Continuing to build upon the theme of our last blog entry on the growth of Chrysler group fleet volume at auction (specifically minivan volume), analysts at NADA have taken a deeper dive into rental fleet penetration at the brand level to determine what proportion of new vehicle sales over the first quarter can be attributed to rental fleet sales. 

After examining R.L. Polk registration data over the first three months of the year, we see that some brands received less support from rental sales, while others continued to push a large percentage of units into daily rental fleets. 

For the purposes of this review, we’ll concentrate our analysis to those brands that historically contribute the lion’s share of supply to rental fleets; specifically Chrysler, Dodge, Chevrolet, Nissan, Ford, Toyota, Kia, and Hyundai.

We’ll start our review with the Chrysler brand, which has been receiving a lot of media attention recently for their continuous run of year-over-year sales success.  What hasn’t been discussed however is the 8 point increase in rental fleet sales over the first quarter of this year compared to the same period of time last year.  Q1 2012 new registrations tipped the 80k mark, but more than 32k – or 40% - of these units ended up in a daily rental fleet.  On the other hand, Chrysler’s stablemate Dodge actually saw their rental penetration rate drop by two points to 24% for the quarter.

Typically when we see fleet penetration of Chrysler brand’s magnitude it can be attributed to an aging model lineup and/or a shortage of retail demand, but in the case of the former, most Chrysler vehicles have been refreshed within the past few model years; this clearly means that the brand still has some work to do to catch the retail consumer’s attention.

In similar fashion Chevrolet, has sold over 435k new 2012 model year units through the first quarter of 2012, but nearly 102k of these sales have ended up as rental units.  This puts Chevy’s rental penetration rate for the quarter at 23%, or over five points more than the 18% rate seen last year.  Unlike at Chrysler, Chevy’s push to fleets can be attributed towards their aging vehicle lineup (e.g. Impala).

Nissan has also seen rental fleet rates grow.  Almost 27% of their total 2012 model year sales have been to rental fleet companies which is a 5 point increase compared to 2011 where only 21% of their total sales were to fleet companies.  Toyota fleet penetration levels through the first quarter have grown by 3 points compared to last year, landing at a respectable 16%.
Ford, Hyundai, and Kia have all pulled back on rental fleet sales for the 2012 model year.  Only 10% of new Hyundai and Kia sales have been to rental fleet companies, while Ford’s rate stood at a modest 15%.  Looking back to last year, 17% of Hyundai and 16% of Kia sales found their way to rental fleet companies.

Be sure to check out June Guidelines as we look at the five year trend of rental fleet sales for these brands, and examine each more closely at the model level.

In addition, we’ll show how large percentages of overall sales going into fleet duty can impact used vehicle prices once units start to hit the used market in large quantities 12 months or so down the road.