Magazine article New Zealand Management

Green Machines: Driving Change in the Corporate Vehicle Market: To What Extent Are New Zealand Companies Shifting towards More Environmentally Friendly Options When It Comes to Buying or Leasing Corporate Vehicles?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Green Machines: Driving Change in the Corporate Vehicle Market: To What Extent Are New Zealand Companies Shifting towards More Environmentally Friendly Options When It Comes to Buying or Leasing Corporate Vehicles?

Article excerpt

Henry Ford once famously said that customers could have a car in any colour--as long as it was black. When it comes to buying or leasing company vehicles are savvy corporate customers turning to green as the new colour du jour?

New Zealand is renowned for its care for the environment. We market ourselves as a clean and green nation, and rising world oil prices make fuel-efficient cars a no brainer. So, logically, our corporates should be switching on fast to vehicles that minimise their environmental impact. To what extent is there some truth behind the myth?

Barry Nicholson, national manager sales & customer services at Custom Fleet (NZ), says there is definitely greater interest amongst New Zealand organisations in ensuring minimisation of their environmental impact. Some local companies, he notes, have already developed, or are in the throes of developing, a sustainability focus in line with our nation's clean, green image. And while there is also what he calls a "small move" to more fuel-efficient vehicles, this has been dictated by the limited stock numbers available.

His views are echoed by Charles Willmer, managing director of LeasePlan, who reckons New Zealand corporates are on the cusp of understanding and appreciating the role that they can play when it comes to "greening" their fleets. It's been a rapid shift, he says. Five years ago the number of organisations knowing--or truly caring--about the environmental impact of their vehicles would have been minimal. Fast forward to two years ago, he says, and a small subsection--say five percent--of customers were actively "green". Nowadays, that number is closer to 20 percent, he says, and growing rapidly.

"You could say that they're trying to get a marketing edge," he muses. "But, if so, what's wrong with that?"

Nothing at all, in the eyes of Ben Unger, CEO of Cardlink, who together with the company's FleetSmart business development manager Christopher Young, believes we are seeing the emergence of green vehicles as a corporate competitive edge. "Plus, it's a nice thing to do," as Unger says.

In Young's view, the green, environmentally friendly aspect behind the change is piggybacking on demand for greater fuel efficiency.

Over at Honda New Zealand, marketing manager Graeme Meyer agrees that when it comes to their corporate fleet, companies tend to vote with their wallet. So the fact that a particular vehicle may emit fewer noxious fumes is nice to know but makes no difference to the bottom line. The prospect of greater fuel efficiency, on the other hand, is, not surprisingly, a key driver of change.

Nicholson reports a "noticeable shift" away from 4WDs (with the exception of the Ford Territory) and large six or eight cylinder vehicles to more fuel-efficient four-cylinder vehicles. "This appears," he says, "to be mainly driven by the cost of petrol and the need to minimise costs.

"This has been especially noticeable in the past 12 months as the cost of fuel has steadily climbed. There is a definite shift within our own fleet of leased vehicles where we see the smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles increasing as a percentage of our total fleet, whilst the larger vehicles percentages are decreasing.

"It has been interesting to note," he says, "the complete absence of some of the larger 4WD vehicles from our fleet in the past six months."

In many regards, New Zealand is simply falling into line with widespread changes sweeping other countries.

Overseas demand is driving increased production of hybrids. Manufacturers in the United States and Japan, in particular, are focusing considerable dollops of time and dollars on what they see as the new future for their business.

Across the Tasman, the traditional six-cylinder market holds its ground as the benefits of employee satisfaction, comfort for long drives and the discounts offered on these products continue to outweigh fuel savings. …

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