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GM Lays Out the Plan for Fleet

In July 2009, General Motors was reborn with four core brands and an eye toward the future. GM’s fleet chief, Brian Small, discusses how a leaner — and greener — GM plans to meet the needs of commercial buyers in the years to come.

November 2010, by - Also by this author

In January, General Motors Co. named 31-year company veteran Brian Small its executive director for Fleet and Commercial Operations. Business Fleet had the opportunity to talk fleet with Small and other members of GM's fleet team during a visit to the Bobit Business Media offices in October.

BF: How has GM been addressing the fleet and commercial business since the bankruptcy?

BS: When we emerged from bankruptcy, we said we were going to change the fundamentals of the company. The first thing we did was reduce the footprint, which allowed us to focus our resources on the four remaining brands.

When we went through our tough times, particularly during bankruptcy, some businesses either couldn't or didn't want to do business with us. But we're back in the market very aggressively. We had five national fleet account executives on our commercial service team. I didn't feel that was adequate, so I doubled that number to 10, two for each region. Their sole job is to service our fleet customers.

We have completed the wind down of our medium-duty business, with the exception of the service side. We'll have service-only dealers that will be handling all the service needs of our medium-duty customers for the next four or five years.

BF: Are there any new technology tools available for fleets?

BS: We introduced Business Bridge, our telematics system, at our product preview this year. Business Bridge allows fleets to monitor mileage, fuel pressure and other maintenance data to help keep their maintenance costs down. It's being piloted at two major fleet management companies now.

We're in the process of launching a new social media tool, through LinkedIn, that's designed to stay in constant communication with our commercial customers as well as some noncommercial customers. We'll be rolling it out here in the next month or so.

BF: How has dealership attrition affected fleet?

BS: We will have gone from 6,500 dealers to about 4,500 by Nov. 1. However, we stayed exactly the same with our fleet-minded Business Central dealers. We had 450 [Business Central] dealers before the attrition, and we have 450 now, so I think we've got the country covered very well.

BF: How are fleet sales faring, and what is your mix of fleet to retail?

BS: On the fleet and commercial side, we're having a very good year. We're up about 45 percent. [Fleet is] generally about 25 percent of the company's volume and we're running about 28 percent right now.

At the beginning of this year we increased our rental volume to meet the needs of our rental car customers, who had just begun to replenish their fleets. We knew we were going to be heavy on the rental side in the beginning of the year. Our rental volume started coming down in May and June while our commercial volume started picking up. Commercial [sales] will be carrying it for the balance of the year. We'll settle out at a little north of 25 percent. That's where we'd like to be.

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