BRITISH businesses have given a massive vote of confidence to the company car in a new survey - but their fleet departments are crying out for more help to run vehicles.
A total of 85% of fleets in the survey said they felt the business car has a future, while 74% of fleets say their vehicles are provided for essential business use. Just over half of respondents thought that company cars would retain their importance in the employee recruitment and retention process.
But the GEE Guide to Company Cars 2003/04 revealed that fleet decision-makers are struggling to cope with the pressure brought on by the increasing importance of company cars.
A total of 63% of fleet managers put the difficult balancing act of meeting the needs of the company and drivers at the top of their problem list, compared to 49% last year and 48% in 2001.
Other problems include understanding tax and other legislative changes, dealing with accident claims and procedures and managing parking fines, speeding fines and other offences committed by their drivers.
Tax changes cause problems for 55% of fleets and finding time to manage the fleet causes problems for 39%.
Although the survey of 158 companies revealed an increase in fleets affected by accidents, less than one-third of companies (30%) have conducted risk assessments on the hazards facing company car drivers, a figure that has remained static since last year.
The number of companies that have introduced green initiatives in the past 12 months has almost doubled, from 36% to 66%.
A total of 91% of the survey's respondents affected by congestion charging said it would lead to increased costs for their company.
The impact of the £5 daily charge has already led to organisations changing the types of vehicle they use, with 17% anticipating this vehicle change to be a move to electric or hybrid vehicles, or those that run on LPG – all of which currently receive a 100% discount on the charge if they meet key environmental targets.
Other cost-saving initiatives introduced by companies in 2003 included reducing the number of drivers who receive free fuel for private motoring. While in 2002, 63% of companies provided this benefit, this fell by 10% in 2003 to 53%.
The survey also showed that 12% of cars now have satellite navigation or an electronic route planner, while 78% now have a mobile phone or car phone.
Report author Cherry Park said: 'It is interesting to see that following the introduction of the congestion charge in central London, companies have changed the nature of their fleet to avoid these costs. However, while the provision of expensed fuel by companies is still reducing, reflecting a continuing trend over the years, the company car, especially the business car, is as popular as ever.'