Staff at supermarket chain Budgens have been shopping around for greener company cars – and are finding that the European Car of the Year, the Toyota Prius petrol-electric suits them even better than they might at first have thought. Five Prius have joined the fleet since the start of this year and two more are on order. At present the cars are being driven mainly by staff from the buying, IT and finance departments of the company’s new head office in Middlesex.
Budgens has a user-chooser policy based on 12 manufacturers and a choice of diesel or alternative-fuel power. It purchases its vehicles outright, through a financing arrangement with Bank of Scotland. The fleet is managed by Arval PHH, with maintenance carried out by local dealerships. The replacement cycle is 100,000 miles/four years, though Budgens is considering reducing maximum mileage to 80,000.
Budgens employs more than 6,000 staff and has more than 225 retail outlets, ranging from convenience stores and petrol forecourts to primary shopping locations. It is part of the Musgrave Group, which stresses environmental friendliness throughout its operations. Fleet Manager Linda O’Hara, responsible for Budgens’ fleet of 155 vehicles, encourages staff to think green when choosing a car.
“Drivers, particularly the accountants, are attracted by vehicles that offer tax benefits. They also like the fact that the Prius is automatic, and its specification,” she says. The head office’s West London location also means that drivers sometimes enter the capital’s congestion zone during the week, and with the Prius the £5-a-day charges do not apply.
“The first two people to get Prius were Avensis drivers. They hadn’t liked the look of the old Prius, but after I sent them to the alternative fuel show at Gaydon they came back quite enthusiastic. One of them had been very anti alternative vehicles, but he said he thought it was the best car he had ever driven. “They still thought it was ugly, but when they saw the new Prius they said that if it drove as well as it looked, it would be a really good car. Both these drivers have since come in and thanked me for getting the cars – that’s a first! They said it was brilliant and that they really liked driving it.”
The first two Prius users were also keen to spread the word: “They were quite happy to lend their cars to other people to let them see the benefits,” says Linda O’Hara. “They both had long journeys in to work and I had been a bit concerned about comfort levels, but there were no complaints.
“In fact I’ve not had one complaint from anybody – they all really like the Prius,” she says. “Half of them don’t take private fuel from the company, so with fuel consumption of more than 50mpg they’re happy to be paying less. In some cases they’re also saving more than £100 a period on tax compared with their previous cars. So they’re happy with the monetary side as well as the practical side of driving.”