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INSIDER: Diesel is nothing more than an acquired taste

Date: 20 March 2008

The Insider is a fleet manager with years of invaluable experience

Thanks to some gentle Government persuasion my drivers have now embraced diesel cars in a way they would never have done a few years ago, says Insider

We in fleet were forced to alter our car tastes so long ago we're now back in a comfort zone. I see an analogy in my fridge.

Many years prior my wife made me switch to semi-skimmed milk and kept making me drink it until I couldn't go back to full-fat. Just like I couldn't return to the three-pint lunch.

The average enthusiast car-buyer is still stuck in the petrol cycle, but we in fleet are now programmed to take a much more tax-friendly approach.

Take the new Audi TT diesel. A two-litre four-cylinder oil-burner ain't going to find much favour in the private market, but in our world, assuming us fleet managers allow a two-door, a car making 44mpg and a 0-62mph in 7.5secs is a business benediction sent from heaven. Especially with those residuals.

Same goes for the new Mitsubishi Lancer hatchback. An Evo it most certainly isn't, but with the VW 2.0-litre diesel and the sporting profile of a car identifiably related to an Evo, without a doubt it's going to find favour with my guys.

The fact they won't be choosing the turbocharged petrol version is a burden they've long since come to accept. Like choosing cereal instead of a full fry-up for breakfast.

I'm not saying I'm fully in favour of a tax system that punishes lovers of fast petrol cars, but I'm also not about organise a strike to protest it.

“We in fleet are now programmed to take a more tax-friendly approach”


Whatever the merits of the climate change argument or the proportion of blame attributed to cars, we are facing an energy crisis and taxation is the Government's traditional weapon to fight that.

Embracing the change is not only cheaper but it also reduces the stress levels. The man who can derive pleasure from driving a BMW 118d is wealthier and happier than the guy who chooses the six-cylinder petrol version and has to suppress a full-blown rant every time he fills up, drives into London, pays the VED etc etc.

In the world of fleet we've been through all that. We've seen the benefit-in-kind tax bill climb, and we've had to side-step to avoid riding the duty escalator. We're used to it now.

My drivers have a completely different attitude to small diesels (helped no doubt by their huge technical improvement) then they had six years ago and consequently are much less constricted when choosing. Okay, I impose my own constrictions, but there's much less resistance than if the staff had all been buying privately before.

Five years ago I would rather have eaten my beer bottles than recycle them. Now look at me: clanking my way to the green bin once a week with barely a murmur of complaint.

Change is pain until it isn't. But don't think I'm giving up those three nightly glasses of wine.