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In Memoriam: Coach's Insights

While the Economy Sputters, 2011 Was a Good Fleet Year

With consumer confidence low, political bickering at a high, eroding 401(k) plans, massive national debt, and protesters in the streets, “fleet” remains a very bright segment. Here are some year-end reflections.

December 29, 2011, by Ed Bobit - Also by this author

Yes, despite the gloom surrounding the 9-plus-percent unemployed, the U.S. automotive industry is slated to sell about 13.4 million new vehicles. Even at this level, the auto companies are making good profits.

Also, the suppliers, FMCs, dealers, and finance firms are enjoying healthy earning years. It seems that the entire sector has become lean and is making the best of it.

When we focus on fleet, commercial fleet sales are running about 15 percent ahead of last year, which is a very positive sign (and Ford commercial fleet sales are on a pace to be more than rental fleet sales, which is unusual). Commercial sales shine, with government sales remaining about even and rental down considerably to give “fleet” about a 6-plus-percent gain over 2010.

Another milestone that ranks high during the year has been the introduction of the NAFA Fleet Management Association Student Sponsorship and Mentoring Program and the Advisory Board, chaired by Steve Pederson.

Thanks to the vision of NAFA, industry interest, and sponsorships, this movement has legs and provides legitimacy and credibility to the entire industry. If you were in the audience, as I was, when those students were introduced at NAFA’s Institute & Expo (I&E), you couldn’t help but feel that being a fleet manager held a lot more respectability than ever before.

The program’s goals are to provide internship opportunities within the industry, along with scholarship programs, plus I&E sponsorship and mentoring for these eager students focusing on entering into fleet management. There are many ways to educate those already established fleet managers, but to be giving hope, resolution, and an avenue directly is professionally gratifying.

As we come to the end of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Automotive Fleet as a print magazine (of course we now have a digital edition, several channels on our website, and a number of “sister” magazines, websites, and related trade conferences), I reflect on the seven years before we created AF.

Those were spent with McGraw-Hill on Fleet Owner magazine. It was there that I learned the true value of editorial content for guaranteed readership within the industry audience. No one could personify it better (for the past 25 years) than our own Auto Group editorial director, Mike Antich.

When we asked what his mission and goal were each day, he responded “to provide indispensible information that can only be found in the magazine.” (Descriptive and accurate.)

He pointed out that we generate fleet-specific surveys that fleet managers benchmark against their own operations. These include the individual surveys on maintenance, medium-duty trucks, order-to-delivery, personal use, fleet accident management, remarketing, salary compensation, next model-year buying forecast, and the “state of the fleet market” as well as the “global fleet market” forecast.

Mike’s monthly “trends” column provides analysis of current and future areas for concern and is highly read. He and his staff locate and report on best practices, developments as they occur on eNews, plus archived articles online for reference.

We and the fleet market are fortunate that our entire staff is so dedicated to your own success. We wish you the best for this holiday season.

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Author Bio

Ed Bobit

Editor & Publisher

With more than 50 years in the fleet industry, Ed Bobit, Automotive Fleet editor and publisher, reflects on issues affecting today’s fleets. Drawing insight from his own experiences in the field, Ed offers a perspective similar to that of a sports coach guiding his players.

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