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Hit the Road

Itching to throw your business into high gear? We have everything you need to get your business fleet up to speed in our 2005 guide to commercial vehicles

Editor's Note: To read more articles from our 2005 Guide to Commercial Vehicles, including information on fleet leasing, rewards and incentives, buyer's guides and more, click here.

With 30 new nameplates launching in 2005 (including 11 new pickups, minivans, SUVs and crossovers), you'll have an abundance of business vehicles to choose from. Whether your company needs crew cabs with short or long beds, passenger or cargo vans, a versatile SUV with removable seats for more storage, or a cross-over for small jobs, your local dealerships are bursting at the seams with proven bestsellers as well as debut models.

Meanwhile, incentives and rebates are flourishing, and vehicles have more equipment and are safer and more affordable than they've been in decades. The price on Dodge's Dakota V-8-powered pickup is just $19,995, and GM is raising prices by only 1 percent on most models. Chrysler is lowering prices on some 2005 models ($3,000 lower on some vans) while offering more features.

Pickup trucks have increased their passenger quarters with regular, extended, crew and king-size cabs. Compact pickups, such as Toyota's redesigned Tacoma, are larger, while Toyota's Tundra Regular Cab gets a base-grade V-8 and payload increases. One new name on the block is GMC's compact Canyon pickup, introduced earlier this year. GMC is also debuting its Colorado model, the Xtreme; and in 2005, its Sierra adds a Crew Cab Denali version. GM's Avalanche pickup adds OnStar as a standard feature.

Full-size pickups are also accelerating: Ford's bestselling blockbuster, the full-size F-150, adds a new King Ranch model and a 4.2-liter V-6 engine, plus a Work Truck Group package. The F-150 fits more easily into garages in 2005 with a 5.5-foot box, even though both the regular and the supercabs are 6 inches longer inside. Nissan's more powerful Frontier pickup is redesigned, while its first full-size pickup, the Titan Crew Cab, focuses on big-time towing at 9,400 pounds. Dodge claims its Ram SRT-10 Quad Cab is now the fastest and most powerful four-door pickup on the market, and a HEMI engine is available for Dodge's Ram 1500.


SUV sales in the United States are expected to reach
2.77
Million
this year.
Statistic Source: Kelley Blue Book

Minivans have shed their stodgy cocoons and emerged with sporty styling. Honda's redesigned Odyssey is shod with run-flat tires. Chevrolet rolls out its new Uplander minivan, and its Venture cargo van gives you a choice of bins and partitions. The company's Express cargo van and its sister, GMC's Savana, are the only full-size vans with a left-hand access door. Ford provides electronic throttle control on all E-Series cargo van powertrains and introduces the sleek, new Freestar minivan with fold-in-the-floor rear seats. Dodge's turbo-diesel Sprinter provides 27 mpg and a cargo capacity of 473 cubic feet, or seating for 10. Nissan's 2005 wheel-oriented styling cues reflect the maker's distinctive Z design in its light trucks, particularly its Quest van. The popular Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans include flip-down, fold-flat seats and reclining tailgate seat backs.

And keep an eye on crossovers. These vehicles are a breed apart-they're a step up from a truck, with the comfort of an SUV. Buick's seven-passenger Terraza boasts second- and third-row removable seats. Saturn has also rolled out a new seven-seat crossover, the Relay.

The task of choosing vehicles to fit your company's needs can be mind-boggling. Configurations are endless, depending on your service or delivery needs, and variables include cargo capacities, function, seating, power, performance, maintenance, insurance and operating costs. How many trips will your vehicle need to make each day? How much towing does your business involve? For easy entry and cargo loading, consider sliding or hydraulic doors. Discuss your requirements with a fleet manager or salesperson, and determine the importance of luxury items such as remote keyless entry and that expensive sound system. Safety is another important issue and can affect your insurance costs. Keep an eye on options-they can blow the budget without adding much value.

 

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This article was originally published in the December 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hit the Road.

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