Fleet News

Fleets back plans to launch wider choice of hybrid cars

A GROWING number of manufacturers are planning to offer hybrid vehicles to fleets to help them reduce drivers' tax bills, lower running costs and care for the environment.

Already employers can choose from the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, while Honda will also launch a Civic IMA hybrid later this year.

And Vauxhall could soon be joining the list, as Rick Wagoner, chief executive of parent company General Motors, announced the firm expected to sell more than one million of the low emission cars a year globally by 2007.

Officials admit they are keen to respond to cars such as the Honda Insight, Civic IMA hybrid and Toyota's Prius, which achieve ultra-low exhaust emissions by teaming electric motors with traditional internal combustion engines.

GM will begin to roll out its ambitious plan later this year when it starts supplying fleet customers in the US with hybrid models and will then consider launching hybrid versions of popular UK models, such as the Vauxhall Vectra and Astra.

Manufacturers are also expecting demand to soar when London's congestion charging scheme is launched next month, as hybrid vehicles qualify for the 100% discount offered to ultra-low emission vehicles. According to our fleet panel, such an occurrence is likely.

An overwhelming 80% pledged to support the low-emission cars as congestion charging spreads throughout the country, claiming that it is a viable long-term alternative to petrol and diesel until hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology is available.

However, there is a sizeable minority that does not support the idea, warning that their drivers would not be prepared to drive cars offering the new technology.

Would you put hybrid vehicles on your fleet as an alternative to petrol and diesel models if they were available from most major manufacturers?

##Jan23panel--none##

'As our fleet is user-chooser, I ran a quick survey on 160 drivers. The responses received were 75 'yes' and 24 'no'. From the fleet management point of view, the response to your question therefore has to be yes.'
Linda Blackwell
Kerry Foods

'No. I think hybrid vehicles have still got some way to go yet before they become accepted as an alternative to either petrol or diesel. I can't see anyone in our fleet even wanting to consider the option yet. However, give it another five years and I think we will see a move towards hybrid vehicles for the family runs around town. For the long distance salesman, this alternative is not viable as yet.'
Nigel Crane
Facilities manager, Dudley Jenkins Group plc

'I can't think of any reason why not. However, we are largely user-chooser so the vehicle would have to be appealing, practical and well-priced. Unfortunately, judging by the examples available so far, it would be wise not to hold your breath.' S.S, via email 'No, not until everyone else has used them for a full fleet cycle and running costs, reliability and residuals are proven. The problem is, I suspect the majority of fleets will want somebody else to be the guinea pigs.'
P.J.B, via email

The short answer is 'yes'. If hybrids were readily available from most manufacturers, and the prices were competitive, then I would certainly consider them. Consideration would have to be given to costs of maintenance/repair, and residuals, but I would be happier to go down the hybrid route than the LPG route. There are – Gulf war/ tanker driver strikes permitting – no worries about availability of fuel, and it is not left to the driver to decide what he will put in the tank.'
Alan Miles, Administration & data protection manager
RNIB

'Yes. At least it is a stopgap, if not the solution. Let's hope the manufacturers can do it profitably. I applaud Toyota and Honda for taking the lead in this and it is about time other manufacturers followed suit. Take-up would need to be quite good to stop such cars being loss-leaders though. And it would all depend on contract hire companies pitching the lease rates competitively. The only problem then are the internal politics with drivers who want the mega-amp sport versions.'
D.G, via email

'Yes, as long as the packaging improves and the price premium is reasonable. The current offering of hybrids are not suited to load carrying nor, to be realistic, are they particularly desirable vehicles. Desirability of vehicles provided is still a key issue in staff recruitment and retention in the IT industry. Roll on the hybrid Audi A3/A4, MG ZT, etc.'
Ian Smith
Group accountant, CPiO Ltd

'We will certainly have a look at them, but they would have to meet our business needs and cost the right sort of money to operate.'
Barry Lingard
Fleet manager, Leisure Link

'This would be a fascinating development, but I would want to see how the vehicles shaped up to the rigours required of a car which has to work in the conditions ours find themselves in before committing to the acquisition of any.'
Chris Bates, Facilities manager
Lafarge Aggregates Ltd

'Yes, I would put such vehicles on the fleet providing that the total cost of running such hybrids was the same or less as conventional fleet vehicles, including any LPG dual-fuel cars, etc. The real issues are centred on the total cost including fuel costs, the new city congestion charging rates and how this will affect company fleet bills and ease time spent on fuelling these vehicles.'
Nicholas J M Bennett
Head of the compensation & HR practice, Buck Consultants Ltd

'Yes. Provided that the hybrid vehicles perform in comparable fashion to current vehicles. In my view it cannot be long before the Government puts the weight of policy and taxation behind this development.'
Richard Graham
Gisela Graham Limited

'Yes, we would consider including them on our choice list but I suspect that none of our drivers would select a hybrid model in the immediate future for fear of the unknown. They would want to be totally confident that performance and reliability have been proven before venturing towards such types of vehicle.'
J.S, via email

'Yes. But, this would partly depend on contract hire rates, and this is relative to maintenance and residual values.'
P.M, via email

'Yes. In principle we would be prepared to put these vehicles on our choice list, providing that they were a viable offering backed up by a three year manufacturer warranty. Maybe a fixed price maintenance package option would also ease some potential purchasers' concerns?'
Phil Redman, IBM

'Yes, but whether they'd be chosen by our staff is another matter. Chances would probably improve if the hybrid had a BMW or Audi badge on it.'
R.L, via email

'Yes with the proviso that the Government has no plans to raise the missing fuel tax revenue by other stealthy means.'
A.M, via email

'Our company would be happy to add anything to the fleet, provided it met our basic criteria, in pursuit of our corporate environmental objectives. Clear advantages in terms of benefit-in-kind taxation would certainly cause drivers to look at hybrid vehicles, but the tax advantages are not currently sufficient to entice drivers away from low carbon dioxide-emitting petrol and diesel cars.'
David Mullins
Administration manager
Slough Estates plc

'We would be prepared to offer hybrid vehicles to our staff. Selecting a hybrid vehicle would initially represent something of a novelty but as the savings in the cost of private mileage is realised I believe that it would become a very realistic choice.'
Chris Fitzpatrick
Area fleet co-ordinator, Telewest Broadband

'Yes, I would try anything that would loosen the stranglehold the oil companies have on the world. Incidentally, whatever happened to the hydrogen car?'
Paul Adey, via email

'Generally no to hybrids for cars but I think there is much more potential in the small van arena and I am surprised there has not been more demand for this.'
Bill Pinkney, Transport Consultancy Services

'Yes. We are particularly interested in the new Honda Civic IMA being launched next month.'
Phillippa T Caine
Company secretary, Corgi

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