The accelerated transition to home working over the past 12 months could mean a profound – and potentially permanent – rethinking of the company car market, argues Jason Plummer, senior general affairs manager at electronics manufacturer Panasonic Europe.
“There always used to be a resistance in probably 90% of industries to working from home. But that has changed dramatically, and I think it has changed forever. We probably saw 25 years’ change in 25 weeks at the beginning of last year. Both short term and long term, absolutely, there will be a knock-on [from the pandemic],” he says.
Panasonic currently has a 150-strong company car fleet, through provider Alphabet, spread among its 400 UK employees. The scheme is a mix of perk and job-need cars, with eligible employees offered the option either of a car or cash alternative.
In response to the pandemic, the organisation is already now offering employees the option to work from home up to three days a week. It is also currently surveying employees to get a feel for what they want the office to be, and be for, in the future. “The future of the office will, I think, have a massive impact on the future of the company car,” Plummer predicts.
Might this even mean we see the company car disappear as an employee benefit? “I will certainly look at that in the next couple of years; see whether it is worth us moving to a total cash-based system where we only have allowances and don’t have company car schemes. Because I think it would be wrong not to look at that,” concedes Plummer.
“I have people sat at home who probably haven’t driven their company car for the best part of 12 months and who are paying £400-a-month BIK. I’ve had drivers, going back to last April, saying ‘I’ve got a company car, how can I get rid of it, how can I get rid of this liability?’.
“So I think there will be maybe two different things happen. Either [car schemes] will become a lot more electric, pure-electric vehicles, where the taxation will be very, very low. Or people will take the cash option and look at what they can do personally,” he adds.