In an effort to lower budget costs, Virginia Beach officials recently formed an advisory group to reorganize management of the city’s 2,000-plus passenger vehicle fleet, reports the Virginia Pilot. The group has responded by downsizing the fleet and introducing more cost-effective automobiles. So far, it has auctioned off 117 loaner vehicles and stripped 70 more of take-home privileges, bestowing these permanent benefits only on fire, police and rescue personnel. They have also introduced 12 hybrid cars, one electric car, and are considering replacing sports utility vehicles with more fuel-efficient sedans. Car allowances present another option. But according to Don Unmussig, former administrator of Virginia’s centralized fleet, this policy may cost the government more money than it saves. Another problem further hinders the group’s efforts. Currently, Virginia Beach has no clear standards defining how many miles a car must be driven in order to be considered useful to the fleet. The Virginia state rates usefulness between 7,500 and 10,000 miles per year, depending on the vehicle. Setting a similar set of conditions for Virginia Beach also falls on the advisory group’s agenda. The state recently hired Mercury Associates, a Maryland-based consulting firm, to work with its Office of Fleet Management Services. In the face of downsizing, President Paul Lauria warns against underestimating a vehicle’s importance. “A lot of elected officials tend to oversimplify or not fully appreciate the various ways in which vehicles are used,” he remarked to the Virginia Pilot. “The fact that the wheels aren’t turning all day long doesn’t mean the vehicle’s not needed.”