Mitsubishi is reinforcing this fear by revealing it is now targeting employees direct, even to the point of placing adverts on company notice boards, and working to create closer relationships between staff and local dealers who will become the new equivalent of fleet managers. However, manufacturers like BMW and Saab say the company car is too strong a part of the UK's employment culture to be under serious threat and have been quick to point out that Barclays simultaneously announced it was widening its fleet choice list as evidence of the strength of the market.
Alan Waldie, BMW's corporate operations' manager, said NatWest's decision was not going to have a net effect on the number of companies offering perk cars. 'Undoubtedly other companies will be looking at what NatWest has done. But the company car syndrome is too entrenched in our working culture. It's been with us too long to be on the way out,' he said. 'We could also look at NatWest's decision as offering company cars through different means and actually enhancing its employee package by offering them greater choice.'
Recruitment problems are already causing companies to re-consider their fleet policies, often enhancing them, according to Honda's national corporate sales manager Stephen Hollings. 'The company car has a future because it is an emotional part of the employment package. The car a company gives you is a mark of how valued you are.'
Margaret Small, Saab's corporate sales manager, said: 'There will always be a company car culture and fleet managers because there will always be the essential user, be it the engineer or the salesman.' And Keith Michaels, Vauxhall fleet marketing manager, said: 'I don't see this as the beginning of an avalanche away from the company car.'