Magazine article New Zealand Management

Driven to Success: Executives' Favourite Cars: Everyone Knows What You Drive Is a Reflection Not Only of Your Status but Also of Your Personality. So What's the Hottest Car for the Upwardly Mobile Manager, and What Should Your Boss Avoid Driving? Motoring Writer Liz Dobson Takes a Few Company Cars for a Spin

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Driven to Success: Executives' Favourite Cars: Everyone Knows What You Drive Is a Reflection Not Only of Your Status but Also of Your Personality. So What's the Hottest Car for the Upwardly Mobile Manager, and What Should Your Boss Avoid Driving? Motoring Writer Liz Dobson Takes a Few Company Cars for a Spin

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

You've finally made it. No, not getting an office, five weeks holiday or even a carpark. No, you finally get a company car. And forget about the 1990s where you were stuck with what the fleet manager decided the coffers could afford (a Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic--or for the really budget conscious a Hyundai Accent).

These days a clause for a work vehicle is factored into most executives' contracts: it gets rid of the need for a fleet manager, maintenance of the cars (yes, we all know it wasn't you who dented work's Nissan Primera as you were manoeuvring it out of the over-crowded carpark), and puts the onus on the individual to provide work transport.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But with the choice comes hours of indecision. What car to buy? What about leasing? And what will your colleagues say about your vehicle?

Fear not. I am here.

As a motoring writer, I test, on average, a new vehicle every week, and having been in this job for 11 years I can honestly say I've driven everything (sans a Lamborghini). I've driven that little hatchback that most junior sales reps start off in, to the medium-sized sedan of the ad manager, the fuel efficient but personality-depleted Korean car that is favoured among accountants, to the $200,000-plus European marques that your boss has parked in the key spot by the company's front door.

(By the way boss, yes your staff do take note of what you're driving and yes, if it is a Bentley or Aston Martin they'll be poking pins in a voodoo doll of you at the Christmas party if you don't have a free flowing bar and catered nosh.)

Over the years, I've noticed that as consumers we expect more from our vehicles than just getting us from work to home. As sales reps you'll need--as standard--a decent driver's seat, usually an automatic, air conditioning, a decent stereo, four airbags (two front airbags and two curtain), ABS braking, and electric windows. All of these features are now standard in even the cheaper model Japanese cars such as the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda2.

So when it comes to work cars, you expect something special.

After realising in the early to mid-1990s that--gasp--women buy cars, motoring companies now know that more and more employees are having a say in what they drive.

Mazda New Zealand has seen an increase in vehicles being bought for companies.

"In recent times we have seen a number of organisations revisit their internal policies relating to company vehicles--a shift in thinking which has seen companies embrace a fleet selection policy that both serves to foster employee retention but also create differentiation against their competitors," says Glenn Harris, national marketing manager, Mazda New Zealand.

"This has resulted in a larger number of 'user-choosers' entering the market, shopping for company vehicles that reflect their personal tastes or which have the flexibility to accommodate both their professional and personal needs."

More New Zealand car companies are also seeing a change in vehicle preferences in middle management, especially if part of the vehicle package means paying for your own fuel. Gone are the 3-litre V6s along with the likes of the Toyota Camry, Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon. Instead, execs are looking at such fuel-efficient options as the Mazda3, the new-look Honda Civic or what was once a joke car from the 1970s, the Skoda.

The Skoda is now sought after because in many cases this vehicle is basically a re-badged Volkswagen after the Czech government chose the German manufacturer to relaunch the brand in 1996. So don't laugh when a colleague pulls up in a Skoda Octavia. This sedan has the engineering and styling of a more expensive German car.

As choice increases due to user-choosers, you'll also notice a variety of vehicles in the staff carpark. Given a budget of, say, $45,000, some execs may forgo the usual sedan and opt for a four-wheel drive such as the Honda CRV. …

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