Maintenance cost trends

Each year, GE Capital Fleet Services - a commercial car and truck financing and fleet management services company ( - conducts a detailed annual study into maintenance cost trends. Here are some key findings related to oil changes, tires and hybrid vehicles from its 2012 study.

"While the cost of oil changes continue to rise for autos and light trucks, there's good news for fleets on the overall cost side," says Mark Lange, CAFM (Certified Automotive Fleet Manager), a GE maintenance services specialist. "Comparing 2012 to 2011, the cost per oil change is up, but the cost per mile is down due to the extended mileage interval benefit of oil monitoring systems and new oil specifications.

"The initial higher price cost spikes for the new oil specification used in oil changes have stabilized."

Dealerships are continuing to promote their quick lanes, which have created local competitive pricing pressures, he notes. In addition, several OEMs are matching the major national providers with special price bundling of oil changes, tire rotations and brake inspections."

Lange says GE's research found that 2013 should bring stabilization to the individual auto/light truck oil change costs and cost per mile as older vehicles without oil monitoring systems are cycling out of most fleets. "We expect to see at least one manufacturer re-calibrate its oil monitoring system to extend the oil change intervals as the new oil specifications are delivering the enhanced wear and sludge protection and less oil consumption."



"When we meet with customers and review auto and light truck spend areas, tires, brakes and preventative maintenance are usually on the top-three list," says Lange.

"Tires are usually a key discussion topic with fleet managers as tire prices have been so volatile," he adds. "We saw six to ten percent increases in 2012 for auto and light truck tire prices.

"Many fleets were able to offset their overall 2012 tire costs as they returned to earlier vehicle replacement cycles. This was critical to avoid buying the late-in-life set of tires."

Additional pricing pressure resulted from several tire providers eliminating or reducing the inventory of their lower cost and house brand or private label tires, he says. "This can create a downtime and cost-balancing scenario when authorizing replacement tires."

Auto/light truck tire prices are expected to remain relatively stable in 2013, forecasts Lange.

"There are a number of factors that could change this outlook, such as raw material costs, natural rubber supplies and oil costs. Fleets moving to larger wheel diameter sizes and delaying vehicle cycling will see higher overall tire expenses.

Larger OEM wheel sizes continue to be a major influencer of fleet tire costs as many mid-size vehicles, minivans and others are delivered with larger wheel diameters than in the past, he points out.



"The individual cost of replacement hybrid batteries has decreased significantly and this should be good news for fleets," says Lange. "A number of hybrid autos and light trucks are coming out of OEM warranty coverage periods and the potential exists for repairs unique to the hybrid components, such as coolant pumps, fan motors and charging accessories.

"Many of these will be OEM-only available parts until aftermarket parts providers see an increased demand."