Model year changeover considerations

By Generation Next Governor at Large Cody Bunyard
Fleet engineer, ServiceMaster

Published in the September 2015 issue of Generation Next Edition.

Annually, vehicle manufacturers update their products for the upcoming model year – and timing depends on the manufacturer. Oftentimes they’ll add new options or update existing packages, which may inadvertently change a fleet’s preferred specifications. Therefore, it’s important for fleet users, purchasers and modifiers to stay up-to-date on model year changes. These updates can also lead to significant benefits for the purchaser and simplify the work load for a vehicle upfitter.

Keep an eye on the following types of changes:

  • New vehicle safety items. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must adhere to evolving government safety regulations for motor vehicles. A good example is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandate that all light duty vehicles come equipped with back-up cameras by May 2018. Every year, an increasing number of new vehicles have back-up cameras, conforming to the regulation early. New options to order factory-installed back-up cameras reduces the need for fleets to install them on an aftermarket basis.

  • New drive train options. Every OEM is moving toward more fuel efficient vehicles due to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) regulations, resulting in lower operating costs for today’s vehicles. Operating cost expectations may change a fleet’s replacement criteria. Many factors contribute to total cost of ownership, including vehicle type, purchase price and miles driven per year. Replacement timing differs for each fleet but should be evaluated on a regular basis to optimize the total cost of vehicle ownership.

  • Special order options. It’s important to know what packages are available. For example, a fleet may need black rims instead of standard steel rims, or additional keys. These options may be available with the model year change – work with your OEM and stay current on special order options.

Also, consider lack of data. New drive trains, bodies and other components go through rigorous testing before they’re available in a vehicle, but there’s no real life performance history. The longevity, repair or replacement cost of new components is always a question until historical data is available, which should always be considered during vehicle evaluation.

It’s important to stay on top of yearly changeovers. Work with your OEM representatives and research the models you typically purchase, as well as competing models. Ensure you purchase the best vehicles for your fleet and optimize their life cycle spans by staying current on specifications and updates. It’s also important to understand the vehicle’s evolution and future expectations.

One resource for obtaining this information – directly from the OEMs – is the Truck Product Conference hosted by NTEA each fall. The 2015 Conference was held Sept. 15-17 in Dearborn, Michigan. Visit for onsite coverage, our Twitter feed for snippets gleaned from each presentation, or our photo album.

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