Businesses are choosing low emission cars through a need to display their green credentials with customers, as well as reducing their carbon footprints and saving cash.
Fleet operators at the Fleet News Roundtable commented on the expectation among clients that they are seen to be ‘greener’, while for larger companies global environmental
strategies also play their part.
Sandra Clewes, fleet manager at Diversey UK, said: “We are a manufacturing company and when we tender we are expected to comply with environmental targets.
“It’s going to have an impact on companies winning business.
“We cut our CO2 two years ago from a global perspective, but much the attraction behind it comes down to running costs of vehicles.”
Her views were echoed by John Stack, fleet manager at Michelin, who said his company makes products that help vehicle manufacturers cut carbon emissions.
He said: “We produce our own low-energy tyres on the basis of reducing CO2, our factory in Dundee has two wind turbines, another of our factories has solar panels.
“Globally, every aspect of what we do has to go through this environmental sieve. When meeting business partners and clients you have to demonstrate environmental credibility, and we hope we are second to none.”
Lee Twiselton, logistics projects and fleet manager of Tennant UK, said there was no room for mixed messages when dealing with clients.
“For our company image, it’s important to deliver a consistent message.”
The growing choice of low-CO2 models has made selling the environmental message to drivers easier, particularly when the type of cars available had badge appeal.
Adrian Harris, group fleet manager at Pertemps, said: “From a driver’s point of view it has become very attractive. We’ve seen contract hire companies putting much higher RVs on low emission cars.
“The expectation is that the market for low-CO2 cars will be very strong in three years.”
Twiselton said there was already evidence that a switch to low-CO2 models would pay off.
He said: “We steered people towards the German brands because looking at wholelife costs, the better performing cars seemed also to be low in CO2.
“We have a user-chooser policy and when we explained that to drivers and how much cheaper the German cars are to run they were won over.
“The last nine cars I have taken on will cost about 10% less to run than the cars they replaced, and maybe save 12 tonnes of CO2 over their life.”
Nigel Trotman, fleet manager at Lex Autolease, added: “With pump prices going up, values are very strong.
“If you’re driving a two or three-year-old car you are probably facing a disadvantage compared with the new products available.”
Some fleet operators said explaining the entire cost of providing a company vehicle has been helpful in encouraging drivers to adopt a cheaper option.
Dean Campbell, group indirect procurement manager at IMI, said: “Our manager cars have a 160g/km cap on CO2, and we have shown our drivers the cost of everything involved. We have been very surprised at how quickly that information has sunk in.”
However, there was some criticism for van manufacturers – many of which are also car manufacturers – for not responding quickly enough to demands for lower-CO2 vehicles.
Stack said: “Van manufacturers haven’t responded to the demand for lower CO2 emissions in the same way as car manufacturers have.
"There are moves now to do more to tackle van emissions and that’s going to be on our agenda in the near future.”
Some fleets have run into difficulties when tackling driver behaviour, particularly if adopting vehicle tracking technology with a view to improving safety.
Stuart Robbins, sourcing manager (fleet), at Tarmac Group, said: “We installed monitoring equipment for safety reasons, and to help change driving habits.
“Many employees agreed it was the way forward but didn’t want it on their own company car.”
Nick Mitchell, sales director of roundtable sponsor Trimble MRM, said: “It’s a good way of managing policies companies already have in place, and the way technology is developing, it is appropriate to use it in cars as well as commercial vehicles.”
Sue Drosdowski, fleet manager at Delice de France, said accident records had improved by employing in-house training assessors.
“We have our own driver training assessors for our commercial vehicles,” she said.
“Any drivers involved in an accident, however minor, are interviewed and assessed before going back on the road. It has been well worth it.”
Fleets cautious over RVs on low CO2 cars
Fleet operators have shown a degree of scepticism over the apparent strength of residual values forecasts of low CO2 variants of cars.
Some at the roundtable raised concerns that RV predictions for specialised low CO2 derivatives could become unrealistic if demand is high.
Dean Campbell, group indirect procurement manager at IMI, warned that the current popularity of low CO2 variants such as the Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion, could lead to higher volume harming resale values at disposal time.
He told fellow fleet operators: “I think CO2 is becoming a main selling point.
"But when all these low CO2 cars are hitting the market in three years, the volume of those derivatives might hurt RVs.”
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