BMW photoBMW and Ford each notched a double triumph as Britain’s fleet decision-makers named their industry leaders in the prestigious 2012 ACFO Awards.

A capacity 250 ACFO members and their guests attended the annual Awards with the winners revealed during a gala dinner at the Stratford Manor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon, on Wednesday night.

The changing shape of the UK company car market was reflected as BMW won the Fleet Car of the Year Award for the first time with the 3 Series. In the process the German marque became just the fourth manufacturer in the 29-year history of the ACFO Awards to capture the honour, which has previously been dominated by Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen.

BMW made it a double triumph as the company retained the Environmental Initiative of the Year Award for its low emission EfficientDynamics technology, which in recent years has been rolled out across the manufacturer’s model range. It is a combination of systems involving a mixture of Auto Start/Stop, Brake Energy Regeneration, Active Aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tyres, Electric Power Steering, on-demand ancillary systems and optimum gearshift indicator features.

It is the utilisation of that technology, notably in its best-selling 3 Series range, that has propelled BMW to the ACFO Awards double as fleet operators view low-emission, and therefore fuel-sipping models as having an ever-critical place on company car choice lists.

Meanwhile, Ford saw its pre-eminence in the light commercial vehicle sector underlined once again as fleet operators voted the Transit Connect and Transit Small Van of the Year and Large Van of the Year respectively.

The Transit Connect Van was voted the nation’s favourite Small Van for the 10th time in succession, while its Transit stablemate remained on the winner’s rostrum for the second consecutive year to claim the Large Van of the Year title for the 16th time in the history of the awards.

Vauxhall won the Green Vehicle of the Year Award with the Ampera, the manufacturer’s extended range electric vehicle and the 2012 European Car of the Year. The Ampera arrived in UK showrooms in May and has a real-world battery range of between 25-50 miles, after which a small range-extender motor intervenes to provide up to an additional 300-plus mile range. At all times, the Ampera’s wheels are electrically driven, setting it apart from hybrid vehicles.

The Fleet Safety Initiative of the Year Award was won by Volvo, with ACFO members recognising that the company’s groundbreaking pedestrian airbag represented another significant breakthrough in reducing road casualties.

Volvo V40 photoEarlier this year the new Volvo V40 posted the highest ever European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) crash test result in its segment thanks in part to the world’s first pedestrian airbag, which debuted on the model.

EuroNCAP crash test performance ratings are used by many fleet operators to compile company car choice list and the airbag, with seven sensors embedded in the front of the car, has been introduced to help protect pedestrians when they impact the bonnet and the area around the windscreen wiper recess and A-pillar.

Finally, while all suppliers strive to deliver customer satisfaction through a high quality fleet service, Alphabet GB, the multi-marque fleet funding company, which is part of the BMW Group, won the Fleet Service Company of the Year with ACFO members declaring that the organisation offered the best overall combination of quality products, service and integrity and fully understood the requirements of fleet decision-makers.

The Awards, which are voted online exclusively by the ACFO membership, are highly prized because unlike many other awards they reflect the day-to-day operational experience and expertise of fleet decision-makers.

ACFO chairman Julie Jenner said: “Fleet decision-makers are reliant on motor manufacturers to deliver vehicles that are cost effective to operate, safe, reliable and environmentally-friendly and supplier companies to provide a first class service.

“Operating successfully in partnership it means that through the availability of top quality vehicles and first rate suppliers, vehicle downtime can be kept to an absolute minimum and fleet managers can focus on the efficient and effective operation of their vehicles to support their businesses.”