RENTA & FEBIAC: No economic activity without mobility

Opinion

A new study by the Federal Planning Bureau should show that company cars - and 'salary cars' in particular - entail an additional social cost of more than 900 million a year. This is mainly because those who have a company car at their disposal drive more kilometres, both for professional and private reasons. Renta and FEBIAC consider it necessary to provide additional clarification and outline the framework. After all, the picture that is given is not complete.

The Planning Bureau bases itself on the 2010 BELDAM survey. Since then, a completely new tax framework for company cars, including a recalculation of the benefit in kind (VAA) according to listed price and CO2 emissions has been worked on. This new tax treatment has had the immediate effect that today's company cars are both cleaner and more economical than the average new car in Belgium. And so, of course, much cleaner and more economical than the average fleet. Precisely the rapid rotation of company cars contributes to a young and increasingly cleaner and safer vehicle fleet. This is not stated in the study because it is based on older figures.

Note that, according to the study, the number of salaried cars is 383,000, out of a total of more than 5.6 million cars in Belgium. That is less than 7% of the total fleet. This gives an impression of the extent of possible actions and their effects, not to mention the fact that at least three quarters of the users of a company car should / would have to switch to their own car immediately in case of 'loss'.

The growth of the Belgian car fleet over the past 5 years amounted to just over 200,000 cars. 180,000 of these were private cars (new and mainly second-hand); only 21,000 were company cars. The increasing traffic jams and their costs can therefore only to a very limited extent be attributed to the cars of companies. In other words: the renewal of the fleet is driven by company cars; the growth of the fleet by private cars!

Whoever owns a company car drives more. Both for professional and leisure reasons. For professional journeys it has to do with the job content itself. If you have to drive a lot for work, you will enjoy a company car faster. The 'over-consumption' in leisure time is just as easy to explain: which car is chosen to go to a movie in the evening or to visit grandma during the weekend? Obviously the (larger, more comfortable, safer, more economical) car of the company rather than the private car. But whether or not this automatically implies that globally one drives more as a result, is questionable to say the least and deserves an analysis that cannot be found in the Plan Bureau's study.

For that matter, it is obvious that the comparison between mobility use must be made between comparable groups. For example, it is not a question of comparing an (by definition) active population group with a company car with a population group without a company car that includes both professional and non-professional workers. Being professionally active or not has an enormous impact on mobility consumption, just think of the thousands of kilometres of living and working that non-occupationally active people do not have!

By the way, it is remarkable how in the study the fact that families "buying" a company car (sic!!!) choose a larger and more expensive model. This is also perceived negatively. This seems doubly wrong to us: you don't buy a company car: you use it for work and (in certain cases) also privately and pay for it. And secondly: opting for a more valuable product contributes to the economy and the fiscal revenues of the state.

The main advantage of company cars is to increase the purchasing power of families. And that, in turn, has positive effects on our economy. But it does indeed encourage families to be more socially active and thus use more mobility.

In this context, FEBIAC reiterates its plea for smart road pricing. This would mitigate excessive mobility consumption and peak-time consumption, provided that fully-fledged alternatives are available. This could reduce the social costs of mobility and make consumers opt for cleaner vehicles. Smart pricing as a remedy against over-consumption: this is already possible today, but it is not happening yet.

To promote these fully-fledged alternatives, FEBIAC and RENTA are also open to a mobility budget for employees. This should broaden their choice of transport, giving them greater freedom to use the appropriate mode(s) of transport according to their needs and the nature of the journey. But it should be clear: more than three-quarters of those who today use a company car for professional and private trips will still do so after the introduction of the mobility budget. The impact on our mobility is limited to a possible reduction in our fleet of less than 100,000 vehicles out of a total of 5.6 million cars today.

RENTA and FEBIAC deplore the fact that once again the company car is seen as the source of all evil and just as much that this results in non constructive and even worthless rhetoric from certain politicians.

CONTACT:

RENTA, the Belgian Federation of Vehicle Randlers

Frank Van Gool, Managing Director - fvangool@renta.be - 0475 20 52 54

FEBIAC, the Belgian Automobile and Two-wheeler Federation

Joost Kaesemans, Director of Communications - jk@febiac.be - 0476 260 795