Fleets’ Buying Activity Bolstering Global Auto Sales

Scotia Economics, a unit of Canadian financial-services giant Scotiabank, says global vehicle sales have improved in the first months of 2012, with corporate fleet purchases driving solid growth in the North American market.

‘This is the strongest growth since the spring of 2010,’ said Carlos Gomes, senior economist and auto industry specialist for Scotia Economics, in a recent press release. ‘The rebound continues to be driven by rising replacement demand from both households and businesses, the drive for incremental fuel efficiency, as well as the strongest pace of year-over-year job creation since late 2006.’

According to the firm's latest ‘Global Auto Report,’ purchases in the U.S. increased to an annualized 15 million units in February, up from 14.1 million in January. February's figures are the highest seen since early 2008, eclipsing even the 14.2 million units that were sold during the Cash for Clunkers program in mid-2009.

‘Business purchases are leading the North American auto market recovery in 2012,’ Gomes adds.

In fact, vehicle purchases by business, government and rental fleets rose by more than 30% in the U.S. and nearly 25% in Canada during the first two months of 2012.

‘With corporations flush with cash, companies on both sides of the border are upgrading their fleets with more fuel-efficient models – a development that had been slow to unfold,’ he noted. ‘In fact, fleet volumes – which account for more than 40 percent of overall U.S. car and light truck sales – had significantly lagged the overall auto cycle improvement.’

Fleet activity in Canada traditionally accounts for about 20% of overall vehicle sales, but that number slid significantly over the past few years, Scotia Economics says. However, a ‘revival’ in fleet purchases has helped business and government sales rebound to 15% of the overall Canadian market. Purchases of new fuel-efficient cars are leading this trend, increasing nearly 30% in the opening months of 2012.

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