The Vauxhall Astra has chalked up its fourth fleet awards success of the year by claiming the honour of 2005 Car of the Year from the Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO).

The Astra topped its class in this year’s ACFO Fleet Car and Vans of the Year Awards, marking a return to top spot for Vauxhall. The award is seen as clear indication that fleets are downsizing to more fuel efficient, CO2 -friendly company cars, said ACFO.

Prior to the last year’s Car of the Year Award only upper medium sector models - the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Cavalier and Vectra and Volkswagen Passat - had been recognised by fleet operators in the 22-year history of the ACFO awards.

The award was voted for by ACFO members who recognised the Astra’s operational performance, whole-life costs and driver appeal.

The ACFO Car of the Year Award follows success for Astra at this year’s Fleet Excellence Awards where it was voted New Fleet Car of the Year, and at the Fleet News Awards where it was voted Best Lower Medium Car. And in the Fleet World Honours in June, Astra won the accolade for Best Fleet Car.

ACFO chairman Tony Leigh said: ‘By voting for a lower medium sector model as ACFO Car of the Year for the second year in succession fleet operators are sending a clear message to the Government that companies are looking to operate the most environmentally-friendly vehicles available subject to them being fit-for-purpose and offering excellent whole-life costs.

‘The fact that a lower medium sector model has won the Car of the Year Award for the second consecutive year highlights that fleet operators are very aware of the Government’s desire to encourage the uptake of environmentally-friendly models through its company car taxation strategy.’

However, fleet operators did not just vote for the Astra based on ‘green’ and benefit-in-kind issues, but also on a string of other factors fundamental in the fleet vehicle decision-making process.

Tony Leigh explained: ‘Our members are continually evaluating vehicles and use their expertise to assess cars and vans against a wide range of real-life criteria including whole-life costs, operational performance, and suitability for the business use. In addition to these fleet appeal factors, driver appeal is also critical and the Astra clearly delivers this. The whole support package from the manufacturers and their dealers are also very important factors.’

Vauxhall fleet sales director Maurice Howkins said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to receive this award for the Astra as it has been voted for by the most demanding customers in the UK - fleet decision-makers.

"We have made great strides in ensuring the Astra appeals to both fleet decision-makers and company car drivers alike.

"Not only does Astra have enviable wholelife operating costs across a wide range of bodystyles and engines, but it truly appeals to the end user through its dynamic style and driving excitement, all combined with low benefit-in-kind tax bills. We would like to thank all those fleet operators who have voted for Astra to win this prestigious award,’ he said.

Published : 26/11/05 Author : Melanie Carter

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