Ministers Mulling Luxury Car Choices as State Orders 10 New Hybrid Vehicles

Although Israel's ministers considered BMWs a PR own-goal, many are currently opting to drive lease cars that cost the state more.

Israel’s ministers may have chosen not to travel in BMWs due to concerns over public criticism, but that doesn’t mean they’re avoiding luxury cars – and the costs they impose on the state.

Over the weekend, the government published a tender to purchase expensive hybrid cars for the ministers. This comes two years after the government ruled that ministers could choose between Citroen C5s and BMW 528is (as part of a previous tender).

The choice of the BMW was a surprise, and Rani Rahav – BMW Israel’s PR spokesman – was quick to announce that the company’s car had won. The announcement that the government was choosing to put ministers in cars with such a luxurious reputation drew a quick public backlash, pushing the then finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, to state that he was looking into cancelling the tender, and the government to reveal that BMW was offering the vehicles for 206,000 shekels ($59,350), a discount of 48% on the list price.

The Citroens were being offered to the state for 178,000 shekels apiece, 13% off the list price. But it turned out that the ministers didn’t want to drive either car. The BMWs were too flashy, while the Citroens weren’t considered respectable enough, apparently.

Former deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman drove a BMW, and two ministers currently use Citroens. Health Minister Yael German and Finance Minister Yair Lapid use their own private cars, while some ministers use cars purchased in the previous tender – Audi A6s and Skoda Superbs.

Many ministers – including Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, Education Minister Shay Piron and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett – are choosing to lease instead. Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar is also slated to receive a rented car in place of the Audi he’s had until now.

Many of the ministers are renting large cars, including luxury minivans such as the Chrysler Grand Voyager or the Toyota Land Cruiser.

The ministers’ attempt to be modest is actually costing the state a lot of money. They’re not renting cheap compact cars, and the leasing actually costs more than using a state-owned car – even a BMW.

For car importers, winning the tender to supply the ministers with cars could be a good means of marketing. BMW, known for selling sports cars that appeal to a younger audience, had seemingly hoped that the ministers would lend it a more serious appearance, and thus importer Delek Motors had offered the government a significant discount.

The latest tender for hybrid cars is a relatively small one – the government is seeking to buy only 10 cars. While hybrids are efficient and pollute less, they are also still relatively rare here, and therefore the tender limits the government to one importer – Union Motors, which imports Toyotas and Lexuses.

There is a chance that another importer, Carasso, might be able to submit a bid with its Infinity Q50 model. But limiting the tender to one main applicant is unlikely to save taxpayers money.

Ofer Vaknin