Andrew Miles enters another world.
Individuals buy cars but fleets prop up the market by some distance. Manufacturers providing those fleets, even by small percentages, maintain an active (if not necessarily profitable) factory. Having no insider information other than the latest issue of Fleetworld (a Stag publication) to guide my curiosity, my lunchtime reading thus became electrified.
The cover revealed a new (to me) tagline. “Driven by something different” having ousted the previous “Simply Clever” from Škoda, shows a shiny new Octavia, parked waterside with father and daughter enjoying the view (of the water, not the Lower-medium sector, 26% BIK, one litre TSI from £20,795,) with the tagline(s) Work. Life. Balanced.
Inside, the review proffers four out of five stars, praising space alongside standard equipment with additional points accrued for notching up overall quality, criticising the infotainment as “difficult to use,” and that the hybrid version can only manage 37 miles using electricity. Barely mentioned is car feel but do such matters concern the fleet manager?
It would appear not. Further into the publication, many pages are given over to myriad telematic products, assuaging that beleaguered fleet manager to keep pace of Roger, where he is, how he’s driving, if he’s crashed or broken down and probably if Roger chose tuna pasta salad over the halloumi wrap; the devil really is in the detail, here in fleetland.
Such a publication relies on advertising where practically every single one offers the very best service to maximise efficiency, free up opportunity and bamboozle all but the most tech-savvy. If you’re not on top of your BIK’s, P11d’s, CPM’s, WLTP’s, RDE2’s or your projected CO2 levels *, you’re nowhere. My sandwich suddenly became rather boring.
The overwhelming tone of the majority of this work is the demise of the internal combustion engine, swamped by the rise of those powered by volts and amps. To paraphrase, I love the smell of a catalytic converter in the mornin’, would it seems, be almost over.
It takes no rocket scientist to understand why; the U.K. government offers subsidies (many, indirectly) that the fleet manager will find difficult to ignore. Should Roger, Daphne, or Ologundie still require a company owned vehicle after this pandemic, why on earth should that car (and, more increasingly, vans) be propelled by the fetid petrol or diesel? Be they pure plug in’s or hybrids, the arguments for electric over those rock-oiled dinosaurs becomes clearer every day.
Every manufacturer worth their electrons are producing for the fleet market. These next figures stem from Tom Brennan, the Mercedes-Benz fleet manager here in Blighty. The EQ sub-brand is a large umbrella; EQ badges denote pure electric. EQ Power badges are PHEV’s, whereas EQ Boost are the 48volt mild hybrids.
Ten Battery Electric Vehicle’s (BEV’s) wearing plate sized stars are imminent – thirty two overall electrified vehicles within twenty four months. “Customers are starting to demand these vehicles. We have to expand our portfolio to meet those needs. We are at a tipping point where overall life costs are more attractive to electric power than anything else. Potential fuel saving costs alone usually swing in the favour of electric power”, sayeth Tom.
Another magazine example given is the case for the BMW 330e M Sport. The under bonnet PHEV makes 300 bhp, costs just 10% BIK, should garner in excess of 200mpg, emitting mere grams of CO2, “looks the part” on the M4 or the car park, costing just pennies to recharge overnight. Ye olde worlde 320d, once undisputed flamboyant father of the fleet uses polluting dark fuel, costs more in tax, servicing and insurance along with being so last year. This vehicle may not be to DTW’s tastes but it does carry a heavy argument for What chance diesel? How augers petrol’s fare?
‘But I need to drive up to Inverness from South Wales returning via Norwich before heading home in one day’, I hear you cry along with, ‘what about range? I can’t afford to sit in a service station for eight hours, waiting for the swine to recharge!’ If this global phenomenon has taught us anything, it is the need not to travel. If technology allows even Neanderthals to confer with colleagues in all of those places at once, what need is there to hastily travel up and down the road network all day? Such travel marathons, akin to the 320d are so passé but are still available should the need arise, for now.
Obviously written by people within the fleet industry, for the fleet industry, Fleetworld may be telling Gordon how to use a plug (or suck eggs for that matter). With no mention here of the hydrogen (or any other) alternatives, our senses may soon become accustomed to the internal combustion engine only in the annals of history.
* Benefit In Kind, an expenses and benefits tax form, both of which relate heavily to company car use, Costs Per Month, World Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure, Real Driving Emissions Step 2 and of course, good ole fashioned Carbon Dioxide.