‘Black Gold’ Boom Drives Demand For White Trucks

Mike Gietzen, pictured Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, in Minot, N.D., commercial sales professional for Ryan Chevrolet, often sells 20 or more pickups at a time to oil companies working in North Dakota. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

MINOT, N.D. – Mike Gietzen sells so many white pickups to the oil industry, he added the word white to his email address.

North Dakota’s oil boom has meant big business for auto dealers, but staying ahead of the demand can be tricky, said the commercial sales professional for Ryan Chevrolet in Minot.

“It’s crazy and it’s fun, but it can be maddening,” Gietzen said.

Down the street at Minot’s Ford dealership, Hank Ripplinger, commercial fleet manager for Westlie Motor Co., said many oil companies will buy up to 12 pickups at a time, but he’s had some orders exceed 100.

“It’s a fast business,” Ripplinger said. “They want the unit now and preferably you have it on the ground for them.”

Hank Ripplinger, pictured Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, works as the commercial fleet manager for Westlie Motor Co. in Minot, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Both auto lots have rows of their best-selling pickups: the Chevy Silverado 2500 and the F-150 or Super Duty for Ford.

But often they’ll have to call on other dealerships in the region to help fill a big order.

Ninety percent of the fleet vehicles they sell to the oil industry are white because companies like to add their company logos, Ripplinger said.

Gietzen used to prefer a silver pickup as his personal vehicle, but he’s switched to white.

“I’ve made a lot of money on white,” Gietzen said.

Many sales are done online, often with a national company that manages the fleet vehicles for the oil company, Ripplinger said.

Gietzen said he drives west to deliver pickups to Stanley, Tioga and the surrounding area about once or twice a week.

Both dealerships say the fleet pickup sales have hit a plateau.

“We’ve seen that the last two or three years have been fast and furious, and it appears to be leveling out right now,” Ripplinger said.

But the demand to maintain those vehicles won’t level off anytime soon. In addition to the oil industry vehicles that need maintenance, customers will drive from as far as Montana to have vehicles serviced in Minot due to a shortage of workers in the Bakken, Ripplinger said.

“On given days, you can’t get in this lot,” Ripplinger said.