Predicting the demise of “petrol-only” cars

Dec. 20, 2010
“Clearly, there is an expectation that the move away from petrol will accelerate as hybrids and EVs 0electric vehicles) now begin to attract greater market share.” –Chris Chandler, principle consultant, Lex Autolease There’s no small amount of danger ...

Clearly, there is an expectation that the move away from petrol will accelerate as hybrids and EVs 0electric vehicles) now begin to attract greater market share.” –Chris Chandler, principle consultant, Lex Autolease

There’s no small amount of danger (not to mention hubris writ large) when one makes bold predictions about the not-so-distant future (take the infamous Dewey Defeats Truman Chicago Daily Tribune headline for example).

Yet that’s exactly what Lex Autolease – a fleet management and vehicle funding specialist based in the U.K. – recently did when it published a study stating that “petrol-only” powered company cars (i.e. those fueled solely on gasoline) could almost be obsolete in 10 years.

The firm went on to say that two surveys it conducted with some 300 private industry finance chiefs and company car drivers reveal that early adopters of hybrid and electric vehicles could sound the “death knell” for petrol-only vehicles more broadly in the global market over the next decade – about as bold a prediction as you can make these days.

“Ten years is less than three company cars away for most business drivers, so these options are being looked at by finance chiefs and drivers with a greater degree of seriousness than many believe,” noted Chris Chandler, Lex’s principle consultant. “Employees are readied for change and the business benefits are becoming more and more apparent to financial stakeholders, too.”

He pointed out that less than 5% of both groups polled believe that gasoline-only powered cars – once the staple choice of business drivers – will outsell other fuel types in a decade's time. In contrast, 8 out of 10 business drivers (78%) and two thirds of finance directors or “FDs” (65%) are confident that hybrid or electric vehicles (EVs) will become the most popular company car choice.

Further findings from Lex’s driver survey show that 87% would consider a diesel for their next company car, while just 28% would put petrol (again, i.e. gasoline) on their short list. However, exactly half of the drivers polled would also include a hybrid, in either petrol or diesel form, which suggests that the latest batch of hybrids have overcome many of the perceived barriers to entry, Chandler noted.

Indeed, almost half (47%) of all drivers polled would like to road test either a hybrid or a fully electric vehicle, while almost two thirds (64%) of finance bosses believe that employees should be given the option to add these vehicles to their company car choice list.

“For the time being diesel is king, but we are witnessing a shift in the market dynamics with new developments coming to the fore with potentially significant benefits for both drivers and companies,” he explained. “FDs are often cautious by nature, so the optimism coming from the shop floor to the boardroom is encouraging to say the least.”

Of course, as one must always keep in mind with such surveys, there’s a great disparity between what people SAY they will do and what they ACTUALLY end up doing.

Much of this future “shift” in vehicle buying patterns hinges on many factors, not the least of which is the price of gasoline and diesel itself. There’s also the high upfront cost of hybrids and EVs, which may or may not be recouped over the life of the vehicle depending on the aforementioned price of fuel.

Still, it’s an interesting line in the sand Lex drew based on its surveys and study. The real trick, though, is to see if it's still there a decade from now.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr 1 | Senior Editor

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