Insight: California beach pitches up on fleets

Picture the scene

Your finance director’s company car is about to be renewed and he tells you that for his next vehicle, he wants a camper van.

Looking into the benefits and drawbacks of widening the company car choice list to include more obscure vehicles reveals some surprising facts.

One manufacturer  making the most of this phenomenon is Volkswagen, which has been building a range of campers since the 1950s.

The Transporter California Beach, pictured here, sells about 500 units a year – the leader in its class –­ and VW is seeing more purchases being made with company money as user-choosers become bolder in their choices.

Alastair Hemmings, VW’s national fleet manager, said: “At present it’s a small niche but an interesting one for user-choosers who want the benefits of a practical business vehicle that also doubles up to provide lifestyle benefits – and fulfils many people’s dreams of driving a Volkswagen camper van.

“The California Beach does not have any cooking equipment fitted, so is registered as a passenger vehicle rather than a motorhome.

"A motorhome attracts a flat rate of road tax, but a passenger carrying vehicle is taxed on emissions, which penalises the Beach a bit – so I’ve stressed the lifestyle benefits and the savings of running one car instead of two.”

There are basically two areas which need looking at if you are to allow more unusual vehicles on to your fleet – image and costs.

The image issue is an important one. If your director turns up at a client’s premises in, say, a five-year-old tired lookng car, he could well lose important business on this fact alone. But what image would a camper van portray?

In the case of a vehicle such as the California Beach, the answer is rather trendy and refreshingly different.

It manages to look upmarket and stylish, with alloy wheels and tinted glass.

In fact, you’d have to look twice to realise it was in fact a camper. And there’s more.

Both front seats swivel round backwards, so your director could use the table which folds out from the sliding door to conduct a meeting.

Practical and chic.

But it isn’t exactly cheap at £34,980 + VAT – and on top of that basic price there are a list of goodies as long as your arm to customise it to individual tastes, which most buyers will want to do. But you do get a lot for your money.

Included in the standard spec list as well as the beds are alloy wheels, climate control, electronic stability programme (ESP) and hill-hold assist.

There are even two folding chairs stowed away in the tailgate.

The downside is the company will not be able to reclaim VAT unless it can be proved that the vehicle is being used for commercial purposes.

But the real icing on the cake is in the residual value forecasts. KeeResources predicts that after three years/60,000 miles, the California Beach will make 42% of its original value.

The California Beach is a star in the fuel economy stakes too. It has a Bluemotion badge, which means that it is an environmentally-aware model, carrying a stop-start system as standard which boosts fuel economy to 40.3mpg on the combined cycle and reduces CO2 emissions to 184g/km.

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