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Face the facts - fleet is a force for good

Date: 06 February 2008

The Insider is a fleet manager with years of invaluable experience

The UK's economy and environment - yes, environment - both benefit substantially from having a strong business car industry, says Insider

One recent, traffic-free morn, I reflected on the wider impact of the British fleet industry and realised what a sheer force for good it is.

I'm not just talking about driver training and other fleet specifics, but the economy and society as a whole. Bear with me here.

The figure we can all remember is that we are responsible for half of all new cars sold in the UK. Last year the fleet total was a fraction below 1.2 million. A lot of cars, a lot of money spent and a mighty fillip to the economy. Never mind that all but 350,000 (of fleet and retail) cars were shipped from abroad, in this country the car industry directly related to manufacturing, servicing, selling and refuelling employs around three-quarters of a million people and accounts for 8% of total UK turnover at around £200 billion.

Another fact we all know is that, when spending their own cash, the British public buy small. We buy bigger, thus benefiting the economy. According to the 2007 fleet sales figures I've seen, 70% of all new upper medium cars go to fleet, as do 60% of large cars (Audi A6 etc) and 60% of MPVs (eg S-max).

“We're supplying the used market with the cleanest, safest, most economical cars in their class”

The Insider

But of course, we don't buy guzzlers. Not any more. Last year almost half of all fleet cars sold were diesels, which also means we're supplying the secondhand market with a steady supply of the latest, cleanest, safest, most economical cars in their class. Most of which have been properly maintained.

All this happens because Brits are nuts about cars. But if the company car structure hadn't evolved as it did, I really doubt the car market would be as healthy or as important to the economy. The psychological hurdle that confronts any new-car buyer is too great if they're spending their own hard-earned. True, they could still be spending the same to get into a company-supplied car, but that mental hurdle isn't as high. The paycheque is automatically amended, the frugal diesel choice rewarded, the residual value drop hidden.

Petrolheads I know outside of the company car network rarely splurge the equivalent percentage of their salary. Instead they haunt the used ads to pick up a weekend sports car for £5k, relying on a five-year-old Skoda Octavia at all other times.

In the company itself, my staff are obviously motivated to better the car they're entitled to (assuming that motivation isn't cancelled out by the hours spent speccing it up). It also brings people into sales, an otherwise tough career to recruit into. And the whole structure employs me, for which Mrs Insider is eternally grateful.