Peter Cakebread, managing director of Marshall Leasing, reflects on the past year and looks ahead to 2014.
We have reached that time of year again when there is an opportunity to pause, reflect, and prepare for the path ahead.
So where do we find ourselves as 2013 draws to a close? For my part, it’s been encouraging to see how the landscape has shifted over the last 12 months. 2012 was a year of mixed messages, leaving much uncertainty in its wake, but in 2013 we’ve been given more hope.
The retail market, for example, has taken positive strides forward as manufacturers have done their best to entice customers with attractive finance deals. Consumers have responded well and this has resulted in the increase in volumes we've seen through the year.
In fact, it’s been interesting to watch how the car model seems to be evolving, with buyers displaying far more acceptance of funding nowadays than they ever have in the past.
Yet more reason for optimism is evident when looking at the wider picture. It seems that the recent growth in UK GDP is more than a flash in the pan – growth forecasts have suggested that it could reach 2.5% in 2015.
If this all sounds positive, it is by no means set in stone, of course. There are still plenty of unknowns, which suggest that cautious optimism is required as we move forward.
So what might businesses need to prepare for in 2014? In a period where regulation and tax are in a state of flux, there are unfortunately a number of external factors that could impact fleet management over the coming year.
Developments such as a change in Benefit in Kind calculation on fuel, which was signalled in the autumn statement, and further exposure to details on accounting standards – which are due early next year – are ones that fleet managers will want to keep an eye on.
What should businesses be doing in preparation for these events?
Staying informed will be the vital first step. A good leasing company will help to ensure that customers are kept up to speed on the latest developments – and ideally they will go a step further by providing sensible and actionable advice on what the changes mean in practice and what should be done next.
There will certainly be plenty to keep fleet managers occupied over the coming year – but if businesses plan to stay informed and heed advice when the time comes, there is good reason to start 2014 from a position of optimism.