Fleet News

Fleets enjoy the ultimate drive-and-decide event

More than 1,200 fleet decision-makers helped to make this year’s Company Car In Action a huge success.

The three-day event at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire saw more than 200 vehicles from 14 manufacturers available to test on a variety of demanding test routes, including the twisty Alpine Track and the high speed bowl.

CCIA event director Chris Lester said: “We have come away extremely happy after what was a fantastic event.

The buzz on the driving pad was fantastic, with many manufacturers seeing driving opportunities reach capacity.

“We have been successful in attracting a broad range of visitors, from small fleet operators to those in charge of fleets of thousands of vehicles – all took advantage of the opportunity to drive around the circuits and choose from 200 vehicles.

“Plans are now being put together toensure next year’s event continues to grow and develop.”

As well as testing new models, several manufacturers had professional drivers on hand to give fast rides in cars.

Manufacturers in attendance were BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Citroen, Ford, Hummer, Honda, Kia, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Saab, Subaru and Vauxhall.

The event gave some fleet managers the chance to sample cars for the first time, including the newly-launched Honda Accord, BMW X6, Cadillac BLS, Ford Kuga, Kia Cee’d range, Mercedes-Benz CLC and Subaru’s new diesel models.

There were also static displays of intriguining new mdoels, including the Cadillac CTS executive saloon and the Saab 9-4X concept car.

Visitor feedback

PEDRO LIMA
Pricing co-ordinator, Hitachi Capital

It seems busier – there are more people this year.

Our team sets RVs and maintenance costs.

Today I can compare vehicles in the same segment and this helps, especially with the RVs.

We can go back to the office and say: ‘Actually, this vehicle isn’t strong enough, let’s increase the price.’

ANDREW COE
Site services manager – transport, Thales Optronics

There’s been a nice selection of vehicles – everything you could want to try.

I’ve managed to see everything that I wanted to see.

It’s been a good, enjoyable day, as well as being very helpful and informative.

The manufacturer staff have been very good, advising you and telling you about the different cars.

A day like this gives you the chance to pick a car that you like to take out for a drive.

RICK WILDRIDGE
MD, Haldo Developments

The organisation’s been very good, as ever. It’s great that you do this.

It’s very useful to try so many vehicles back to back, on the same road and the same circuit.

It’s a great opportunity to really compare cars.

ANGELA DAVEY
Transport Supervisor, Optima

The benefit of the event is looking at new vehicles and seeing different things to what we use at the moment.

We’ve got a fleet of Volkswagens so everything here is different.

ALLEN BENNETT
Fleet manager, Optima

CCIA helps make choices for fleet that bit easier.

You get to drive at your leisure and there’s a lot of different choices.

TRACEY BAKER
Fleet administrator, HSM

It’s great to get out and do some driving in these vehicles – it’s definitely useful for me as a fleet administrator.

The organisation has been very good and the facilities are excellent – I can’t fault it.

DONNA MILLAN
Fleet administrator, HSM

It’s good to see all these cars up close and have a look inside, especially the new vehicles.

I’m here to learn about the cars that we promote in our fleet.

This is a really good kind of event for fleet workers and people who work with company cars – you get to see what’s going on in the industry and get to understand the cars we use and talk about in fleet departments every day.

NIGEL OWEN
Managing director, The School Photography Company

An event like this is a great time saver. If I had to go round different dealerships it would take days and days whereas here you can see lots of manufacturers at one time.

Being able to come to one place and test drive similar cars one after the other is a real benefit. You really get a feel for the cars when you get out of one vehicle and then straight into a similar comparison vehicle.

We’ve got a fleet of Peugeots so we can make direct comparisons with them.

This is the first time I’ve been to CCIA and I will definitely be back next year.

ANGELA KONSTANZ
Senior manager, Welsby Associates

I’ve had lots of good drives in cars that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to take out – there’s a fantastic range of manufacturers here.

I got to drive a police car, which was a great novelty, and I went out for a pro-drive, which was fantastic – you could hear the wheels screeching as you went round corners!

To be able to test all these cars in one day, in one place, is ideal, especially when compared to having to getting around to individual dealerships for tests – it’s much quicker. All in all, it’s been a nice day away from the office.

ALISON PEERS
M2M business manager, Orange

I’ve been very impressed – this is a good opportunity to view a lot of high-spec vehicles in one place without having to trawl around lots of different places.

SAM SANDERCOCK
General manager, fleet solutions, RoadAngel

I wouldn’t mind taking my car round the circuits! It’s been very good and everyone seems to be enjoying it.
It’s a nice day out but there has been some substance behind it – it’s a great opportunity to keep up to date with what different manufacturers have been up to.

It’s been interesting to see how the manufacturers are getting on with cutting emissions – who is more efficient – and to actually test the cars out yourself.

From a manager’s perspective it’s great.

PETER FELTON
Maintenance manager, Optima

It gives you a chance to look at new vehicles and see what’s out there.

It’s about finding new innovations and new ideas.

I’ve just been out in the Citroën C6 and I was quite impressed with the lane control – the seat vibrates every time you go across a white line.

And I’m finding that things that are in high-end cars, such as reversing sensors, are now coming to low-end ones.

STEVE GRANGER
Operations manager, BT Fleet

It’s been very enjoyable – it’s my first time here and Fleet News has made a very good impression.

I thought it was nice to get a chance to try out the new Honda Accord – I’ve been driving one for three years and it’s great to try the new version.

I think days like this are definitely beneficial – they’re a great opportunity to try out different cars in the same test environment.

BT managers ask me about options and performance when they’re looking to change cars and it’s good to have some experience of road testing yourself.

COLIN NORRIS
Fleet director, Bike Shine, Impington

The event is fantastic and it’s a shame it’s not longer.

Bt if they made it two weeks it still wouldn’t be long enough.

It helps me in the decision- making because you can test drive so many cars under one roof, rather than going to different dealers or ringing up the manufacturer and getting them to deliver one to your factory.

You can come here and – within reason – you can test-drive what they’ve got.

Nine times out of 10 you can get into what you want, if it’s a run-of-the-mill car.

And for that I’d give it full compliments.

There’s no other event like it.

MARTIN WILLIAMS
Fleet manager, Bike Shine, Impington

It helps me do my job because it’s a hands-on experience.

I could never test-drive this number of cars in one day, other than at an event like this.

And also it’s not a free-for-all because you’re surrounded by professionals.

GRAHAM PITTAWAY
Fleet manager, Barclays Group

The BMW Z4 was superb – a smooth drive, quick, really good.

Good cornering, very responsive – and just great going round the Alpine track.

It’s been a terrific day and fleet managers are very knowledgeable to come to CCIA because you can try everything – this event has got such a mixture of cars and vans, it’s a great day out for a fleet manager.

HSM TELEMARKETING

W’ve just been on the off-road track, which was fantastic.

The day’s been good, though it’s been very hard to book in with BMW.

The experience will help us on the telemarketing side a lot, as we really get a feel for the GM/Vauxhall products that we’re selling to the industry.

What the manufacturers had to say

BMW rolled out a wide range of its cars at CCIA, all featuring the company’s EfficientDynamics fuel saving technology.

Fitted on all models from the core 1, 3 and 5 Series ranges, as well as on the X3, X5 and X6 SUVs, the technology brings lower emissions without compromising BMW’s legendary driving enjoyment.

Chris Brownridge, corporate operations manager at BMW UK, said: “Our participation at CCIA was a logical step in the communication of our EfficientDynamics programme.

“It not only enabled us to talk directly to fleet managers and decision-makers about the raft of fuel efficient technologies, but it also enabled them to experience them first hand.

“While some competitors have chosen to make their cars cleaner by compromising some aspects of the driving experience, BMW is the only premium manufacturer to deliver increasing levels of performance and driving dynamics at the same time as reducing fuel consumption.

“The overwhelmingly positive response we received from those who drove the cars, alongside the on-going sales success of EfficientDynamics-equipped cars, confirms that our approach appeals to the fleet manager and company car driver alike.”

CADILLAC

Fleet managers had their first opportunity to have a look at the new Cadillac CTS model in the UK well ahead of its on-sale date later this summer.

The CTS is a sleek four-door saloon which is positioned in the executive sector to rival cars such as the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series.

While the CTS was for display purposes only, fleet managers had the opportunity to drive the BLS family, with saloon and Wagon versions on offer powered by a choice of 150 or 180bhp diesel engines, both borrowed from parent company GM.

Fleet brand manager Paul Adler said: “We’ve brought Cadillac along to generate interest in the brand and to let customers know that it is part of the GM portfolio.

"This sends a clear signal to businesses.”

Another American brand under the GM UK umbrella is Hummer, with the H3 model available to test on the off-road course.

Mr Adler added: “Driving a Hummer is a real experience, so it was good to have it at the show.”

CHEVROLET

Company Car In Action represented the first chance for fleet managers to get behind the wheel of the new Epica mid-size saloon and Aveo supermini models.

The two ranges, which are on sale now, boast improved styling and the Epica saloon now offers a diesel.

Both models offer generous equipment levels at affordable prices, helping them fill an important niche within the overall GM UK fleet offering which includes Cadillac, Saab, Hummer and Vauxhall.

The Captiva SUV was also in demand, with drivers testing its abilities both on and off-road.

CITROËN

Citroen’s new C5 drew plenty of curious visitors as it was displayed for the first time.

The new vehicle marks a concerted effort by Citroen to take on the established German brands such as Audi and Volkswagen.

Both saloon and estate versions were available for testing and saw visitors queuing out of the door of Citroen’s stand.

The manufacturer had 15 vehicles available for fleet managers to drive, including a range of sub-120g/km vehicles that qualify for the lowest £35 band of Vehicle Excise Duty.

It has an impressive 24 models that fall into this category and also qualify for the lowest 10% company car tax band, or 13% for diesels.

Additionally, all diesel Citroens can run on a 30% blend of biodiesel.

The flagship C6 attracted plenty of attention, as did the new the C-Crosser.

Citroen also had its C4 and C8 ranges on display, alongside commercial vehicles such as the Berlingo and the new Nemo small van.

FORD

Among Ford’s latest offerings was the Kuga SUV, as well as the ultra-frugal Focus Econetic which fits into the lowest tax and VED bands thanks to its sub-120g/km CO2 emissions.

The Kuga is Ford’s first foray into the crossover market and visitors were keen to see if the late arrival could continue Ford’s tradition of producing dynamic machines on road while also offering off-road potential.

The Focus ECOnetic is the first vehicle to wear the badge that will signal the greenest option in a particular Ford vehicle.

The Mondeo ECOnetic, with emissions of less than 140g/km, goes on sale next month, while an ECOnetic version of the forthcoming new Fiesta will be launched in 2009.

The Mondeo, a Fleet News Award winner, was also available for test drives, and for those looking for a more performance-orientated vehicle the keys to the new-look Focus ST, with 225bhp, were up for grabs.

GM UK SV

The temptation proved too much for most visitors to GM UK’s Special Vehicles stand, judging by the number of Vauxhall police cars flying around the hill route with their lights flashing.

Millbrook is home to GM UK’s Special Vehicles division, where blue-light models are produced on a dedicated production line. GM UK can tailor production demands to each force’s specifications, and another advantage is that the car comes with a single invoice, rather than one for the car and another for the conversion work.

GM’s emergency service vehicles come with the same warranty package as conventional models.

As well as pursuit and panda cars, GM also offers LCV conversions with items such as cells in the back.

HONDA

CCIA was ‘the perfect showcase’ for Honda’s all-new Accord model, which has just gone on sale in the UK .

With corporate customers likely to make up the majority of Accord sales, the chance to get new drivers behind the wheel was a key attraction for Honda.

Graham Avent, manager – corporate operations, at Honda UK, said: “With more driver appeal, premium build quality and high specification levels as standard, this new version will not disappoint corporate customers.

“The response from fleet managers, leasing companies and the price guides has been overwhelmingly positive and now is the time for the drivers to experience what all the fuss is about.”

Mr Avent added: “We’ve been hosting Accord family fun days up and down the country and CCIA complements that activity perfectly.

"Our stand manager reported that they had been flat out with nearly 400 test drives on day one alone. Accord, as expected, went down a storm.”

Also available to test were the Civic and CR-V models, including the sporty Type-R version.

KIA

It was something of a family affair on Kia’s stand as the South Korean car company offered its entire Cee’d range to drive.

Fleet managers could get behind the wheel of the Cee’d hatchback, the Pro_Cee’d sports hatchback and the Cee’d_SW estate.

The new family of cars are the fruit of a E1 billion commitment by the manufacturer to boost sales across Europe.

All three models, along with the rest of the Kia range, benefit from a seven-year warranty package.

The manufacturer used CCIA to introduce the range to fleet managers who may never have driven a new Cee’d, or who had preconceptions about the brand.

LEXUS

With the words ‘Hybrid Drive’ featuring heavily all over its stand, there could be little doubt as to Lexus’ focus at CCIA.

Lexus director Belinda Poole said: “The public see alternative fuel as one big package, whether hybrid, biofuel or LPG. It’s all one big blob.

“Hybrids are not just a fad and we have to get away from that image of pop stars driving them – they are not just for people that can afford them.”

Lexus has no new models planned until 2011, and is concentrating on consolidating its customer base.

National corporate and remarketing manager Andy Simpson said: “Most people measure events like this by the number of people that they recognise from their big accounts.

“But as much as we value them, we don’t want to see them here because we see them anyway. The people coming through the door here are people we are not in touch with already, and that’s great.”

Also on display was the new 416bhp IS-F super saloon.

MERCEDES

The brand new CLC took pride of place at the Mercedes-Benz stand.

It was the first appearance of the new coupé, and followed the first appearance of the latest C-Class at last year’s CCIA.

Colin Niklas, national corporate sales manager at Mercedes-Benz, said the chance to drive the cars resulted in more visitors on the first day than during the whole of the 2007 event.

“They are the cars that everyone wants to try.

"It’s the first outing for CLC and last year at CCIA we launched C-Class so it’s almost become a forum for launches for us.

“Next year we are launching the new E-Class, which will be our second biggest corporate offering, and the new CLK.

"They are basically going to be launched this time next year and will probably be coming to CCIA in 2009.”

Also on display were the facelifted CLS, SLK and SL, which boast improved safety features and more powerful and efficient engines.

PEUGEOT

Peugeot mixed the frugal and environmentally-friendly with sporty thrill rides on its stand.

The French carmaker is Europe’s second biggest seller of low-CO2 cars and had several models available to test that emit less than 120g/km.

But it was also offering adrenaline-filled passenger rides in the 175bhp 207 GTi alongside
a professional racing driver around Millbrook’s tight and twisty handling circuit.

Also available for evaluation for the first time was the 308 SW estate, which has just gone on sale.

The rest of the range was also represented, from the little 107 city car to the 4007 crossover SUV, along with the brand new Bipper city van.

Peugeot’s event manager Rob Jenkins said the event was a great opportunity to get bums on seats.

“It’s getting the models out and promoting, letting people feel and see the cars in the metal,” he said.

“You can’t normally experience the cars in this way.

"They also get to talk to us with no hard-sell tactics and for us there are people genuinely interested in purchasing, whereas at motor shows you get a lot of enthusiasts that aren’t necessarily in the market to buy.”

SAAB

While the sun was shining visitors to the Saab stand could take advantage and test drive the firm’s recently revised 9-3 Convertible models.

And when the clouds moved across Millbrook’s bowl, they could take cover and admire the future of the brand.

As well as 9-3 and 9-5 models to drive (including the bioethanol-powered BioPower derivatives plus the performance twin-turbo diesel versions), Saab’s 9-4X concept car took centre stage.

Although Saab has yet to announce any concrete plans for the future, brand manager – fleet Paul Adler said: “The 9-4X gives a clear indication of what is to come from Saab.”

The arrival of the concept car was a surprise for all showgoers, as the model has only previously been displayed at international motor shows.

Mr Adler added: “It looks more sporty than some SUVs and is even more car-like. The interior looks stunning.”

SUBARU

With diesel engines available for the first time, Subaru can now make its models even more tempting for company car drivers.

The firm’s stand at CCIA featured diesel versions of the Legacy saloon and Sports Tourer and Outback models – all powered by the world’s only flat-four diesel engine.

The 150bhp unit, which returns nearly 50mpg on the combined cycle, has won praise from reviewers around the world for its power and refinement.

Also on display was the all-new Forester model, alongside the recently-launched Impreza range.

And for thrill-seekers a professional racing driver was on hand to offer fast rides in the range-topping 300bhp Impreza WRX STi.

VAUXHALL

Vauxhall used CCIA to remind customers of the sheer breadth of offering within its range.

As well as high-performance VXR models from across the range (which proved so popular that people were queing around its stand to register for a drive), Vauxhall had a host of other models to drive, from the Antara SUV to the Astra TwinTop with its folding metal roof.

Fleet brand manager Paul Adler said: “It is easy to forget what a vast range of cars we offer, so we were raising awareness of niches in the range such as Antara and the Astra TwinTop.”

There was also a hint of the future on the stand with a wall dedicated to the new Insignia – the replacement for the Vectra which will receive its world debut at next month’s London Motor Show.

Mr Adler added: “We received a lot of comments about the Insignia display and as a result we are taking some customers down to the show so they can see it.

“It is good to know people are already talking about the car.”
 

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