From time to time, fleet managers may receive the opportunity to attend an automaker test drive event. Should you be one of the lucky chosen, your excitement may give way to trepidation as you realize that test driving a vehicle for fleet use can be quite different that test driving a car or truck for personal use.
So, how exactly does testing a vehicle on the lot – either for personal or fleet usage – differ from an automaker test drive? Is it really worth the time away from the office when you have a dealer down the street?
First, the vehicles are different. Where there are drives for light-duty pickup trucks, cars, and SUVs, the work truck fleet manager has the opportunity to go out and drive larger vehicles, such as medium-duty pickups, low-cab forwards, and heavy equipment.
Second, the test drives are different. When you go to a dealer and get behind the wheel, you have a salesperson in the seat next to you ticking off the selling points. You drive some city streets, maybe take it on the highway or around some hills. When you are with the automaker, you have anywhere from a product engineer to professional driver in the seat next to you, and you are often given opportunities to test the vehicle on the road, as well as on the track in acceleration tests (such as drag racing set ups), or closed-course slalom-like testing for maneuverability and more. All the while, the person next to you is explaining how and why the vehicle works the way it does, answering even the most technical of questions.
Third, you are usually attending the event with a group of fleet manager peers, whom you can talk shop with and compare and contrast experiences, as well as a large number of automaker personnel, from engineers to sales staff.
Finally, the obvious: the purpose is different. When testing a vehicle to purchase for yourself, you may have a few factors to consider, such as possible family needs, personal budget, etc., but your personal tastes will weigh into your decision the most. When testing a fleet vehicle for consideration, you must consider the overall requirements of your fleet, the job the vehicle is intended to accomplish, and the needs and desires of a possibly large number of fleet drivers.
If you have received an invite for an automaker test drive and declined, you should reconsider as it can be a rare opportunity to get details and experiences behind the wheel that you wouldn’t otherwise have. If you are an experienced fleet manager of a mid- to large-sized fleet, and have never had the opportunity, reach out to your automaker sales rep and express your interest.
Have anything to add or experiences to share?
E-mail me and let’s chat!
Lauren Fletcher, Executive Editor
Work Truck Magazine