Do we need to ‘save’ the company car?

Posted By: TMC - 5th September 2018

Company cars. Polar bears. Uber in London. RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. What do they all have in common?

Well, for one thing, they all currently have online petitions demanding government action to save them.

Fleet World magazine recently posted a company car tax petition to Parliament as part of their ongoing campaign to save the company car. It hopes to attract 10,000 signatures demanding reform of BIK for diesel and ultra-low emission vehicles, to persuade MPs to undo the damage threatened by the government’s heavy-handed increases in company car tax.

But do the industry and business drivers actually perceive that the company car is in need of saving?

At the time of writing, Fleet World’s petition to Parliament had collected 95 of the 10,000 signatures needed to elicit a formal government response.

In contrast, Uber’s petition against the decision by TfL not to renew its licence in London this month has already received nearly 860,000 signatures.

The comparison is not in any way intended to belittle Fleet World’s campaign. But as they point out, the fleet industry serves some 950,000 company car users and supports around 465,000 jobs across the UK.

Uber on the other hand is defending at most 40,000 drivers in the capital.

Clearly, fleet is of far greater importance for the UK economy than Uber. But the latter has been ten thousand times more successful at drumming up support among its users.

One conclusion we could draw is that most people in the fleet industry do not believe the company car is actually at significant risk.  After all, the government must surely understand why, for many reasons above and beyond tax revenue, it’s vital for the UK to have a thriving car fleet sector?

Unfortunately, Westminster’s recent track record suggests otherwise. Last month, for example, HMRC belatedly discovered an ‘oversight’ in its Optional Remuneration Arrangements (OpRA) regime that will cost salary sacrifice users an additional £100-£240 more in tax per year than they were expecting. While last year, the diesel BIK tax tables were hastily amended at the last minute, impacting thousands of employees.

That seems a little careless to say the least. Especially when other areas of transport policy do not appear to suffer from a similarly off-hand approach.

The Department for Transport, for example  seems increasingly focused on actively promoting non-car mobility solutions – one example being its current consultation on ‘last mile’ delivery by e-bikes and micro EVs, which itself is part of a proposed £1.2 billion cycling and walking investment under the overall umbrella of a Future of mobility Strategy.

That’s all good stuff, but perhaps now would be a good time to remind the government of the key role the car fleet sector plays in keeping the UK economy moving every day; beyond the niches that micro mobility solutions currently service.

ACFO, the ICFM and the BVRLA are, thankfully, always on the case but under the circumstances it surely wouldn’t hurt if as many people from the industry as possible also took a couple of minutes to sign the company car tax petition to parliament.