The company car is part of the fabric of British society and helps drive the economy but, as John Davidge, fleet technical manager at Cardinus Risk Management reminds us, the concept and the drivers it breeds hardly exists outside the UK.

The widespread distribution of company cars to employees at all levels within an organisation is a phenomenon almost unique to the UK.

It all began in the 1970s when the then Labour government froze pay for all businesses in an attempt to control raging inflation. Instead, companies gave employees company cars as a perk to get round the pay rise bans.

This led to ridiculous levels of snobbery in the works car park and on the driveways of new housing estates across the country, snobbery fuelled by the many levels of trim and performance offered by car manufacturers to cater for the levels of reward. A more ‘junior’ fellow employee being handed the keys to something with an extra ‘L’ in its name could lead to fisticuffs.

An entire industry has grown around the many ways of acquiring and funding company cars and they have become an established way of life for British businesses. In fact, as many as 50-60 per cent of all new cars sold in the UK go into the country’s company car fleet, to be driven carefully and generally cherished for three to four years, before being unleashed as good quality used vehicles with full service history.

Almost no other country gives company cars on this scale. If you look at most companies overseas, only the big boss and deputy get cars, all other employees simply buy and run their own cars just as any other motorist would do. Consequently, if you talk to many international managers – there is a complete lack of awareness of what has been dubbed the ‘company car driver mentality’.

That mentality does exist in the UK and it might mean some of those good quality used cars might not have been cherished as much as we would like to think. Here’s a light-hearted look at some of the examples of ‘company car driver mentality’:

  • Company cars will always go faster than private cars – both overall and in each gear. This is because the driver is thinking, “I’m not buying the fuel!”
  • The same attitude applies to new tyres and replacement brakes, so company cars also stop and go round corners much faster.
  • They simply don’t need oil like private cars do.
  • “If I crash it,” thinks the company car driver, “they’ll give me another one (and if I’m really lucky with timing, perhaps a better/newer one).”
  • Scratches and dents? No problem, straight into the main dealers, no need to worry about the costs, company pays.
  • Because collisions involve a company asset, all UK incidents are recorded and give a distorted perception of UK collision rates compared with abroad. If you lived in another country and you scraped your private car on a gatepost you simply wouldn’t record or report it. Why would you need to tell the company about something minor that happened on your driveway?

Of course, not all company car drivers behave like this. It’s a humorous exaggeration. But there’s a little bit of this attitude in an awful lot of them. It follows that the resultant driving style ‘impacts’ (sorry, I’m starting to enjoy this jokey style) on collision rates and risk factors in a way that overseas operators simply do not understand. There is no comparable scenario in other countries, so without explanation and illustration they are unlikely to fully comprehend and appreciate what we do and why.

I’m sure my list of company car driver traits can be enhanced and improved with readers’ experiences, so I’d like to start collecting your examples. If you would like to add examples of the company car driver mentality, real or imagined, email them to me at: [email protected], put ‘Company Car Driver Mentality’ in the subject line and we’ll find a way of sharing them.

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