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Richard Schooling's blog: 19 December: A strong year

Date: 19 December 2014

Richard Schooling is chief executive of Alphabet

Company car numbers are up  and CO2 emissions are down again. you reviewed the UK's economy in 2014 for signs of sustainable growth, the fleet industry was the place to find it.

Fleets dramatically outpaced growth in the wider economy this year, with a 7% increase in the number of cars and vans  within the UK fleet funding sector bringing the industry back up to 2009 levels.

It's a growing fleet and also a considerably greener one. Average CO2 emissions from company cars are 20% below those of five years ago. Although plug-in and hybrid vehicles currently account for a small proportion of the overall fleet, their numbers are rising spectacularly - as a case in point, Alphabet registered more than 730 EVs in 2014, which was 24% above expectations and indicative of the potential for ultra-low emission units.

The scrapping of the fuel duty escalator back in 2011-12 has helped to support this rebound in the fleet industry.  On top of relief from tax rises, the recent tumble in pump prices added a welcome layer of icing to fleets' cake.

Even so, operating costs remained at the top of managers' concern lists in 2014.. Fleet management tools and technology have never been so sophisticated, and there is no shortage of examples of companies achieving major savings.

It is no longer sufficient just to find cheaper ways of operating company cars along conventional fleet lines. Cumulatively, 10 years of economic, environmental and cultural change have had an enormous effect on business thinking. Productivity expectations around employees and assets, such as cars, are astonishingly high compared to even a few years ago.

Hence the relatively new concept of the 'mobility manager', who manages a spectrum of business travel and communication facilities, among which drivers and driving are two key elements. This job title is already increasingly common in Europe and will soon become so over here.

We will hear a lot more about mobility in the months and years ahead. But for now it's time to look back on a strong year for the business fleet sector and to wish all BusinessCar's readers a merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.