All auto manufacturers produce and distribute commercial vehicles but what happens when the potential purchasers of said vehicles are small entrepreneurs who also need that vehicle for personal transportation?
Ford has partnered up with Manta (an online resource for small businesses that delivers products services and educational opportunities) to survey small business owners to figure out what they look for in their vehicles. Initially, and perhaps most importantly, the survey showed that more than half of small business owners need their business vehicles to also perform personal tasks.
The survey discovered that only 42 percent of respondents use their business vehicles strictly for business. Twenty-five percent of respondents use their vehicle for non-business needs 25 percent of the time and another 17 percent use it at least half the time.
Ford says dual use was one of the reasons for creating the smaller Ford Transit Connect minivan.
“Dual use was one of the key considerations in the design of Ford Transit Connect,” says Yaro Hetman, Ford brand manager for Transit, Transit Connect and E-Series. “Customers appreciate the seats fold down for deliveries during the week and the vehicle works well as a family van on weekends.”
Yet, vans are apparently the least preferred vehicle for small business owners, with just 13 percent relying on them for their business needs. One quarter drive trucks, 23 percent passenger cars, 18 percent rely on utility vehicles, and 16 percent drive another type of service vehicle.
Still, flexibility is a key issue. About 50 percent of respondents claimed they drove themselves to appointments, 36 percent need to carry equipment, 30 percent use them for deliveries, and eight percent transport clients.
As an example, Ford points to the needs of cycling retailer roll:, whose Ford Transit is asked to perform many tasks during the average week.
“One day we’re using our Transit to move merchandise between stores, the next day we’re using it for event support for charity functions,” explains Stuart Hunter, roll:’s founder. “The next day it’s supporting our race team – where it becomes a mobile changing room. The versatility was really key to us.”
Hunter’s company was one of three small businesses who received $5,000 to upfit their vans for their businesses’ needs in the Driving the American Dream contest conducted in conjunction with the survey. The others were Columbus, Ohio based Flowerama and Charlotte, North Carolina’s La Patisserie.
According to the survey, other factors affecting small business vehicle purchases include fuel costs (for 22 percent of respondents), repairs (17 percent), insurance (11 percent), and resale value (more than 10 percent).
The other interesting point to come of the survey is that 17 percent of respondents say their business vehicles run on alternative fuels – propane, natural gas, electricity or diesel.