Feb 272012

Negative Headlines

One of the biggest companies in the US, General Electric, has started to replace company cars with the all-electric Chevrolet Volt in a move that has generated almost as many negative headlines as it has positive ones.

Chevrolet Volt - All Electric Eco Car

Chevrolet Volt - All Electric Eco Car

In late 2010, GE announced that it had plans to introduce electric vehicles as company cars in what it described as the biggest order for plug-in vehicles in the world. Now that is starting to take shape, but a company memo leaked to the press, which states that all these vehicles must be Chevrolet Volts, has prompted criticism that employees are being forced into the move and are not being given a choice of vehicles.

Volt Only Policy

The memo states a number of new policies regarding company cars for GE employees, including the confirmation that all sedans ordered in 2012 will be Volts, all minivans and crossovers will be replaced by the Volt, and only field engineers will be exempted from the Volt-only policy. It also states that employees can have rechargers fitted at home and that the cost of electricity for charging the vehicles can be claimed back.

Why is GE backing the Volt?

While many segments of the press have criticised the move, particularly those in the US that do not support green vehicles, the more appropriate question is: Why is GE backing the Volt?

The reason behind GE’s support for plug-in vehicles is obvious. The company is a developer of electric-charging stations, known as WattStations, and has a great deal of money at stake, not only in terms of product research and development but also in terms of advertising. GE has run a major campaign in recent months that includes television ads.

While creating additional demand for these recharging stations, GE will also most likely be saving money in the long-term on these company cars. Although the initial outlay is more – Volts start at just under US$40,000 (£25,000 Plus each – GE will qualify for $7,500 (£5,000 approx) in Federal tax credits per vehicle, and running them will be significantly cheaper. Electric vehicles are usually at least three times cheaper to recharge than petrol vehicles are to refuel.

American Vehicle bought by American company

Why GE electric has backed Chevrolet in particular remains a mystery, but could be to do with the fact that these are American vehicles being bought by an all-American company. After all, much of Chevrolet’s competition in the electric market comes from Japanese and German automakers. More likely, the Volt probably works out cheaper than rivals – this is a decision that would have been taken following a whole series of calculations to make sure GE gets the best deal on its company car scheme.

Petrol Permitted

Another interesting rule issued by GE for its company car policy is that employees will be permitted to use petrol with their Volts. Although surprising on the surface, particularly from a cost point of view, in reality, the majority of drivers will surely avoid this as they are unlikely to live outside of the range of their vehicles when driving to work and most will have chargers at home. In terms of car choice for employees, this may seem like a restrictive policy but, in terms of saving money and the environment, it looks like a winner.

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