With sister title Fleet News calling for clarity in terms of CO2 detail through its 'CO2 Confusion: Clear Up Clean Up' campaign and fleet managers bemused by the complexity of information currently at their disposal, I decided to see how our long-term test car Honda Accord stacked up under the company car tax system planned from April 2002.
Our ú16,600 on-the-road 1.8 LS Accord saloon complete with sunroof and air conditioning has not put a wheel put of place since joining the fleet five months ago. Under the present company car tax regime, a 23% taxpayer would pay ú1,322 in benefit-in-kind tax (under 2,500 business miles), ú943 (2,500-18,000 business miles) or ú566 (more than 18,000 business miles. The equivalent figures for a 40% taxpayer would be ú2,298, ú1,640 and ú984 respectively.
Following the 2002 change to a list price/CO2-based company car tax system our Accord will be taxed at a rate of 28% of list price - the Accord has a g/km of CO2 of 200 - based on a sliding scale of 1% for every 5g/km of CO2 above a base of 135g/km. That means a basic rate taxpayer - by then the rate will have dropped to 22% - will pay ú1,010 and a 40% taxpayer will face a bill of ú1,836 a year. As can be seen, the high-mileage company car driver is the big loser but, given the Government's aim of encouraging people to drive fewer miles, that is difficult to argue against.
And few people would argue that the rise in company car tax for high-mileage drivers negates the hassle-free life provided by a company car. But, having grappled with the tax calculation and decided that the Accord is not a bad deal when compared with a 1.8 Vauxhall Vectra LS or GLS (CO2 195g/km), Ford Mondeo 1.8 LX or GLX (CO2 173g/kmû187g/km depending on tyre size) or Peugeot 406 L/LX 1.8 (CO2 209g/km), the calculator still needs to be used to asses the wholelife cost. CAP Motor Research's 'Future Residual Values' guide gives a three-year/60,000-mile value on the Accord of 40% which comfortably exceeds the predicted second-hand value attached to either of its three rivals mentioned above.
Given the reliability record of the Accord, its easy-on-the-eye dashboard, above-average comfort factor and by no means shoddy fuel economy, Honda should realise its fleet sales targets following the summer launch of the five-door Accord. However, fleet managers and company car drivers risk wearing out their fingers doing the calculations to prove the case.