Under fair wear and tear rules, the leasing supplier absorbs slight damage taking into account the vehicle's age and mileage. But the cost of severe damage, such as scratches that expose bare metal, is passed on to the fleet customer. John Frost, general manager for Interleasing's Smethwick-based refurbishment centre, said: 'It is understood that company cars are not treated like private vehicles, but to protect themselves from unexpected bills, companies should have procedures in place to ensure that vehicles are not being mistreated.'
Any refurbishment work other than 'allowable' wear and tear is charged to the company and the bills can soon start to stack up for fleet managers not vigilant enough of vehicle misuse. Adrian Baldwin, Interleasing's marketing and communications manager, said: 'Fleet managers need to take more of an interest in their cars. Vehicles come back in varying conditions and it is often the case that they never see the car before the end of its contract and have no idea what kind of condition the cars are in.'
A spokesman for Lex Vehicle Leasing supported Interleasing's claims and said rewarding drivers who returned their vehicles in good condition was the key to cutting costs. 'Anything that raises awareness among fleets about their responsibility and increases drivers' discipline is the key,' he added. But John Lewis, director general of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, disagreed saying: 'Drivers should be made to pay if they do not look after company cars as if they were their own.'