Selecting car models for young employees

Young employees may be motivated by car benefits, but employers should look at what models they offer to this group in order to provide the safest options which still appeal to these staff, says Nick Golding

While there aren’t many young employees that boast about their pension schemes in the pub, a brand new company-funded vehicle is a quick and tangible gain for staff, and certainly something for them to shout about.

However, fleet managers should exercise caution because while young drivers may appreciate an extensive choice of cars, this may not be the wisest course of action. Limiting younger employees to a select range of makes and models may prove much safer. Employers may not be keen on the idea of giving an 18-year old employee a three-litre car, for example, as this could prove unnecessarily powerful.

However, at the same time, employers will want to offer drivers a car, which they see as a benefit and not as a chore to drive. Cars such as the VW Passat, the VW Golf, Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Astra manage to bridge the gap between safe and ‘cool’, and so fit the bill for employees in the 17-to-25 year old age bracket, according to fleet experts.

The VW Golf can be bought with a perfectly tame 1.4 litre engine, while the Vauxhall Corsa has models with a 1.2 litre engine. But with modern gadgets such as air conditioning and electric windows as standard, as well as optional extras like parking sensors and alloy wheels, this could be the right option for younger drivers.

Andrea Hider, fleet support executive at fleet firm Arval, says: “The VW Golf, for instance, finds the balance between being safe and fashionable. You would say that it is a safe car for young drivers, and has a certain amount of ‘street cred’ as well.”

Maintenance and facilities management firm Morrison is very cautious about the type of vehicle that it offers to young drivers. Although it cannot restrict drivers’ choice on the grounds of age, it does restrict them according to seniority so, as the majority of its young drivers are in junior positions, it manages to ensure they drive sensible cars with smaller engines.

This is a safe approach to take because age discrimination rules state that benefits cannot be awarded on the grounds of age, so care must be taken around which cars are allocated to young drivers.

Helen West, commercial fleet administrator at Morrison, explains: “We start drivers with a Ford Fiesta or a Vauxhall Corsa, which are lower engine size vehicles, so this is what most young drivers are in. We then go right up to Audi and Saab for more senior employees.”

Hider adds: “You can’t have a policy that says ‘if you are a young driver you can only have a low-powered vehicle’. The driver is entitled to make the choice, you can’t be ageist.”

Safety issues are not the only reason why employers may be keen to restrict their young drivers to smaller engine cars like the Ford Focus or the Vauxhall Corsa. Insurance costs, for example, can be at their highest among 17-to-25 year old drivers. But the smaller the engine, the lower the cost of insurance for the car because a young driver in a powerful vehicle equates to a higher risk of accidents as far as insurance firms are concerned.

Paul Jackson, managing director at The Miles Consultancy, explains: “Putting a [young] driver in a Ford Focus two-litre diesel engine, compared to a 1.2 litre Corsa will make a massive difference to insurance costs.”

Employers should also bear in mind that young employees may be prone to changes in careers so they may only be with an organisation for 12 months. Cars, therefore, should be marketable to the wider employee population.

“You really need to choose a vehicle that will appeal to many employees, not just younger staff. Companies really want to be going for five-door vehicles just in case the 17-year-old decides to leave after six months and an older employee with a family has to take on the car,” says Jackson.

So employers should tread carefully with their young drivers. While there is no denying a company that can offer young employees a brand new car with all the gadgets and gizmos they want will certainly go up in the estimation of the recipient, employers that offer high-powered vehicles could potentially find themselves putting an employee in a dangerous position.

If you read nothing else read this…

  • Models such as the VW Golf, VW Passat, Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta are typically offered to younger drivers within a company car scheme.
  • These cars offer some ‘street cred ‘ and the small engines mean that they are less powerful, so partially removing the temptation for young employees to drive recklessly.
  • Certain models of these vehicles can have an engine capacity of 1.4 litres, but their standard features such as electric windows and air conditioning mean they are modern but safer.
  • Care must be taken not to contravene age discrimination regulations by restricting the vehicle choice of young drivers.