. GM also had free cash flow of $991 million in the period, leaving it with $35.7 billion in cash on hand.

    “We’re pleased with our first-quarter performance, in particular achieving profitability,” said chief financial officer Chris Liddell in the company’s statement. “We’re also steadily growing in emerging markets, keeping our costs under control, generating positive cash flow and maintaining a strong balance sheet.”

    This return to profitability is an important first step for the company being able to sell shares in an initial public offering, and for taxpayers to get back some or all of the $50 billion in bailouts the automaker received last year. GM repaid its government loans in April, but most of the help was in return for Treasury receiving a 61% stake in the automaker. A sale of stock and a strong earnings stream are necessary for the government to get that money back.

    GM had previously said it hoped to be ready for an IPO by the end of the year, but that timing would depend on both profitability and market conditions. Liddell wouldn’t give any further guidance on the timing Monday.

    “Making a profit in the first quarter means we’re better off than we would have been otherwise,” he said. “That’s heartening. I wouldn’t take too much from that. The IPO will happen in good time when the company is ready and the market is ready.”

    [via CNN Autos]

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    • Industry News

  • In a recent Detroit News article, columnist John McCormick examines the nature of distracted driving and presents an argument that adds another layer to the swirling debate on this issue: how far should we go in legislating distractions, and which activities should be considered distracting?

    One of the activities McCormick focuses on is the use of other portable devices such as digital music players.  He says he has seen people fiddling with their iPods behind the wheel, and that the process of selecting their next song was “arguably as bad as texting on a phone.”  GPS devices that allow programming when the vehicle is in motion are also a culprit of the same level of distraction.

    So how far do we go with distracted driving?  One could argue that eating, applying makeup, shaving, and many other activities seen on the average morning commute are just as distracting as sending a text message.  Voice-controlled solutions in newer vehicles are helping with some distractions by performing tasks for us, but most people are still driving older vehicles without the technology. 

    Existing texting bans already have trouble with the specific details of their prohibitions, generally saying that texting is not allowed while still allowing drivers to look up phone numbers in a device’s directory.  These differences (and several others) make enforcing the law very difficult and even impractical for police officers.

    What do you think of these bans and distracted driving in general?  Are we going too far already, or is it time to really crack down on all forms of driver distraction?  Leave us a comment and let us know how you feel.

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    • Industry News

  • Here’s a look at a fleet consultation service that can help you streamline your operations and keep your fleet running smoothly:

    Many local municipalities, government agencies and companies are facing budget cuts at the same time they evaluate large dollar vehicle fleet decisions that could impact their organizations for many years to come.

    RET Consulting is structured to take the guess work out of these decisions by providing real-world data and cost analysis to assist decision makers make informed choices that will maximize current and future vehicle assets and save money in the short and long run.

    “With the economic pressures of today, no spending decisions should be made without a complete analysis of existing fleet assets, as well as potential new assets,” said Sam Jones, president of Recaptured Energy Technologies (RET), is a leader in providing energy solutions for fleet, commercial and transit vehicles.

    “RET Consulting has the experience and knowledge to help municipalities, government agencies and fleet managers make well-informed decisions based on comprehensive data collection and cost analysis,” he said. “RET can help support decisions that are good in the short-term but, more importantly, provide long-term cost savings and energy conservation.”

    Through its comprehensive consulting services, RET can help improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, lower vehicle maintenance costs, reduce carbon footprint and save money.

    [via Fleet Maintenance]

    • Industry News

  • In an economy that stretches every dollar budgeted to support a business, the Chameleon 2000 is offering fleet owners relief in one the most expensive areas – fuel. The cargo van partition, with its high density ABS thermoformed plastic construction, was found by the U.S. Department of Energy to save fleets an estimated 2.5 percent on fuel economy, lifting weight from the vehicle.

    The Chameleon 2000 is an energy-saving take on the traditional work van partition. With a final product weight totaling approximately 30 pounds, the Chameleon 2000 represents a more than 100-pound weight reduction from its metal counterparts. In addition to its fuel saving capabilities attributed to a lighter construction, the Chameleon 2000 also boasts green qualities – it is 100 percent recyclable and made from recycled materials, which will not corrode or rattle like a steel partition.

    Along with its ABS plastic make up, the partition also features a polycarbonate window, which allows for an unobstructed view, and a console, designed to house a laptop computer between the front seats while creating a hollow extension in the cargo area to fully stow longer items and eliminate the need for external racks.  In addition to the partition’s green construction and fuel-saving energy efficiency, the Chameleon 2000’s tight seal and impeccable sizing allows for rapid heating and cooling of the front passenger area.  This prevents strain on the vehicle’s temperature control systems, as well as reduces cabin noise, fumes and driver fatigue.

    In addition, the Chameleon 2000’s construction provides added safety for the driver and passenger from potentially flying objects and creates a secure area when used for law enforcement applications, such as Homeland Security, Border Patrol and Corrections.  Telephone and cable companies, municipalities, general trade contractors and delivery services also have benefitted from the use of the Chameleon 2000.

    And remember, if you want to save money on fuel, you can reduce your spending by up to 15% with FleetCards USA!

    Photo courtesy of CC-BY-CarImages under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • The price of oil and fuel products declined sharply in the week of May 9, with gasoline futures dropping from $2.44 per gallon to $2.10 per gallon, according to the WEXIndex Retail Fuel Price Index.

    With wholesale prices for gasoline falling in some markets, the $2.93 per gallon nationwide average retail price recorded on May 6 could be the highest number for the quarter, or event the year.

    Diesel prices also dropped, but wholesale prices didn’t fall below $2.20 per gallon. “High refinery runs and high inventories got attention last week once global money managers collectively realized that debt problems in Europe could spread,” the WEXIndex reported.

    “With the debt issues in Europe and large inventories of finished product, some experts are predicting some steep declines of over 50 cents per gallon at retail for both gasoline and diesel. Others are less bearish and think the price of gasoline could hover at around $2.75 for the remainder of the year. The good news for fleet managers is lower prices look to be on the horizon,” according to the WEXIndex.

    [via Business Fleet]

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    • Industry News

  • Donlen, North America’s fastest growing fleet leasing and management company, was named a finalist today in the Most Innovative Company of the Year category in the 2010 American Business Awards.

    The American Business Awards are the nation’s premier business awards program. All organizations operating in the U.S.A. are eligible to submit entries – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small. More than 2,700 entries from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were submitted for consideration in more than 40 categories.

     “We’re very proud to be named a finalist in this category,” said Gary Rappeport, Donlen’s Chief Executive Officer. “To be recognized for our innovation is validation of Donlen’s commitment to developing industry-leading programs and tools, but also of the hard work that our people do to ensure we’re meeting the changing needs of our customers and the industry.”

    Members of the Awards’ Board of Distinguished Judges & Advisors and specialized final judging committees will select Stevie Award winners from among Finalists in final judging that will continue through May 28. Finalists were chosen by business professionals nationwide during preliminary judging in April and May.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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    • Industry News

  • GM and OnStar’s Stolen Vehicle Slowdown (SVS) service helped safely recover a 2009 Chevrolet Impala belonging to State Senator Terry Burton, stolen in Jackson, Miss., according to GM.

    Senator Burton immediately called OnStar to report his Chevrolet Impala had been stolen on May 6.

    Once OnStar advisors verified with law enforcement that the Impala was stolen and the senator had requested assistance, they were able to quickly locate the Impala and alert the Hinds County Sheriff Department officers of its location. When officers had the vehicle in sight, they requested that Stolen Vehicle Slowdown be initiated and the vehicle was safely slowed to a stop.

    “I am very impressed with OnStar’s ability to not only locate a stolen vehicle, but to slow it down and ultimately recover it. I am pleased my Impala was returned to me without damage, but even more grateful that no one was injured during the commission of this crime,” said Senator Burton.

    According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 334 people were killed in the U.S. in crashes that resulted from police pursuits in 2008. Stolen Vehicle Slowdown helps eliminate high speed pursuits, and greatly reduces the chance of damage to property or personal injury, said GM.

    [via Automotive Fleet]

    • Industry News

  • The Kelly Blue Book website, a provider of new- and used-car information, announced the official launch of the company’s Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Vehicle Value and CPO section on its top-rated Web site for consumer automotive shopping information. 

    “Publishing the Kelley Blue Book® CPO Values will help promote manufacturer-based certification programs as well as the peace of mind it affords consumers,” said Justin Yaros, executive vice president, product design and development, Kelley Blue Book. “The new CPO section on kbb.com provides comparisons of various manufacturer programs, educating shoppers by showcasing the benefits of each car manufacturer’s certified program.”

    The new feature of the website includes a guide which educates consumers on the merits of Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle programs.  CPO vehicles are used vehicles that have been refurbished and certified by a manufacturer or other certifying authority such as a dealership, and offer benefits such as extended warranties and special financing terms.

    If you are looking for new fleet vehicles, consider CPO deals and check Kelley Blue Book!

    Photo courtesy of KB35 under the Creative Commons License

    • Industry News

  • Being a commercial driver sometimes involves working long shifts, driving long distances at all times of the day and night.  With so far to go and little time to get there, driver fatigue can become a serious issue.  Many drivers use caffeinated products on a regular basis to help them stay alert on the road, but how much is too much for these products?  Fleet Owner takes a look at the benefits and risks of caffeine for drivers:

    When it comes to staying alert behind the driver’s wheel, “caffeine is a very useful tool,” according to Todd Dawson, VP of the fatigue management company Circadian. “It does what it’s supposed to – it boosts reaction times, but it’s overused in our society. Taken in high amounts, caffeine can not only create health problems, but you build up a tolerance.”

    The stimulant effect of the caffeine in two cups of coffee lasts five to seven hours, he said. Instead of drinking coffee throughout the day, perhaps consuming as much as eight cups, truck drivers should drink a cup or two at the start of their work day and then another one or two cups only when they begin to feel drowsy later in the day.  

    “The benefit [from caffeine] is much higher when it’s used carefully,” Dawson said.

    What concerns him are the “energy boost” products and other nutritional supplements commonly marketed to drivers at truckstops.  While caffeine is often a major component in these products, “there’s not been much good solid medical research published to be able to assess whether they’re good or bad, or whether they produce interactions with other substances like allergy medicines,” said Gerald Krueger, a researcher putting together a report on stimulants for the Transportation Research Board.

    For now, though, he believes the best solution for drivers is “the natural way.” Combining proper sleep habits with an understanding for their circadian rhythms, “they can use the strengths of knowing more about their own body’s physiology to help manage fatigue,” Krueger noted.

    Photo courtesy of Jennie Faber under the Creative Commons License

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