With the country poised to exit the recession and get back to work, General Motors has updated and enhanced Business Central, its commercial dealer program designed to meet fleet and small business customer needs.

"We are already seeing indicators of the recovery, and historically, business vehicles lead the way," says Brian Bowden, dealer operations director for GM Fleet and Commercial Operations (GMFCO). "We are working to make sure our commercial dealer network is ready."

The Business Central program is built on a nationwide network of GM dealerships that meet strict requirements to serve the work vehicle customer. GM is establishing new standards for staffing and inventory as well as the training of commercial salespeople.

Bowden emphasizes that the program is going strong with more than 400 participating dealers. "Overall, the GM dealer network remains the largest in the automotive industry," says Bowden.

The Business Central program is built on the core principles of dealer staff expertise, inventory requirements, maintenance and servicing capabilities as well as incentive options.

Dedicated Fleet Consultants

Business Central dealerships are required to employ at least three dedicated commercial sales representatives as well as a commercial sales manager trained on the vehicles, upfit offerings and financing options.

Ken Thompson, director of fleet operations at The Thompson Group Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, Texas, explains that he'll query a customer on type of work, required payload and usage patterns to offer the best vehicle option. "We'll go out to their business and take inventory of their vehicles. You get a pretty good idea of what they need by the way their trucks look," Thompson says.

According to Randy Marion of Randy Marion Auto Group in Mooresville, N.C., his staff operates similar to a fleet management company. His services for fleet clients include financing, titling and licensing, upfits, vinyl wraps and logos and delivery of new vehicles. "We're not just a fleet dealership," says Marion. "We're providing a service to these people who don't have the time to do those things for themselves."

Inventory for "I need it yesterday"

Business Central dealerships are required to maintain an inventory of commercial vehicles in stock for immediate sale. Vehicles include the full spectrum of work-ready Chevy and GMC trucks, vans, cars and SUVs. Many are already equipped with vocational upfits from specialty vehicle manufacturers.

Most Business Central dealerships stock much more: Marion's dealerships carry around $20 million in commercial vehicle inventory. Thompson says his dealership stocks about 400 work-ready vehicles, including service bodies, ¾-ton trucks, one-ton trucks, crew cabs, extended cabs, flat beds and cargo vans. He estimates the dealership has 40 different service bodies in stock.


An experienced fleet dealer will anticipate the needs of the client before the client requests vehicles. "We talk to customers and find out what they think their need is going to be," says Billie Nimnicht, president of the Nimnicht Family of Dealerships in Jacksonville, Fla. "Most times, they end up needing the truck, and then we are really serving them because we anticipated their needs better than they did."

If a vehicle is not in stock, commercial managers at Business Central dealerships will assist in locating and delivering a vehicle to their client. Commercial managers work directly with upfit companies to ensure that the installation is handled seamlessly and efficiently.

Making Maintenance Easy

Knowing that breakdowns can be costly for a business relying on its fleet vehicles for revenue, Business Central dealerships have service departments with the facilities, tools, equipment and certified technicians to get vehicles back on the road as soon as possible.

Nimnicht has service hours until 2 p.m. on Saturdays, though the commitment extends further when needed. "A few weeks ago we had a couple of guys work on a commercial vehicle until five [on Saturday] to get it out for the customer," he says.

With specialty vehicles in mind, each Business Central dealerhip is obliged to have at least one expanded service bay with 14-foot service doors as well as a heavy-duty hoist with 16,000 lbs. minimum GVW capacity.

Twenty-four-hour towing capabilities are also a requirement.

Thompson's dealership picks up and returns vehicles for servicing. "We send a driver to get their truck," he says. "They appreciate that."

In addition, a service advisor can help clients develop a maintenance schedule for healthy vehicle performance. Thompson's team handles this burden for some fleet clients. "We keep track of maintenance expenses so when they become too high on a vehicle, we can show they're better off buying a new one," Thompson says.

Sidebar: Business Choice Incentive Options

GM Business Choice is an incentive designed specifically for business owners who use vehicles in the day-to-day operation of their businesses. This incentive is available with eligible Chevrolet and GMC vehicles and offers valuable upfit equipment or card incentive options.

Option A Upfit Equipment Packages

Adrian Steel: van upfits feature the ADseries adjustable shelving, which includes an adaptable rail system that allows shelving to be repositioned.

Full and Mid-size Truck Packages: include configurations such as tool boxes and ladder racks from Chevrolet and GMC Accessories and Adrian Steel.

Option B Upfit Cash

Flexible $500 or $1,000 upfit cash options for eligible Chevrolet or GMC vans, cutaways, trucks, chassis cabs or HHR.

Option C Lowe's Gift Card

$500 Lowe's Gift Card with eligible purchase or lease of a Chevrolet or GMC van, truck or SUV.

Option D GM Business Card MasterCard

With every eligible purchase or lease of a Chevrolet or GMC van, truck or SUV, customers receive a $500 statement credit if they are approved for, or already have, a GM Business Card World MasterCard.

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