FSGB delivers new market-leading IT solutions to save fleets time and money and aid compliance

FSGB delivers new market-leading IT solutions to save fleets time and money and aid compliance

A string of new technology-based features have been launched by Fleet Service Great Britain (FSGB) designed to save customers time and money in managing their company car and commercial vehicle operations and ensure legislative compliance.

FSGB launched in spring 2015 and, offering a comprehensive range of in-life vehicle management services underpinned by cutting-edge IT solutions and with a customer-centric focus, has expanded to currently manage almost 7,000 cars and commercial vehicles.

The latest IT initiatives, developed at the request of and in partnership with customers include: Event Scheduler, Bespoke Categorisation, Proactive Service, Maintenance and Repair and Rental Check Sheets (see details of each below).

FSGB head of sales Marcus Bray said: “FSGB’s IT solutions come from working hand-in-hand with customers and listening to the issues and problems that they face on a daily basis. Using the experience and knowledge of our employees gained over many years of working in the fleet management sector we can identify, develop and deliver solutions.

“FSGB works on the frontline with customers – effectively as an extension of their own in-house fleet team. Very few companies listen to their customers and then deliver what is requested. FSGB is using technology to make life easier for clients.”

He continued: “Fleet management continues to evolve with technological advances for managing vehicles, drivers and journeys, but ultimately success continues to be built on listening to clients.

“Businesses that lose touch with their customers and become disconnected, very soon lose those clients and that attitude is reflected by the contracts that FSGB continues to win.”

While industry-leading technology is business-critical for FSGB, the unique co-ownership company also understands that it is simply a tool – the big ingredient being people.

Mr Bray concluded: “Companies that uncouple relationships and de-personalise service and rely on technology to do the fleet management job soon find out the error of their ways. FSGB will always be face-to-face and personal – but discussions with customers and the application of technology are powerful forces as demonstrated by FSGB’s business success to date.”

Event Scheduler provides customers with an online overview of ‘planned events’ – for example servicing and MoT scheduled dates, oil change and cam belt replacement – during the fleet life of any vehicle and associated spend. Developed in partnership with customer Stannah, the UK’s leading independent supplier of lift products supplying goods as diverse as loading systems, service lifts, platform lifts, homelifts and stairlifts, the solution is designed to assist with reducing vehicle off-road time and aid vehicle disposal planning.

Vehicle off-road time is a huge cost burden for many fleets and Event Scheduler provides a graphic view of vehicles with intervals due by month and looks to forecast events based on time/mileage. When an event falls due within an agreed tolerance, future events are analysed to see if they can be merged into a single same-day ‘job’ based on the cost of work being undertaken early and a vehicle off road cost for customers.

The feature’s dashboard view provides fleet operators with a scheduled vehicle disposal date, according to company policy. Built-in rule sets allow Event Scheduler to base ‘planned events’ around that date, which, for example, could be brought forward to avoid additional service or MoT costs or see a vehicle moved to a company’s pool fleet replacing an existing vehicle on that fleet. The dashboard also highlights a summary of decisions made based on a disposal review and the system has the ability to reset a disposal date based on a review.

Martin Carter, Stannah’s group information systems director, who manages the company’s fleet of more than 700 company cars and vans, said: “We were looking for something that worked along the line of a master production schedule that showed all activities over a planning horizon. With Event Scheduler we can now plan six months ahead for vehicle disposal and replacement rather than respond to events and can group demand to reduce off road time. As a graphical representation, it’s simple to use and we look forward to it developing further as we gain real world experience.”

Sarah Clifford, FSGB’s head of service delivery, said: “Event Scheduler is a great tool for customers to see at a glance an overview of their fleet’s position. Alongside each vehicle is highlighted spend to date and projected spend to point of disposal. Such data can influence both replacement cycles and future fleet acquisition strategies.”

FSGB is continuing to develop Event Scheduler with the addition of more known or projected events based on customer requirements analysis of fleet data, which, for example, include the regular collection of tyre tread depth readings to enable tyre replacement forecasts to be made.

Bespoke Categorisation enables FSGB customers to easily identify all vehicles that perform a certain operational function or have a customised feature. As a result, FSGB has created a series of standardised categories that are applied to every managed asset enabling customers to split out management information based on their own requirements. Current categories are: Body type, feature (e.g. 4×4 vehicle, vehicle with tail lift etc), fleet type (pool vehicle, hire vehicle, ‘grey fleet’ vehicle etc), number of seats and vehicle type (car derived van, pickup van, utility vehicle etc). Additionally, customers have the ability to create further categories bespoke to individual requirements. The feature is now being rolled out to each client with many already utilising the tool to personalise asset data.

Proactive Service, Maintenance and Repair (SMR) is designed to assist customers and their company car and commercial vehicle drivers in complying with critically important manufacturer service schedules and MoT demands. Proactive SMR is an enhancement that uses FSGB’s vehicle management system’s ‘due item’ data to alert drivers as early as possible. The feature identifies a forthcoming service, MoT or additional inspection based on time or mileage and starts the pre-booking set up. A job will be initiated and where FSGB records identify a vehicle’s driver – a separate tool assists clients in keeping vehicle/driver allocations accurate – an SMS, email and other notifications are sent via FSGB’s cutting-edge Driver App. A driver’s depot/line manager is also alerted to the requirement as a defined stage within the process.

Ms Clifford said: “FSGB has the capability to customise how far in advance the Proactive SMR process is started; how frequently reminders are sent; and if, and at what point, cost centre managers are involved not only customer-by-customer but item-by-item.

“Should we not receive contact from a driver within a defined period prior to due date FSGB’s system alerts the team and tasks us to make contact with the driver via telephone. The process assists both FSGB and customers in terms of compliance with legislation and with the correct preventative maintenance recommendations for their fleet.”

Rental Check Sheets is an enhancement to FSGB’s Driver App which will enable the completion of a check sheet for any vehicle hired to a driver. The key objectives are:

  • To alert a driver that a Rental Check Sheet requires completion at the start and end of a booking
  • The Rental Check Sheet to provide key information as well as querying vehicle condition
  • The Rental Check Sheet to be stored against the rental reservation – but also stored against the driver should a rental have been arranged outside of the FSGB system.

Ms Clifford said: “Vehicle damage charges at the end of a rental are often very contentious and many customers are on the receiving end at the conclusion of a rental period as well as facing costs related to refueling and other ad-hoc charges.

“The aim with the development of Rental Check Sheets is to alert a driver via the Driver App prior to the rental reservation to complete a vehicle check to identify any existing damage and note the vehicle condition on delivery or as soon as possible subsequently.

“Frequently drivers are not always available to walk around the vehicle at point of delivery and so the aim is to ensure that when they do pick up the keys that they record any damage, taking images using the built in image upload feature and check for any mechanical issues.

It is also an opportunity for FSGB to remind drivers to note the level of fuel that the vehicle was delivered with and draw their attention to key information relevant to the rental booking. That includes taking responsibility for the payment of any road and bridge tolls or London Congestion Charge and ensuring the vehicle is available for collection at an appropriate location.

“At the point of termination the Driver App will also alert drivers to complete an end of hire check. Capturing any change in vehicle condition and prompting them to ensure that the vehicle is refueled etc. will minimise fleets’ exposure to end of rental charges.”

Meet the team – Debi Box

Name:  Debi Box

Job title:  Customer service and PA to the chairman

Explain your role in 10 words:   Supporting the sales, customer service and marketing department

What’s the best aspect of your job? Working in a new-start company, seeing it grow and learning lots of new things on the way

What’s the worst aspect of your job?  Dealing with multiple Brays in one-day!

How long have you worked at Fleet Service GB?  Since October 2014

What was your first paid job?  Office administration at an architect company in Bath

What’s your favourite car?  Audi Q7

What one thing would you like to achieve before you retire?  Maybe buy a holiday home somewhere hot

Outside of Fleet Service GB, what would your dream job be?  Fostering

Who in the world would you most like to meet? Ummm, maybe someone from the royal family or a Michelin star chef who could cook me dinner 😊

What is your favourite way to spend a day outside of work?  Spending time outside with my family and friends

If you won the lottery how would you spend the cash?   Buy a yacht and travel

Not a lot of people know that… I was christened Debbie and not Deborah but spell my name Debi!!

Make safety a company car “deal breaker” fleet managers and company car drivers urged

Fleet managers and company car drivers have been urged to make safety “a deal breaker” and and either only select vehicles which have autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard or ask that it be added to the overall purchase price.

The call came from Thatcham Research, the independent voice of automotive safety and repair, advising motorists, insurers and vehicle manufacturers to help reduce accident frequency, severity and costs and to realise the vision of ‘safer cars, fewer crashes’, as it called the Volvo XC60 “one of the safest cars ever made” and “so far ahead of the game”.

What’s more data from Thatcham Research, which undertakes vehicle crash testing for the European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) highlighted that while standard fitment of AEB on new cars had reached 61%, only three of the 10 best-selling cars in 2017 had the technology as standard across all trim levels.

Furthermore, the UK’s best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta, only offered what Thatcham Research called the “potentially life-saving technology” as an option. The organisation also identified that only 7% of new Ford cars and 14% of new Vauxhall cars – the UK’s two most popular fleet brands – had standard-fit AEB

Thatcham Research calls AEB “probably the most significant development in car safety since the seat belt” and has calculated that it could save “an astonishing” 1,100 lives and 122,860 casualties in the UK over the next 10 years.

So-called semi-autonomous safety technology, which apart from AEB also includes Collision Warning System, Parking Assistance, Overtaking/Blind Spot Sensor, Adaptive Cruise Control and Blind Junction View, was improving road safety with systems mitigating driver errors and preventing crashes now available on almost seven in 10 cars on the market, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Latest data from the SMMT and JATO Dynamics reveals that some 66.8% of new cars were now offered with at least one self-activating safety system, either as standard or as an optional extra.

The SMMT said that, in addition to AEB, Parking Assistance technology, including cameras and sensors, was available as standard or an option on 58.8% of new cars; Overtaking/Blind Spot Sensors were available on 42.1% of new cars, Adaptive Cruise Control on 36.2% of new cars; and drivers were also benefiting from the latest technology, which allowed cars to park themselves in the tightest of spaces, and was now on nearly 250,000 vehicles registered.

The organisation also said that the raft of semi-autonomous safety technology available on new cars would further increase in 2018 with the debut of Traffic Jam Pilot, where, in the right conditions, a car could take over the task of driving in slow moving traffic or queues; and smartphone – or key fob-controlled remote parking.

AEB automatically applies a vehicle’s brakes to avoid or reduce the effects of an impact if a driver fails to act. Some systems only work at lower, urban speeds while others function up to motorway speeds. Real world data showed that AEB was reducing the most common crash type, the rear end collision, by 38%, according to Thatcham Research.

This year the five-door XC60 SUV won the prestigious Safety Award from What Car? magazine and judge and director of research at Thatcham Research Matthew Avery said: “The XC60 achieved a very high adult occupant protection score of 98%, in Euro NCAP’s toughest crash tests ever. But it is also bursting at the seams with safety technology to avoid the crash happening at all. It is so far ahead of the game that its innovative Cross Traffic Alert and Turn Across Path systems are not yet a part of the Euro NCAP programme.”

Cross Traffic Alert uses the same corner sensors as the Blind Spot Warning system. It monitors an approaching vehicle from the side and protects the driver from reversing from a parking space into the path of another vehicle. The systems tend to warn the driver but some actively brake the vehicle to prevent a collision. Meanwhile, Turn Across Path applies a car’s brakes if a driver turns into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

The XC60 is also fitted with a host of pioneering Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) designed to avoid crashes occurring at all and, apart from standard AEB, also features a suite of Lane Support Systems to alert a driver when the car is drifting and actively steer to avoid head-on collisions; Blind Spot Indication Systems; Rear Cross Traffic Alerts; and a Run-Off Road system.

Calling on other manufacturers to follow Volvo’s lead – as well as that of Volkswagen with the T-Roc and Subaru with the XV which were each highly commended by Safety Award judges, Mr Avery said: “Achieving a [top] five-star Euro NCAP rating without standard-fit AEB will be close to impossible for vehicle manufacturers from 2018 onwards.

“Many market AEB as an optional extra but with its potential to save so many lives it is far too important not to be fitted as standard. While Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) accidents affecting occupants are coming down, KSIs involving vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists are on the increase. Protecting people outside of the car, as well as those inside, is clearly important.”

In 2018 2.6 million cars have standard-fit AEB, approximately 6.9% of the 38 million cars on the road today, according to Thatcham Research.

Mr Avery said: “Standard-fitment of AEB is still not at the levels it should be. Jaguar Land Rover is the only carmaker amongst the top 10 best-selling brands to fit AEB on all new models. While standard-fit AEB penetration for Ford, the top selling brand in the UK, stands at just 7% today.”

In calling for AEB to be a “deal breaker”, Mr Avery said: “Drivers can’t rely on manufacturers to deliver AEB on every new car just yet. Until that day comes car buyers should do their research.”

He called on vehicle acquisition decisions to be based on Thatcham Research’s top tips for making safety a “deal breaker”: Make certain a car had a five-star EuroNCAP rating; demand AEB and if it was an option ask for the technology to be fitted as part of the deal or don’t buy; and don’t be fobbed off by manufacturers/dealers “downplaying” the importance of safety systems.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Safety is the number one priority for vehicle manufacturers and the pace of technological change is faster than ever before, with driver assistance technologies now available on the majority of vehicles cars. Fully autonomous cars may still be some way off but millions of drivers are already enjoying the benefits of new technology which can only help make our roads safer.”

The SMMT also identified that manufacturers’ safety innovations had contributed to a reduction of almost 10% in UK road crashes since 2012. What’s more, said the organisation, they were set to fall further as vehicle producers continually strived to develop “ever more sophisticated technology to improve safety and the driver experience”.

AEB standard fitment across the UK’s top 10 best-selling cars 2017 (Thatcham Research data/SMMT sales volume data November 2017)

Car AEB
1. Ford Fiesta Optional
2. Volkswagen Golf Standard
3. Ford Focus Optional on most models
4. Nissan Qashqai Standard on most models
5. Vauxhall Corsa Optional
6. Volkswagen Polo Optional on most models
7. Vauxhall Astra Optional on most models
8. Mercedes C-Class Standard
9. MINI hatchback Optional
10. Mercedes A-Class Standard

Top 10 car brands and current brand standard AEB fitment (Thatcham Research data/SMMT sales volume data December 2017)

Rank Brand % of standard-fit AEB in brand
1. Ford 7%
2. Vauxhall 14%
3. Volkswagen 46%
4. Mercedes-Benz 88%
5. Nissan 30%
6. BMW 23%
7. Audi 16%
8. Toyota 53%
9. Jaguar Land Rover 100%
10. Kia 14%

Further information on AEB is available at www.thatcham.org/car-safety/automatic-braking/

Car and van MoT testing to undergo major overhaul with new ‘fail’ categories

MoT testing on cars and light commercial vehicles in England, Scotland and Wales is to undergo a major overhaul from May 20.

However, there are warnings that the changes could result in confusion and the interpretation of vehicle defects by MoT testers lead to increased pass or failure inconsistency from one test centre to another.

Impacting on Class 3, 4, 5 and 7 vehicles, the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has published an updated MoT Inspection Manual for testers that outlines the changes.

The move comes after the Department for Transport announced earlier this year that it had decided, following a public consultation, to maintain the period before cars and vans had a first MoT test at three years rather than moving to four years for road safety reasons.

Although in draft form – changes may still be made before the final manual is issued in May – the major alteration is that each vehicle defect found will be categorised as either ‘dangerous’, ‘major’ or ‘minor’. Manual advisories will no longer be given.

‘Dangerous’ and ‘major’ defects will cause a vehicle to fail its MoT test and drivers will be advised not to drive the vehicle away in its current condition. However, ‘minor’ defects will be considered as being similar to advisories in the current test. A vehicle will still pass its MoT if it only has ‘minor’ defects.

The DVSA said it was hoped that the changes would make it easier for fleet operators and drivers to see which areas of their vehicle required more attention.

The changes are part of a European Union directive and, according to the RAC, while they may seem like “a sensible move” confusion could be caused among motorists.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Rather than MoT failures simply being black and white, the new system creates the potential for confusion as testers will have to make a judgement as to whether faults are ‘dangerous’, ‘major’ or ‘minor’. This will surely be open to interpretation which may lead to greater inconsistency from one test centre to another.”

The MoT Inspection Manual says: “The tester must select the appropriate category, being guided by the defect wording and using their knowledge, experience and judgement.”

How a vehicle defect should be interpreted can be seen by reading the DVSA’s draft manual. Using a faulty steering box to illustrate the categories it says that should a leak develop, a ‘minor’ fault would be recorded. However, if the oil was leaking sufficiently to be dripping, it would be a ‘major’ fault, and an MoT failure. A ‘dangerous’ fault is described as a steering wheel mounted so loose as to be “likely to become detached” and so the vehicle would also fail its MoT.

Mr Williams added: “Motorists may struggle to understand the difference between ‘dangerous’ and ‘major’ failures. The current system ensures that any vehicle with a fault that doesn’t meet the MoT requirements is repaired appropriately before being allowed back on the road.

“We should be doing all we can to make the vehicles on our roads as safe as possible rather introducing a new system which has the potential to do the opposite. We do not want to see a lowering of MoT standards and a reduction in the number of vehicles failing the test compared to current levels.”

“We understand the government has little choice in the matter, but gut instinct says if the system isn’t broken, why mess with it. But if a car is broken, fix it.”

Additionally new limits are to be introduced to the MoT for diesel vehicle exhaust emissions testing with plans underway to “lower the limits for diesel cars”. The draft MoT inspection manual says that if an “exhaust on a vehicle fitted with a diesel particulate filter emits visible smoke of any colour” it would constitute a ‘major’ fail.

Several components have also been added to the draft manual issued by the DVSA that must be checked during an MoT test.

They include: Front fog lamps fitted to vehicles first used from March 1, 2018; daytime running lamps fitted as original equipment on or after March 1, 2018; reversing lamps fitted to vehicles first used from September 1, 2009; steering gear casing; ‘fly by wire’ steering systems; endurance braking system on larger vehicles such as caravans only; noise suppression systems including exhaust silencers and under-bonnet deadening material; and anti-theft device.

The DVSA’s draft MoT Inspection Manual is available at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/671818/mot-inspection-manual-for-classes-3-4-5-and-7-from-20-may-2018-draft.pdf

Flexible business travel policies may be needed to cater for changing travel habits among young people

The company car has been the mainstay of corporate travel since the phenomenon was ‘created’ in the 1970s, but a shrinking number of young people gaining driving licences could mean organisations need to introduce more flexible travel policies.

Research commissioned by the Department for Transport found there has been a sustained decline in the number of young adults (aged 17-29) driving over the past 25 years, with the trend not reversing after they reach 30.

That, it is suggested in the report, ‘Young People’s Travel – What’s Changed and Why? Review and Analysis’, could have employment implications. In turn it could mean that employers may need to broaden the travel options they make available as offering a company car may not be a viable option.

The study said that the speed of travel change was “likely to be affected by the combined influence of: changes in the structure of the labour market and security of employment; urbanisation and land use; housing availability, location and tenure; career expectations; and demographic and taxation factors that affect how wealth moves between generations. Further, such social change is also likely to be affected by the interaction of all of these with: household formation; marriage and parenthood; and the specific ways in which new technologies are adopted by different groups”.

The research was published as, separately, the House of Commons Transport Committee has launched an investigation into Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which it is claimed could become the norm with corporate mobility managers – effectively the new name for fleet managers – analysing the total cost of journeys employees make.

Such an approach, it has been suggested by experts, could potentially enable businesses to cut travel costs and share some of the savings with employees to drive cultural change by focusing on the ‘total cost of mobility’ rather than a fleet-based total of cost of vehicle ownership model.

What’s more, with some companies merging their fleet and travel departments, managers are able to gain a complete picture of all journey and related expense costs, including hotel bills and meal claims as well as expenditure relating to car parking, taxi fares, flights and rail tickets.

Additionally, one of the key drivers behind focusing on MaaS, in addition to driving down the cost of corporate travel, is to deliver an increasing array of benefits to all employees, not only recipients of a company car.

MaaS has become a popular fleet conference and seminar topic over the last couple of years and is forecasted to be at the forefront of how businesses should be looking at travel to ensure they are using the best options for the journey – car including the options of car share, taxi and car club for example, planes and public transport – for environment, cost, safety and employee reasons.

The report, written for the Department by Oxford University and the University of the West of England, said: “It is important to recognise the new realities of the lives and travel behaviour of young adults when attempting to predict future transport use. In 2010-14, only 37% of 17-29 year olds reported driving a car in a typical week, while the figure was 46% in 1995-99.

“When forecasting future travel demand, it is important to be aware of the extent and pattern of car access within the population.

“There is a lack of data on the use of emerging transport options (shared mobility in particular) and it will be important to adapt survey and monitoring instruments to understand how these options are perceived and used by different age groups.

“There is the need to develop approaches that can generate scenarios for future travel demand which account for cohort differences in travel behaviour.”

The research found that the proportion of young adults having driving licences peaked in 1992-1994, with 48% of 17 to 20-year-olds and 75% of 21 to 29-year-olds holding a licence. By 2014, the figures had fallen to 29% and 63% respectively.

Between 1995-99 and 2010-14 there was a 36% drop in the number of car driver trips per person made by people aged 17-29.

The report added: “Young people generally travel less now, with the total number of trips per person made by young men falling by 28% between 1995-99 and 2010-14, while the number of trips made by young women fell by 24%.

“There has been a small increase in the number of trips per person on public transport. The number of walking trips per person has fallen whilst the number of cycling trips per person has remained broadly constant.

“As young adults have moved into their thirties, the proportion with driving licences and the amount they drive has increased, but not so much that their car use has caught up with that seen in previous cohorts.

“Although there has been variation from year to year, the general trend has been for each cohort of young people since the early 1990s to own and use cars less than the preceding cohort, and for the growth in car use with age to also be at a lower rate. This suggests that their changing behaviour is more than just a postponement of driving.”

The report, ‘Young People’s Travel – What’s Changed and Why? Review and Analysis’, is available at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/673176/young-peoples-travel-whats-changed.pdf

New insight into company car driver considerations when choosing a vehicle

Employees choosing their new company car go through a four-stage process that kicks-off almost immediately they have picked up the keys to their current model, according to new research.

What’s more, revealed the study, while fleet managers were particularly influential in the early stage of decision making for drivers of mainstream, volume manufacturer brands, at the business end of proceedings it was line managers and senior management who were most heavily involved, eclipsing the fleet department.

Company car driver decision-making was also influenced heavily by online sources, social media, work colleagues and especially family considerations.

The report, ‘Fleet: Driver Study’ by Sewells Research & Insight, sister organisation to trade publication Fleet News, also revealed how company car drivers derived less enjoyment from the experience of choosing a new company car, the longer the process continued.

The findings, it was suggested, should concern HR departments that invested in company cars as a key tool of staff recruitment and retention.

The four-stage process in company car selection uncovered by the study saw drivers progress from pre-consideration to active consideration, then action, before making their final choice.

The study found that 42% of drivers looked forward to the ‘active consideration’ stage when they researched their options, and a similar percentage enjoyed that step.

But by the time they were forced to ‘take action’, either visiting a dealer or booking a test drive, only 34% of drivers enjoyed the process. Few said they felt special, despite wielding significant budgets, with drivers of job-need cars deriving significantly less pleasure from the selection process than older, more senior perk car drivers.

One key insight in the study was the difficulty for manufacturers and dealers to influence drivers while they were in the pre-new car prompt and research phases. Yet by the time drivers reached the ‘action stage’ – visiting franchised dealers/taking test drives – many had already made up their minds on their next company car, before the traditional touch points of visiting dealerships and test driving models.

More than one in three (35%) of company car drivers said they had made up their minds before visiting a franchised dealer, and 40% say they had already made up their minds before a test drive. By the time drivers consulted manufacturers’ websites, their most common source of information, they had already settled on their future car and were simply fine tuning their choices, it was claimed.

However, despite the influence of fleet managers, line managers, senior management, other work colleagues, online sources, social media and family considerations, drivers were still demonstrating their own empowerment with their choices and their willingness to contribute towards the cost of their car in order to secure an upgrade to a higher performance or better specified model.

The study found that more than 50% of drivers took up the option to contribute towards their car in return for an upgrade. That percentage was even higher for corporate drivers working for businesses that employed more than 250 staff than for drivers working for SMEs.

There was, however, one bright glimmer of hope for manufacturers and dealers. When drivers got down to their final choice of vehicle, comparing standard specification and options, as 60% admitted to changing their minds at the last minute.

The study’s results were supported by focus groups of company car drivers of more than 50 cars, 1,000 online interviews amongst user choosers in the market for a new company car and more than 200 company car driver interviews questioning them on their experiences of manufacturer websites.

Government confirms April 2020 tax switch to WLTP following consultation

The government has confirmed that it will change the system for measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle test Procedure (WLTP) for company car benefit-in-kind tax and Vehicle Excise Duty purposes from April 6, 2020 subject to consultation.

However, while the government, following its initial announcement in the Budget Statement (Buzz: December 2017), has confirmed that fleets have a two-year notice of the change-over date to WLTP for vehicle tax purposes, they still have no idea of the structure of either company car benefit-in-kind tax or Vehicle Excise Duty under the regime.

The government is also planning that all vehicle manufacturers change over to new WLTP fuel consumption figures in their promotional material and advertising for all vehicles on January 1, 2019.

The timeline change-over to WLTP from the current New European Driving Cycle system for measuring vehicles CO2 emissions and MPG is contained in a consultation document – ‘Road Vehicles: Improving Air Quality and Safety’ – published by the Department for Transport.

The structure of company car benefit-in-kind tax and Vehicle Excise Duty under WLTP is critical because industry experts have suggested that CO2 figures on a car-by-car basis could increase by about 20% in comparison with those produced under the outgoing NEDC regime.

Industry groups have called for a recalibration of both company car benefit-in-kind tax and Vehicle Excise Duty emission bands to ensure revenue neutrality and avoid any tax increases, which could be a further nail in the coffin of company car demand with employees opting to take cash.

However, whether CO2 emission thresholds will be recalibrated to take account of any increase remains to be seen. If tax thresholds remain unchanged – tax rates have already been announced to the end of the 2020/21 financial year – then the likelihood is that company car benefit-in-kind tax bills will rise significantly along with Vehicle Excise Duty rates.

The consultation also outlines that the government is looking at creating an offence relating to motor manufacturers supplying vehicles fitted with emission defeat devices following the recent Volkswagen ‘dieselgate’ scandal and, what it calls, “the strong imperative to improve air quality” as set out in the ‘UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations’.

The consultation seeks views on new penalties for vehicle manufacturers supplying vehicles fitted with defeat devices, and proposals to implement various safety and environmental rules, including the latest European Union emissions standards for cars, vans and buses following the UK’s exit from the European Union.

On ‘dieselgate’ and other matters, the consultation document says: “The scandal has shown the need for stringent penalties for manufacturers fitting devices to circumvent the regulatory tests, to provide a sufficient deterrent in the future.

“Standards on vehicle engines – known as Euro Standards – which should have led to major reductions in emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from vehicles, have failed to deliver, particularly for diesel vehicles.

“The UK led the way in Europe in pushing for tough new type approval standards for cars and vans, including the ‘real world’ driving emissions tests that start to take effect from September this year, alongside tougher laboratory tests.

“Our proposals cover the introduction of these new standards, as well as the similarly stringent Euro6 standards for buses and new safety standards for HGVs, for vehicles built in low volumes.

“The tougher laboratory test should improve the accuracy of the fuel economy figures quoted by manufactures for comparison purposes and we are proposing that all car manufacturers shift to using the new testing results in publicity and labels from January 1, 2019.

“On June 23, 2016, the UK referendum on European Union membership took place and the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union. Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of membership remain in force. During this period the government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply European Union legislation. The outcome of these negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to European Union legislation in future once the UK has left the European Union.”

On the creation of a new a new offence of supplying – to include registering or placing on the market – a vehicle using a defeat device, or other similar functionality, to deliberately circumvent type approval regulations, irrespective of which national authority is used to obtain type approval, the government’s intention is to make such an offence applicable to any, and all, elements of the supply chain – the manufacturer, importer or dealer/ distributor. However, the consumer would not be subject to penalty for purchasing such a vehicle or selling it as a second-hand vehicle.

The government plans to introduce legislation applicable to the new rules during April 2018 following the consultation, which runs until March 2. The consultation document is available at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/678209/road-vehicles-improving-air-quality-and-safety.pdf