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Company car alternatives considered by Merck Sharp and Dohme

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Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) is being advised by ALD Automotive’s fleet consultancy team ahead of its planned relocation to London.

The pharmaceutical company currently has a fleet of 600 company cars – a mix of employee car benefit and essential use vehicles.

ALD will consider whether company cars are a suitable employee benefit for those based in the city.  It will also include a study into the viability of plug in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) as essential use company cars.

The leasing company is reviewing the whole of MSD’s mobility policy, focusing on how employees’ travel can be made more efficient, sustainable and convenient.

It will consider all aspects of mobility, not only the financial costs to MSD and to its employees, but also HR and environmental considerations. It will include an in-depth study of suitable company cars, but also include car sharing, public transport and taxi service options.

Joe Carreira, EMEA fleet manager for MSD, said: “The purpose of the ALD review is to discover new ways in which we can make travel more efficient and explore what the options available to our employees could be in the future. 

“Moving from a relatively rural location to a city centre location, will present many new transportation challenges that need to be tested. The hybrid trial is one potential solution that we are evaluating for future use.

Sarah Gray, fleet consultant for ALD Automotive, agreed. “Business travel for employees has previously been focused around cars,” she said. “We are in a period of change where cars that were once desirable may no longer be, due to a number of keys factors.  

“Now we have to consider the cost of mobility, the impact on the environment, efficiency and also whether a car is actually a benefit at all for certain employees, for example those based in London. MSD recognises this and we have therefore spent time discussing the options for mobility and what can be done today to address these factors.”

Last year, ALD published a White Paper on PHEV use, following an extensive real world trial of the vehicles amongst its own company car drivers. 

MSD asked ALD to conduct a similar trial using a sample of its own company car drivers. 

A group of 20 MSD employees whose cars are due for replacement within the next 3-6 months have been given the use of a Mercedes C350e on a trial basis.

The drivers on the trial will be given training in how to get the best performance out of the PHEVs.  ALD is setting up a microsite for MSD drivers to access more information about the trial and to log their business journeys for simplified, one-click expenses claims.

All of the vehicles on the trial will be fitted with a telematics device to monitor the performance of the vehicle over the course of the trial. With each of the drivers having a unique daily journey, driving style and weekly mileage, this will give MSD a sample of the fleet to assess the capability of the PHEVs across a range of driving conditions and journey profiles.

The key objective for the MSD PHEV trial is to obtain data to discover whether the new technologies that are available in the alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) market could potentially deliver value in the long-run. 

Valuable data will be gathered to give a picture of mpg, individual journey distances, total expected annual mileages and the number of journeys made in ‘engine off’ mode. 

The trial will also look into the total reduction in CO2 emissions as well as the cost savings to drivers and to MSD.

Carreira said: “This is the perfect time for us to completely review our entire mobility policy and make sure that the new policy works for everyone. We are particularly excited by the PHEV trial, as the ALD White Paper dispelled a few myths for us. 

“The makes and models now available mean that there is much more choice for drivers and the battery ranges and availability of charging points for when the vehicles are not being used make them much more convenient and suitable for a wider driver profile.”

Drivers on the trial are being offered vehicle home chargers, and MSD has already installed twelve charging stations at its current head office.

Gray concluded:  “The plug in hybrid trial is the first project to review alternatives for employees on business travel. It’s been a great project to be involved in and I am looking forward to analysing the results and working with MSD on future mobility projects.” 

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