'The BVRLA has told the Government that it might well have shot itself in the foot by making life more expensive for a driver who probably had little alternative but to take a different direction from the green route,' he said. 'The Government considered that it had given sufficient warning to fleet drivers to be able to change cars before the new 2002 carbon dioxides based company car tax comes in effect. I do not believe they have.'
From April 2002 a company car will be taxed on a combination of its list price and its carbon dioxide emissions, rather than on list price and miles covered. Speaking to delegates at a VELO business seminar entitled 'Fleet Policy and Provision - The Options the Facts', Lewis added that high-mileage drivers should be granted a period of grace to come to terms with the new tax regime.
'We are likely to see a change in the fleet mix with drivers and fleet operators downsizing or 'down-polluting' to reduce CO2 and thereby reduce the personal tax burden,' he said. 'Nobody drives in excess of 18,000 business miles on today's UK roads for the sheer fun of it and these drivers will be forced to downsize to the smallest vehicles, simply to remain in or get close to their current tax position. The Inland Revenue estimates that 50,000 drivers in this category will 'opt out'. It could be more.'
Nigel Stephens, VELO chairman and chief executive added: 'Fleet operators have been unable to form any sort of fixed policies due to uncertainties over legislation during this parliament. The nature of fleet provision requires a certain amount of stability to ensure fleet operators and drivers do not lose out unfairly. Consultation is key to ensure fleets are not unfairly treated.
'For example, it appears the Government unfortunately misunderstood the fleet industry when it began its review of car prices within the UK. The effect of falling prices, both new and used, could have been somewhat reduced had better consultation with fleet providers and operators been undertaken.'