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Wednesday, June 07, 2006 

Vol. 2 No. 22

2007 GM Fleet and Commercial Product Review – the Best Show I Never (Officially) Attended…

Groucho Marx once said that he wouldn’t belong to any club that would have him as a member… Well, I think I need to adopt that sentiment with regard to the manufacturer fleet preview shows, the large multi-day productions that Detroit manufacturers put on for their fleet clients -- commercial, daily rental and government buyers. Back in the good old days (when the budgets were healthier), I used to get invited to these all the time. Then came the time that I paid my way in, and now I’m just “hanging around,” that is, showing up…or, in other words, crashing the party.

At any rate, General Motors’ 2007 Fleet and Commercial Product Preview was in Nashville this year, in two waves: May 8–10 and May 10–12. I and most of the corporate fleet folks went in the second wave, since the first wave conflicted with the annual NAFA convention (May 6 – 9). Unfortunately, most of the daily rental folks went in the first wave, but I had a chance to say hello to a few of them as the “waves” kind of crossed over in the middle.

Let’s Show Off some Vehicles and Have a Party

Detroit manufacturers still go all out for their annual product shows for fleet buyers, paying their invited fleet guests’ way through the entire event (airfare, hotel, social events)…and they do it right, even now, in “challenging” financial times. This year’s GM show included not only the usual product reviews, receptions and an extensive “ride & drive,” but also offered invitees their choice of a golf outing, an historic Hermitage Tour, or a tour of the Corvette Museum. In addition, guests were invited to attend a special reception, dinner and presentation at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The trip is free to invited guests and GM fleet buyers, but not us remarketing types. We only help dispose of the fleet vehicles when they are slated to end their term for fleet buyers - a vital service for fleet turnover to be sure, as one usually needs to know how to get rid of an old fleet vehicle before a replacement is purchased. Unfortunately (am I sounding annoyed here?) our service hasn’t gotten the recognition among manufacturers that would earn us a fleet show invitation…

But no matter… I usually just show up at these things on my own when my schedule permits. Now, lest you think I’m there for the food, I usually don’t go for the entertainment part of the production (not that I haven’t considered it on occasion); I go to see the cars, get updated fleet program information, and meet up with many of my clients and friends, who, indeed, are all in one spot. This year was no exception, and it actually was very easy to just follow the crowd of fleet managers from NAFA in Orlando on May 9th, up to Nashville…lots of them were even on the same flight I was…and after all, it’s practically on the way back to Philadelphia…

One unique couple, whom I mentioned in a prior blog entry, were at both NAFA and the GM Fleet show: Bret and Gail Watson, the fleet industry’s “first couple.” As I mentioned before, Bret runs Sprint’s fleet (10,600+ cars, vans, and light trucks, #22 on the list of the “Top 300 Commercial Fleets” for 2006, according to Automotive Fleet magazine); and Gail is in charge of the fleet for Nationwide Insurance (over 6,100 cars, vans, and light trucks, ranked #51 on the same “Top 300” list).

[Since a quick math calculation reveals that the combined number of cars under the Watsons’ management is just shy of the top 10 fleets in the nation, I figured that if I hung around nice folks like Bret & Gail during the GM event, my chances of getting thrown out as a gate crasher would be greatly reduced…Thanks, guys.]

Okay, so one manufacturer preview show down, two more to go (Chrysler, and then Ford)…can’t play favorites gate crashing, after all; that might engender hurt feelings…

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