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DUTY OF CARE: What price staying in control? (continued)

Date: 11 June 2008

ESC, ESP, DSC - whatever you choose to call anti-skid technology, it's a potentially life-saving safety device business car drivers are not optioning. Tom Webster examines the reasons behind it

However, while the addition of the technology appears to little if any effect impact on the resale value, it seems it might benefit the lifetime costs of a vehicle.

"ESC is proven to reduce accidents from skidding and side impact collisions," says David Fulker of Bosch. "ESC can assist in reducing these fleet costs."

Matthew Avery of safety research firm Thatcham reckons the saving through avoided accidents outweighs the initial outlay "many times over". He claims: "ESC has been shown to reduce single vehicle crashes by 25-40%."

And for incidents involving more than one vehicle, Avery says: "Current data suggests ESC on every passenger car would reduce serious accidents by 25%. Since these [types of accidents] tend to lead to fatalities and serious injuries they are expensive to society as a whole."

Forking out

So, if the driver is not going to pay for the option, who is?

"Fleet managers need to use their purchasing muscle to get this included," says ACFO boss Jenner. "Metallic paint has been given [by manufacturers] as free of charge for years and that is a cost option."

John Lewis, director general of the BVRLA, reckons the car companies can help out. "Cost is always a consideration, but this will come down as the technology is used more widely," he said.

"Manufacturers could also compensate by sacrificing a cup holder here or there."

Several manufacturers, such as Mercedes, offer the technology as standard across the range. But some of the biggest-selling fleet models, like the Vauxhall Astra and Renault's Megane, only offer it as standard on high-spec models. Value brands such as Chevrolet also only offer the technology on selected high price models, and not at all on many vehicles.

"In terms of speccing, we have to take decisions on what the end-customer recognises," said Chevrolet MD Rory Harvey. "In the value sector it is seen as a premium."

Ultimately, it appears that the likes of Chevrolet will have no choice in the future. If the European Commission goes ahead with the proposals to phase in ESC then the decision will be out of their hands.

Until then, it's down to the business car operator to make sure their drivers are in the safest cars possible.