Fleet News

Fleet News industry conference: Minister in the fleet spotlight

WHAT should be done to combat congestion and pollution on UK roads? Should local or central government impose road tolls to reduce traffic volumes? Should employers be taxed on the number of workplace parking spaces available to staff? Do clean fuel vehicles powered by liquefied petroleum gas have a future? And what steps should employers be taking to meet their health and safety responsibilities towards at-work drivers?

The answers to these questions will determine fleet strategy for the next decade and beyond, and fleet executives will have the opportunity to hear the answers from the heart of Government at the Fleet News industry conference, Facing the Future, on November 6, under the chairmanship of BBC2 Newsnight's Jeremy Vine.

Transport Minister David Jamieson will lay out the Government's transport policy; how the Government hopes to work with fleets to combat gridlock and pollution, and the actions it would like to see employers undertake to ensure cleaner, safer roads.

Delegates will also have the chance to put questions to the Minister, to clarify their understanding of official policy and to have their own opinions heard by one of the key influencers in the Labour administration.

Also speaking will be one of the country's most visionary transport experts, Professor David Begg, chair of the Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT), the body charged with 'thinking the unthinkable' in a bid to alleviate Britain's transport problems.

Earlier this year, for example, CfIT advocated pay-per-mile road charging on all roads, and Begg supports road tolls and workplace parking charges.

The problems, difficulties and inefficiencies facing travellers in the UK seem to be intensifying. Many major routes are severely congested for hours every day, affecting commuters, employees driving to clients, and businesses trying to make deliveries. The alternatives, however, are no less appealing with strikes stalling the London Underground, and high cost and uncertain reliability undermining the appeal of the railways.

Facing the Future is an ideal opportunity for fleet executives to get face-to-face with a Government minister, hear first-hand official Government policy and timescales, and then to factor this information into future corporate strategies.

Green alternatives

SOMEWHERE on the horizon there's a hydrogen economy waiting to happen where everyone will drive around in zero emission cars producing nothing but water from their exhaust pipes.

But in the meantime green-focused employers still need both their staff to be mobile and their goods to be delivered in a viable and cost-effective fashion that minimises pollution and environmental damage.

The new company car tax system has driven fleet demand for diesel-powered cars because of their lower emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the principal greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

But diesel cars also emit particulates that are blamed for damaging air quality and causing respiratory diseases, particularly in urban areas.

The 'green' alternative to diesel is liquefied petroleum gas which produces lower and cleaner tailpipe emissions, but which also emits higher levels of carbon dioxide than diesel.

So what fuel policies should environmentally-conscious fleets adopt? And will these policies satisfy the operational, human resource and budgetary requirements of fleets in the real world?

To debate this future fuel issue, two of the most influential figures in the UK motor industry, Robin Woolcock, managing director of Volkswagen Group UK, and Jonathan Murray, director of TransportEnergy (which oversees the PowerShift programme designed to encourage the uptake of alternatively-fuelled vehicles), will speak at the Fleet News Facing the Future conference. The structure of the conference will also give delegates the opportunity to contribute to the debate via vigorous question-and-answer sessions.

Residual values

WHERE now for residual values? Two years of record new car sales, burgeoning double-digit growth for sales of diesel cars, and the new registration plate system could all have a fundamental impact on used car prices next year, and in 2004 and 2005.

For leasing companies and fleets with residual value exposure the forecasts made by the used car price guides can make or break the profitability of contracts and turn balance sheets from black into an alarming shade of scarlet.

So what do these professional forecasters think will happen to used car values? Are your own projections in line with their forecasts? And who is going to be right and wrong?

Fleet News' Facing the Future conference will address the residual value debate head-on, identifying the model sectors more likely to prove popular to used car buyers in 2004 and 2005, and therefore more likely to retain their value.

Ramesh Notra, CAP chief economist, and Adrian Rushmore, managing editor of Glass's Information Services, will present their own companies' views of the future used car market, while John Lewis, director-general of the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association, will represent the industry's views on how best to maximise future residual values.

This promises to be a fascinating and enlightening debate, spurred on by conference chairman Jeremy Vine, and one that residual value setters and forecasters cannot afford to miss.

Block exemption

THE way leasing companies and fleets buy their cars and service them is set for a quiet revolution as manufacturers reorganise their dealer networks to co-operate with the rules of the new European block exemption.

The majority of UK dealerships have now been served with franchise termination notices as car makers restructure their agreements to comply with the new rules.

However, the new trading environment also opens opportunities for new players to enter the market both to sell new cars and to service and maintain the fleet parc.

On the continent, the combination of the new block exemption rules and the single currency creates the opportunity for dealers and fleets to acquire cars in low cost pre-tax markets, accelerating the development of price harmonisation, while falling trade barriers are leading to cross-border remarketing opportunities for end of contract hire, lease and company cars.

But what will be the impact of the new block exemption in the UK, where dealer groups are considerably stronger than their continental colleagues, and where our right-hand drive market mitigates against cross-border trade?

Will supermarkets and internet sites start to play a key role in new car sales?

Will dealers sub-contract service and maintenance work to third party suppliers? And will the European Commission stand by and watch the new rules come into force or will it continue with its determined strategy to increase competition in the new car market and create a genuine pan-European single market?

Two experts in this field will tackle these questions. Automotive expert and MEP Malcolm Harbour will address the event via a live link from the European Parliament, offering an insider's view of the political situation regarding the EU car market.

And Rick Yarrow, managing director of Eurocarprice, will analyse the new and used car pricing data that his company collates to highlight the impact of the single currency, pricing trends across Europe, and the outlook for price harmonisation.

Book your place

Facing the Future, the Fleet News industry conference sponsored by Manheim Auctions and Kwik-Fit Fleet, takes place on November 6 at the Hilton London Metropole, Edgware Road, London, from 10am until 4.30pm.

Tickets cost £195 +VAT.

  • To book your place, please click here to print off a booking form (.pdf format), fill it in and fax back to the Fleet Events department on 01733 468346.

    Otherwise email sandra.evitt@emap.com or call on 01733 468123.

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