In real terms, fleets bought 30,000 more low emission cars in the first six months of 2001 than in the same period last year. In total, 237,516 new fleet cars beat the 165g/km threshold, compared to 207,817 last year. Higher diesel sales, which have soared from 62,855 last year to 87,484 in 2001, account for much of the increase.
While diesel offers the best solution for cutting the greenhouse gas CO2, company car drivers with sub-165g/km diesel car will face a benefit charge of 18% of the P11D price because of a Government penalty for the fuel. Petrol cars under 165g/km of CO2 have also seen a slight increase in sales, up by about 5,000 units.
A spokesman for the SMMT said: 'This is the first sizable shift we have seen in buying habits. Companies are definitely buying cars that emit less CO2. The changes to the tax system are being understood more widely by drivers, and we are only starting to see the tip of the iceberg.' Stewart Whyte, director of the Association of Car Fleet Operators said: 'It's good news, but one small piece of good news in a much larger picture.'
The figures indicate that fleet managers are at the forefront of cleaning up the UK's transport pollution problems, and are leading the way in assisting the Government to hit its target of reducing CO2 emissions by at least 12.5% by 2009/2010.