Ian Richardson, English Nature's fleet manager, said price had to be a greater consideration for vehicle choice than safety for the charitable organisation's 200-strong fleet. 'We have to buy from whoever sells the cheapest cars, otherwise, in a perfect world we would choose Volvos because of their safety reputation,' he said.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals follows a similar philosophy, with fleet manager Sue Tonks recognising the importance of the NCAP tests, but saying they had to be considered alongside wholelife costs. 'The tests wouldn't be enough to make us buy a Mercedes-Benz just because it was the safest car in its class. We are a charity and wholelife costs are crucial. However, if a particular car was a death trap we wouldn't have it,' she said.
Their views differ from David Lee, in charge of John Laing Construction's 2,500-strong fleet, who claimed he owed his life to the crash tests after walking away from a head-on accident in a vehicle he chose based on NCAP results. And Tony Leigh, chairman of the Association of Car Fleet Operators, said the majority of fleet managers failed to recognise the importance of the crash test results because of a lack of publicity surrounding NCAP. 'Some provide their drivers with the results, but even then it does not have much impact on choice,' he said. 'I've heard some drivers say they don't know how much tax they pay, so it's unlikely they know how safe their car is.'
But Tom Madden, chairman of the Institute of Car Fleet Management, said fleet response to the tests would be dictated by their employers' overall corporate safety culture. 'Larger companies with a strong safety culture will naturally place a high priority on driver safety. However, among the smaller ones there may not be the pressure to make it a priority,' he said.