Two years – time really does fly. This issue of Spec Sheet marks the two-year anniversary of our first issue in February 2009.
I remember the day in early December 2008 when then AFLA president Mike Antich called me and asked if I would be interested in “helping out on the newly formed Communications Committee.” One of the items that Mike wanted the Communications Committee to champion was a monthly newsletter. His feeling was that a monthly newsletter would be a positive influence in keeping the existing members informed and allow potential members to see the benefits of joining AFLA. I agreed with him completely. Within the span of that phone call, I went from “helping out” on the committee to becoming chair of the Communications Committee and editor of the newsletter, Spec Sheet. Mike is one silver-tongued devil!
I took a trip down memory lane and looked back at some of the articles we ran over the past two years. The first few months really concentrated on the organization. Most of the articles were centered on the AFLA committees, the annual conference and the direction AFLA was headed. In succeeding months, you begin to notice a change in the content as we focused on AFLA members. We found that AFLA members were willing to talk about both their business life and their outside interests. This made for some incredible articles about our members. The following are a few I found noteworthy.
The theme for the AFLA conference,“A Better Vision of Tomorrow,” is very appropriate given the last few years of gut-wrenching change. From the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression that severely damaged our economy to the OEM bankruptcies that set the stage for a dramatically restructured auto industry, few people had much optimism we’d see better days for a very long time.
Seasonally adjusted annual vehicle sales (SAAR) rates dropped below 10 million; credit markets seized up; supply chain profitability plunged...and once again, doubts about U.S. competitiveness reared its ugly head.
As you gain more experience in life, perspective becomes your friend and a source of inspiration– these growing doubts reminded me of comments I’d heard in the ’80s during another recessionary period. I was fresh out of university and working for Ford at the time – my job was convincing dealers to take additional vehicle inventory when consumer demand and the interest rate environment would indicate otherwise. Production volumes were not aligned with sales rates, obviously. But the economy started to improve, and Ford introduced a new model with a confident, bold design – called the Taurus.
Fast forward to now and we’re starting to see signs of life – especially in the auto industry. The painful restructuring has resulted in significantly lowered sales rates needed for OEMs to make money; renewed focus on fewer but more impactful brands; and great product. Yes – there are some amazing vehicles in all segments that exhibit both strong styling cues and solid quality. New vehicle SAAR is now forecasted to be around 12.5 million – not 17 million as in the “boom” times – but some of that “boom” was “froth” caused by excessively loose credit standards.
Globally and in our own industry we’ve seen the impact of technology. Its relative impact on corporations as an external factor rises year after year (now ranked #2 in a recent CEO study). Just look at communication – the speed at which ideas and events (good and bad) can go “viral” is incredible. The need to stay connected, entertained, and informed is driving tremendous valuations in social network companies. Our own comfort level with technology is increasing too – the explosion of handheld mobile devices with a dizzying array of applications continues unabated. The vehicle itself is turning into a “digital cockpit” loaded with various electronics designed for safety, convenience and ease of use.
Sustainability initiatives are well underway in many companies – concerns about the environmental impact of vehicle fleets and a need to provide tools and customized strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions including driver behavior are gaining momentum. Almost half of all U.S. companies now are measuring carbon emissions.
I’m an optimist by nature and I firmly believe our best days are ahead of us… A few years ago, we were wondering if there would be a tomorrow – now we are all challenged with setting a vision for a better tomorrow.
A “Better Vision of Tomorrow” is the theme for the 2011 AFLA Conference. And, thanks to the Conference Committee, I really do have a great vision of tomorrow, specifically September 14 -16, 2011.
With the new schedule format, we now have six educational sessions on Thursday. I am pleased to report that three of those sessions already have confirmed speakers and we’re in negotiations with two speakers for the remaining three sessions. So, the agenda is really taking shape. We are filling it with energetic and knowledgeable speakers addressing timely topics of interest to our members.
In last month’s Spec Sheet we highlighted Mark Vann, who will speak on alternative fuels. In addition, we have secured Todd Buchholz, an economist who is the former director of economic policy at the White House. He was recently named one of the “21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century.” Maryanne Keller has signed on to provide her expertise on the auto industry. I am also very excited about Erik Wahl, an artist, visionary and motivational speaker who will kick things off on Wednesday with “The Art of Vision.” We will be providing further details about all of our conference speakers in future editions of the Spec Sheet, so stay tuned!
While we still have a few sessions to fill and lots of details to tie down, the vision of the 2011 Conference is becoming a reality. Be sure to visit the Conference page at aflaonline.com for schedule updates. Please respond to our Call for Presentations if you have topic and/or speaker suggestions. Most important, take advantage of the early-bird registration rates.
Call for Board Nominations
The AFLA board of directors requests your input on candidates for the 2011-2012 board of directors. The following positions will be open for election this year:
If you know someone who would be a good candidate for the AFLA board of directors, please email Executive Director Paul Hanscom at email@example.com.
Women in Fleet Create Networking Group
by Carolyn Edwards, Director, Vehicle Acquisition, LeasePlan USA
Women in the fleet industry – there are many of us, right? How great would it be if we had a group to support one another? Here’s where the story begins…
During a lunch with Nancy D’Amico, our CIO, we were sharing our thoughts about the professional groups we belong to. I thought, "Why not create a group for women in fleet?" Nancy and I agreed that the majority of the people we interact with in our industry are women. So, we reached out to several fleet professionals, including Ginny Liddle from Terracon, Christy Coyte from Johnson Controls, Gayle Pratt from Ecolab, and Sue Miller from McDonald’s. The response was positive, and we decided to chat about the idea over a conference call.
We had our first conference call in January and decided to move forward – slowly and methodically. Collectively, we knew the idea had purpose and value, but we knew our next step was to survey the fleet industry! We engaged Mike Antich of Automotive Fleet to get his thoughts. He suggested an announcement in his Market Trends article in the March issue. The result? We received feedback from people interested in forming a group, as well as phone calls directly asking to help and participate.
From there, we had our second conference call in February, where as a group we brainstormed group name ideas and finalized our purpose statement and mission. The “Women's Fleet Network” or “Fleet Network for Women” will focus on educating, empowering, and enabling fleet women. The mission of the group is to provide a resource for women fleet leaders that encourages personal and career fulfillment through mentoring, fleet expertise sharing, fleet/business community involvement, and social networking.
I am proud to be in the company of these smart, inspirational, and influential women in the industry. We look forward to the opportunities that this group will bring for all women in fleet. The founding team will have a conference call in March to discuss next steps and a potential get-together at an industry event.
We would love to get your feedback! Mike Antich has accepted our invitation to act as a clearinghouse for industry feedback. Please e-mail Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you think.
In the meantime, here are a few interesting Automotive Fleet articles about women in fleet over the years. We’ve come a LONG way!
WASHINGTON – A 10-month study by the U.S. Department of Transportation did not find any electronic system flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous high-speed unintended acceleration incidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Did You Know?
Toll Booths on The Garden State Parkway in New Jersey were supposed to remain until initial construction was paid off, sometime back in the late 1950s.
AFLA LinkedIn Book Corner Updates
Do Penguins Have Knees? An Imponderable Book by David Feldman
Here's a collection of topics – basically everything you ever wanted to know about really strange stuff – and it's good. Interesting, entertaining and informative. This is not the kind of book that you would necessarily read through in one sitting. But since I generally read several books at the same time, it's a fun diversion. I'll definitely keep it around on the bookshelf for future reference!
Recommendation by Mark Petersen
Visit the Book Corner on the AFLA website to see what others are reading and suggesting.
Plague Ship (The Oregon Files) by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
I've been reading books from Clive Cussler for as long as I can remember. His Dirt Pitt series of novels has always been a favorite. But until now, those are the only Cussler books I've read. After reading Plague Ship, I realize that I have been missing alot. The Oregon Files book is just as riveting as any Pitt novel and is rich with characters and story. I'll be looking for the books I've missed now, and will also take a look at the NUMA books. Bravo!
Recommendation by Mark Petersen
And, YOU can add your favorite books to the AFLA Book Corner. Tell us what you’ve read recently. Add to the discussion if you’ve read the book. We'll collect members’ favorite books from this discussion and list them on the AFLA Book Corner page on our website.
What is LinkedIn and How Do I Use It?
LinkedIn is a professional social networking website. Through the site, you can:
Re-connect with past colleagues or industry peers or stay connected with your current ones. LinkedIn makes staying in touch simple.
Power your career by discovering inside connections when you’re looking for a new business opportunity.
Get answers. Your network is full of industry experts willing to share advice. Have a question? Just ask.
The Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) has created a LinkedIn group to provide members with business media networking. This is the fastest way to meet your colleagues in commercial fleet, fleet services organizations, and factory fleet departments across the country and stay connected throughout the year.
If you would like to receive email notifications from the AFLA group, simply follow these steps:
Navigate to the group page
Select the “Settings” tab under the group you want to change
Check Digest Email and choose either daily or weekly digests
As a follow-up to our Music by Colors piece, I thought that the next logical step would be Music by Numbers. Of course my wife reminds me that logic isn’t always my strong suit, but what the heck. The unique thing about this exercise was that I used only the songs currently on my iPod, and only songs with the numbers (or words) 1 through 10 – in other words, songs with double or triple digits didn’t count. Some of the more difficult numbers were 1, 2 and 3 (way too many choices), as well as 4 and 10, where the choices were rather slim. I probably could have gone 5 songs deep, though some of them would have been a stretch, so I decided to stick with my favorite Top 3 songs in each number. Enjoy – and please check out the “Special Consideration” section after the Number 10.
When I started at Gelco in 1975, I met Don Fenton for the first time. He was the Vice President of Fleet Sales for Long Chevrolet in Elmhurst, IL and already an icon in the fleet industry. I needed a car and decided to factory order one through Don. It was a 1976 Camaro LT, white with red velour buckets. Not exactly the family car we needed (we had a 2 year old at the time!) but we decided that was the one to get. What a beautiful car! We drove to Chicago to pick it up and Don showed us his fleet operation. For those of you who never got the opportunity to see Long Chevrolet in person, it was amazing. The largest Chevrolet dealership in the US! The drive back to Minneapolis was one I will never forget. My own new Camaro! We ended up selling it in 1977 when I was transferred to Toronto, but we will never forget our first car. Thanks Don!
Now it’s your turn. Send us your story. If you have a photo of you and your first car, all the better. Send your story to email@example.com.