"Company cars are costing society 905 million"

Company cars in Belgium have a negative impact on society. The high number of company cars causes overconsumption, the Planning Office calculated, which creates an extra cost for society, mainly because of the extra traffic jams. Employment Minister Kris Peeters says he will "take the report into account."

Employees boasting a company car often have bigger and more expensive vehicles, and have more cars than other families. They cover a lot more kilometres for commuting and for private trips. This "overconsumption" is costing society 905 million euros each year, the Planning Office calculated. 628 million can be put down to the extra traffic jams created by company cars. 

The Planning Office looked into motorists' behaviour and how it is being influenced by a company car. How does it affect the possession of other cars in the family, and how does it influence the number of kilometres covered to commute and to make private outings, e.g. to the local supermarket or to bring the children to school?

Company car owners turn out to cover 58.2 km more than other average families for transport to and from work every day, and daily also 8.2 km more for other types of trips.

A hot potato

The relatively high number of company cars in Belgium was debated in parliament in recent years, but the present centre-right coalition government (leaning more to the right) refused to touch the present system. Many employers use it as a nice fringe benefit to motivate employers, and point to the fact that labour costs in Belgium are high as it is.

The federal Employment Minister Kris Peeters (Flemish Christian democrat) says he will take the conclusions of the report into account. The plan is to create a system of 'mobility budgets' that should replace the traditional company car. Under this system, employers get extra cash, but they can choose how to spend it: on a company car, on public transport or on an electric bicycle, for example.

As the Christian democrats have to represent the left voice in the government (the other parties are leaning more to the right), Mr Peeters finds it his duty to consider this. "I know it's a sensitive issue, but this study of the Planning Office gives us neutral facts and figures which should make discussions easier."