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INSIDER: Why let the facts ruin a good story?

Date: 15 April 2008

The Insider is a fleet manager with years of invaluable experience

A smattering of A3s, a few Saabs and a diesel Mercedes CLK - according to the Insider's newspaper, this fleet indicates the decay and corruption at the heart of one business

Proving again the age-old adage that the mainstream media can never write an accurate story about your specialist subject, I draw your attention to the Remploy nonsense a couple of weeks back.

The Guardian (among others) ran a story, which 'exposed' the fact that the Government-sponsored company "is allowing its top brass to drive Mercedes sports cars, people carriers, off-roaders and sporty versions of Audis and Saabs at the taxpayer's expense". The moral outrage already seeded in the heart of its readers was further fed by the news that Remploy, which employs disabled workers, was to shed 2000 jobs in a restructuring drive.

My annoyance at reading the opening paragraph was quickly amplified by the rest of the article. In fact, I harumphed so loudly, a colleague popped his head round to ask what was wrong. He soon regretted it.

Let's start with the "Mercedes sports cars". So, a mini-fleet of V8 SLs then? Nope. A sole CLK, and the diesel version at that, driven by the chief executive. In the Daily Mail, this lone coupe became 'sports cars', which they justified by drawing readers' attention to the 10 Saab 9-3 Sportwagons on the Remploy fleet list. An estate, then, and most likely diesel with it. And what were the 'sporty versions of Audis'? Er, A3 Sportbacks, aka the five-door hatchback. No engines mentioned, but I'll eat my Blackberry if it was anything other than a TDi.

The Guardian then found the list prices and worked out the 441 company cars 'are worth more than £8m'. As if they could all be sold off at that price and the money fed back into company to prevent the job losses. This from a paper published by the same company that owns a majority stake in Autotrader!

No mention was made of the company car tax paid by the employees, which of course goes straight back to the same organisation that was partly funding the company (ie the Government).

I guess if you were a journalist you'd be pretty happy with the story. Remploy was committing the crime of making disabled people redundant, while the "top brass" were driving around in Government-funded "Volkswagen seven-seat Tourans, five Ford Galaxy seven-seaters, 14 Volvo S60s and two Volvo S80s" to quote more of the evil fleet list. But Remploy is a for-profit company competing in aggressive markets like OEM automotive supplies. If a manager received Volvo S80 in his last job, he should be offered a car at a similar level in his next. Any fleet manager could have told them that. But any phone call to a specialist would have introduced common-sense into the story, and that would never do.



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