The Ford Fusion has been named the 2015 Fleet Car of the Year, while the Ram 1500 has been named the 2015 Fleet Truck of the year. Both racked up the most votes by fleet managers in an online ballot for the annual Automotive Fleet and Business Fleet award.
The Fusion has been named the Fleet Car of the Year more than any other model since the inception of the award in 2006 — an astounding five times. This year, the popular fleet model was named No. 1 out of a ballot of 44 cars.
“The Ford Fusion is a very important vehicle to Ford from a fleet perspective. With 33% of Fusion sales made to commercial, government and rental customers, the Fusion is a key fleet vehicle in the Ford lineup. For 2016, we added the SE Driver Assist package specifically for fleet customers based on feedback from our advisory board members,” said Fritz Ahadi, general manager, Commercial and Government Sales Operations at Ford Motor Co. “We are very pleased to receive this award.”
The Ram 1500, which was last named Fleet Truck of the year in 2012, beat out 40 truck entries.
“This award validates the pieces that we put in place and resonates with the commercial fleets, and it cascades all the way down to the end user,” said Bob Hegbloom, head of the Ram Truck brand. “As you know, there are so many different applications that we have to address. Receiving the Fleet Truck of the Year award is validation we’re doing the right thing. At the end of the day, it has got to be genuine from the standpoint of what we deliver all the way through the chain to the end user and what that customer is expecting on the job site. Our trucks deliver on what we promise.”
Fusion Moving Forward
Over the years, several notable improvements have been made to the Fusion, with the goal of constantly improving driver safety and comfort.
The 2014 model-year Fusion included new available options including the 1.5L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which offered efficiency without sacrificing performance, according to the automaker. A new, available option included inflatable rear outboard seat belts, which were added to help protect rear-seat occupants.
The 2015 model-year Fusion included new standard features such as configurable daytime running lamps and six-way power adjustable passenger seats (Fusion SE). Also, a standard rear-view camera was added to the car.
Fleets can continue to look for advancements with the Fusion. The 2016 model offers a choice of two EcoBoost engines plus hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
The available engines include the standard 2.5L iVCT I-4, which produces 175 hp and 175 lb.-ft. of torque; available 1.5L EcoBoost I-4, which produces 181 hp and 185 lb.-ft. of torque; or the 2.0L EcoBoost I-4, which produces 240 hp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque.
The 2016 Fusion is available with a 6-speed SelectShift Automatic series transmission and comes in three trim levels: S, SE and Titanium. All-wheel drive is available on the Fusion SE with 2.0L EcoBoost engine.
Standard safety features include AdvanceTrac electronic stability control, dual front air bags, front seat-mounted side air bags, dual front knee air bags, side-curtain air bags, adjustable head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system, SOS Post-Crash Alert System and rear-view camera.
The mid-size 2016 Fusion also offers an array of driver-assist features, including available adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, active park assist and lane-keeping system.
For 2016, the Fusion features a redesigned center stack; new S Appearance Package that includes 18-inch alloy painted Ebony black wheels, front fog lamps and rear spoiler; and a new SE Cold Weather Package, which offers Power Code Remote Start System, heated cloth seats and all-weather floor mats.
Ram 1500 Delivers
The Ram 1500 is available with three engines: a 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6, a 3.6L Pentastar V-6, or a 5.7L HEMI V-8.
The 3.0L EcoDiesel produces 240 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque while delivering 29 mpg. The 3.6L Pentastar produces 305 hp and 269 lb.-ft. of torque while getting 25 mpg. The 5.7L HEMI, which comes standard on the Ram 1500, delivers both horsepower and torque, producing 395 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque.
When equipped with the 3.0L EcoDiesel, the Ram 1500 has a towing capability of up to 9,200 pounds.
The three engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic TorqueFlite transmission. Other fuel-saving technologies include a thermal management system, pulse-width modulation (PWM), and active aerodynamics with grille shutters and air suspension.
Hegbloom said that the capabilities coupled with the fuel economy have resonated most with fleet managers.
“We focus first on delivering fuel economy, which drives right into the cost of ownership equation,” Hegbloom said. “The other side is how we package and put these products in place. It needs to follow what the customer is asking for. An example of this was in 2012. Ram revealed a Tradesman series of products. We start all of our trucks with the Tradesman value package whether it’s a pickup truck or a van. The true commercial customer who is using their vehicle day in and day out on the job site or as a delivery vehicle knows this is a product that was developed for them.”
A Light-Duty Renaissance?
Does Hegbloom see the light-duty market entering a new renaissance?
“Absolutely! The first thing is an increase in crew cabs within the segment — crew cabs now represent 70-80% of the overall build. These are four-door pickups. Not only do we see them on the job site, but they’re used for family transportation,” Hegbloom said. “And, you can step back and look at all of the features and appointments — in late 2008 and 2009 when the truck market dipped, many believed it was because trucks are big, fuel prices are up, so people don’t have a need for pickup trucks.”
Hegbloom noted how the trucks themselves are evolving from purely utilitarian vehicles to well-equipped vehicles with such luxury appointments as steering wheels and heated seats.
“If you consider the appointments in our trucks today, we’ve never offered anything like it and the content continues to grow. The transformation in the market comes back to the product and Ram is delivering. We like to say there’s no compromising. You don’t have to sacrifice anything by buying pickup truck any longer,” Hegbloom said.
Looking ahead, Hegbloom observed that, while fleets may continue to ask for scaled-down, utilitarian products, the market will demand in parallel more of these luxury appointments. Technology may be the biggest catalyst transforming light-duty pickups and the truck market as a whole.
“I think people will continue to look for technology and advanced features. In the past, it was such that a truck didn’t need elaborate content found in luxury vehicles. Now, truck customers want all we have to offer,” he said.