FLEET managers have an influential role to play in promoting the uptake of company cars if the Government is to achieve its environmentally-focused ‘Road to Zero Strategy’.
Employees in increasing numbers are said to be opting to take cash in lieu of a company car amid year-on-year rises in benefit-in-kind taxation.
But with many then driving seven-to-10-year-old vehicles that trend was counter-productive to the Government’s air quality programme and its aim to ensure that by 2050 almost every car and van on the roads was zero emission.
Delegates to ACFO’s spring seminar were told by Ashley Barnett, head of fleet consultancy at Lex Autolease, that a growing number of cash takers triggered among fleet managers a loss of control and influence over vehicle-related decision-making and conflicted not only with Government strategy but with employers’ own sustainability agendas.
Barnett said: “Fleet managers should question why their organisation offered a cash or car option and because it had always been available did not mean that it should be continued,” said Mr Barnett. “If a business has a policy around sustainability you don’t want a car policy that is at odds with it.
“The Government is very clear on its ‘Road to Zero Strategy’. It has 31 years to achieve its aim, that is seven car replacement cycles, and fleet managers have the ability to influence change today.”
With the Government continuing to review the shape of future company car benefit-in-kind taxation from April 2020 ahead of an anticipated summer announcement, Barnett highlighted that fleet uptake of plug-in vehicles was “way behind the curve” required to meet official targets.
“Fleet managers have the ability to influence change, but it is not about changing the fleet all in one go,” he said. “We can all see that tax is rising, and the Government wants cars to be at the bottom end of the tax structure in terms of emission levels.
“Too many businesses view company cars as a cost and not a benefit, but some policies have become too restrictive. Fleet managers have the ability to take back control, promote company cars as a reward and give employees the responsibility to select the car they want.
“We could then see an increase in company car take-up. Company cars should be valued because they provide a hassle-free comfort blanket for employees, particularly in terms of maintenance and insurance”