feature story



Top delivery vehicle makers unveil their 2009 models and share how they are addressing the ongoing fuel crisis.

by Kelsey Smith

    The price of gasoline hit an all-time high in 2008, with the national average of regular unleaded gas reaching $4.11 a gallon on July 17, according to the Fuel Gauge Report issued by AAA. And although it had dropped to an average of $3.40 a gallon at press time in early October, this is still nearly 65 cents more than 2007’s average for the same time frame, and retail florists are feeling the pinch each time they fill their delivery vehicles—whether a single van or a fleet.
    If you have been thinking about buying a new delivery vehicle for your shop, now is a good time. Top automakers have added fuel-efficient vehicles to their lineups of commercial offerings, and with 2009 models just hitting the road, now is an exciting time to explore these options. Use this guide, comparing price, cargo capacity and rated fuel efficiency, to find the best vehicle to fit your business’s needs. Also be sure to check out the tips for getting the most gas mileage out of your delivery vehicles on Page 70.

Chrysler LLC is making its first entry into the hybrid market with the 2009 Dodge Durango HEMI® Hybrid and Chrysler Aspen HEMI® Hybrid. Offering the performance and capability of large sport utility vehicles (SUVs), these hybrid electric full-size SUV models are expected to deliver an overall fuel economy improvement of more than 25 percent, including an improvement of nearly 40 percent in the city. This efficiency equates to several hundreds of gallons of gas saved per year.

Dodge Durango HEMI® Hybrid

Chrysler Aspen HEMI® Hybrid

Flex Fuel
In addition to these new offerings, manufacturers have added flex-fuel options to many of their best-selling delivery vehicles. Visit www.e85fuel.com to view lists, by manufacturer, of vehicles that are E85 capable (an alternative fuel blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) and to learn more about flex-fuel vehicles.




fuel efficiency
    When buying a new vehicle, it is important to check the vehicle’s rated fuel efficiency. Top automakers are responding to Americans’ anguish at the pump with introductions of new hybrid (gasoline/electric) and flex-fuel (gasoline/ethanol) models that offer superior fuel economy compared to their counterparts. And federal tax incentives—as well as state tax incentives, in some states—are available to help you save money on the purchase of many fuel-efficient vehicles. (Visit www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxcenter.shtml for more information.)
    Note: When purchasing a new vehicle, it is important to evaluate costs as well as savings. According to Consumer Reports’ latest analysis of owner costs, published in the magazine’s October issue, drivers can save anywhere from $500 to $4,250 over a five-year ownership period on selected hybrids. But although all hybrid models reduce pollution and are more fuel efficient, many are priced much higher than their standard counterparts. Carefully consider your business’s needs and whether the savings outweigh the upfront investment. Use the handy cart on Page 72 to help weigh your options.

  12 tips for better fuel efficiency

• Slow down. If you’re tempted to exceed the speed limit a bit to make your rounds faster, think again. It pays to plot your route with adequate time to obey the signs, particularly at speeds more than 60 mph, when gas mileage for most vehicles decreases quickly.

• Lighten up. Be diligent about removing excess items from the delivery vehicle—the rental pedestals that didn’t get back into storage from last weekend’s wedding, for example. The smaller the vehicle, the more that extra weight will reduce its miles per gallon.

• Take it easy. Keep it smooth when you’re stopping and starting. Anticipate the traffic flow, and avoid “jack-rabbit” starts.

• Don’t idle. If your delivery will take more than a quick run to a home’s door—think deliveries downtown or to large office buildings—turn the vehicle off. It takes less fuel to restart than it does to idle for more than a minute. Plus, it’s illegal in some places to let a car idle unattended.

• Use the cruise. If you deliver long distances and your routes include highway travel, engage the cruise control and overdrive gears when appropriate. Cruise control helps maintain a constant speed, thereby saving gas, and overdrive gears reduce the engine RPMs without reducing the speed, thereby decreasing wear and tear and improving gas mileage.

• Keep your cool. When dealing with florists’ living cargo, this is often non-negotiable, but as much as possible keep the air conditioning off.

• Roll ’em up. Driving with the windows down, especially at high speeds, increases drag and can decrease your fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent.

• Stay in tune. Schedule a tune-up annually to optimize the vehicle’s performance. A well-tuned engine delivers the best balance of power and fuel economy and produces the lowest level of emissions.

• Change the oil. Periodic oil and oil filter changes keep the engine clean. Change the oil and oil filter every 3,000 miles or three months, or per the owner’s manual. It is important also to use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil for optimum fuel efficiency. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower gas mileage by 1 percent to 2 percent.

• Clear the air. A vehicle’s air filter keeps impurities from damaging the inside of the engine. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 10 percent.

• Visit the inflation station. Check the tire pressure at least monthly, including the spare. A vehicle’s tires affect its ride, handling, traction and safety. Kepping tires inflated to the proper pressure can improve fuel efficiency by around 3.3 percent.

• Keep right. Plan delivery routes to favor only right-hand turns. This will reduce time spent sitting in left turn lanes and, therefore, fuel consumption, even if you have to go a block or so out of your way to accomplish this. UPS drivers use this technique, and the company estimates that it saved more than 3 million gallons of fuel and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 32,000 metric tons in 2007.

Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, www.fueleconomy.gov; Car Care Council, www.carcare.org; GasBuddy.com, www.gasbuddy.com.



commercial incentives
    Several services and money-saving upfit options are available to florists and other business owners who purchase vehicles for commercial use. With a growing network of more than 500 dealers, the Dodge BusinessLink commercial service program includes dedicated commercial account managers and sales teams, priority service and maintenance, extended hours, free loaner vehicles and dealer inventories representing a higher mix of work trucks and other commercial vehicles. Dodge’s “On the Job” program offers discounts on upfits, cash incentives and other customer savings. In addition, a new national dealer program, Fleet Elite, was created with the goal of providing a world-class dealer experience to Fleet and Fleet Management Company (FMC) accounts and customers. Leveraging the Five-Star certification process, Fleet Elite is a dealership certification program designed to ensure that business customers receive enhanced service and support with specialized facilities, staffing and processes to meet their needs.
    Ford’s Commercial Connection program includes three free storage upgrade options on its E-Series Cargo Vans: the EconoCargo® Interior System of liner panels, which helps regulate the temperature inside the vehicle; steel racks and bins; or composite racks and bins. Customers who opt for none of these packages are eligible for a cash incentive of $300 or upfit assistance up to $1,200 to help them modify their commercial cargo vans however they wish.
    In addition to these commercial incentives, Ford has introduced Ford Work Solutions, a collection of industry-exclusive technologies, for 2009. Features include an in-dash computer with high-speed Internet access that allows users to print invoices, check inventories and access documents; a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking system that enables drivers to maintain a detailed real-time inventory of equipment stored in the pickup box; and a fleet telematics and diagnostics system that allows small fleet owners to efficiently manage their vehicles, quickly dispatch workers and keep detailed vehicle maintenance records. In addition, the Next Generation Navigation system provides door-to-door directions from one destination to the next.
    GM Business Choice offers five options to help equip a new eligible Chevrolet or GMC vehicle to meet specific business needs, with little or no out-of-pocket cash. The options range from a $350 gift card good at a major home-improvement or technology store to a storage bin system that retails for $3,454. For more information about these manufacturers’ delivery vehicles and incentives, visit your local dealers, or go to www.dodge.com/commercial, www.commtruck.ford.com or www.gmbusinesschoice.com.

Information from company representatives and manufacturers’ Web sites—www.dodge.com/commercial; www.fordvehicles.com and www.commtruck.ford.com; www.gmfleet.com; www.honda.com; and www.scion.com.

Contact Kelsey Smith at ksmith@floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708.  

Designed for small business use, the all-new Ford Transit Connect, which will be available beginning in summer 2009, is a versatile compact van that offers a fuel-efficient alternative to full-size commercial vans.

Ford Transit Connect      



Ford E-Series E-150

Chevrolet Express Cargo Van

Dodge Sprinter Cargo Van

GMC Savana Cargo Van

Chevrolet HHR Panel

Dodge Grand Caravan Cargo Van

Chevrolet Colorado/
Canyon Astro Body

Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana 4500 Cutaway

Dodge Sprinter Chassis Cab

Ford E-Series E-350 Cutaway

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Honda Element
Scion xB

Dodge Nitro

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