GM Envolve takes direct aim at Ford's fleet business

CNN/ Newswire | 5/11/2023, 10:20 a.m.
With a new business unit introduced Wednesday, General Motors is taking direct aim at Ford Motor Co.'s lucrative fleet business. …
General Motors is taking direct aim at Ford Motor Co.'s lucrative fleet business. Mandatory Credit: General Motors

Originally Published: 11 MAY 23 09:50 ET

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN Business

(CNN) -- With a new business unit introduced Wednesday, General Motors is taking direct aim at Ford Motor Co.'s lucrative fleet business. GM Envolve will work closely with large business and government fleet customers to tie them more closely to GM's other businesses.

Last year, Ford announced the creation of Ford Pro which, along with Ford Model E for electric passenger vehicles and Ford Blue for combustion-powered passenger vehicles, would report its financial results as a distinct business unit.

Ford Pro doesn't just sell trucks and vans to to fleet customers, but also offers things like software for fleet management and maintenance, charging systems for electric vehicles, and it even works with so-called "upfitters," outside companies that customize trucks and vans for specific jobs.

GM Envolve -- the name is a mash-up of "energy" and "evolve" -- will work in a similar fashion with fleet customers. Each large fleet customer will have an assigned GM Envolve account executive. The account exec work with the customer and with GM's other various business units including, of course, Chevrolet and GMC but also OnStar Business Solutions, GM Energy, and BrightDrop, GM's electric delivery van subsidiary.

Both GM Energy -- which could supply customers with energy storage and stationary hydrogen power units -- and Brightdrop are other new business units GM has spawned in the past few years.

"The big thing that customers told us in the research is 'We want a one stop shop, we want to be able to go to you to get everything that we need to get the business done,'" said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of GM Envolve. "The second thing would be the single sales touch point, which we think simplifies the experience for the customer."

In the last few years, GM has gotten 300 new major fleet customers -- companies with over 300 vehicles -- to switch to GM from competitive automakers, said Peper. He did not specify which automakers these customers were "conquested" from, as taking customers from competitors is called in the industry.

"It's important that we work with our existing customers to provide even more solutions for them," Peper said. "At the same time, we're conquesting at a pretty healthy rate."

Ford and GM sell a similar number of vehicles to commercial fleets, according to estimates from Cox Automotive. Ford sold about 280,000 vehicles to corporate fleets in 2022 while GM sold almost 300,000. GM's figures include more rental vehicles than Ford's, though, said Cox Automotive spokesman Mark Schirmer. And Ford sells more than twice as many vehicles as GM to government fleets, according to Cox estimates.

Of course, the point of Ford Pro and GM Envolve isn't just to sell more cars and trucks. The goal is also form relationships that enable the sale of other products and services, as well, such as vehicle charging software and energy equipment from GM Energy and auto and truck parts from GM and AC Delco for GM. Ford, likewise, offers software, data, and other services along with its trucks, vans and SUVs.

Even existing fleet customers can have specific needs for which various GM subsidiaries offer products the customers were just unaware of, said Steve Hill, vice president of GM's commercial growth strategies and operations. That way, playing off existing fleet relationships, this new business unit is hoped to help bring in more revenue for GM overall.

Ford Pro, Ford's commercial and government vehicle and operations arm earned $1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2023, the first time the new business divisions reported their finances separately. Unlike Ford Pro, GM Envolve is not expected to break out its earnings.