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Award-Winning Fleet Manager Rises to Business Challenges

2009 Professional Fleet Manager of the Year, Christy Coyte of Johnson Controls, Inc. was recognized for her innovation and impactful years as a fleet industry leader.

June 2009, by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

Christy Coyte faced a reduction in staff and added responsibilities in 2007 and 2008. But the Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) global fleet manager did not falter during this challenge, and not only rebranded and reduced fleet costs, but also impacted the fleet community through her industry involvement.

Coyte's recent achievements, including her long-term contributions to the fleet industry, earned her the title of Automotive Fleet's 2009 Professional Fleet Manager of the Year. Coyte was recognized April 26 in New Orleans during NAFA's 2009 Institute & Expo.

The award, now in its 25th year, is sponsored by Automotive Fleet, Wheels Inc., and the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA). The honor recognizes an experienced and proficient fleet manager who has demonstrated special business acumen in developing and executing key management policies in all areas. A $5,000 scholarship in the name of the recipient is given by AFLA to an accredited university business school of the winner's choice.

Qualified nominees are full-time commercial fleet managers who control a company-owned or leased fleet in excess of 100 cars and light trucks combined. A 35-member judging panel, representing all areas of fleet, selected Coyte this year's award winner.

"It means so much to be acknowledged by my peers for this honorable achievement," Coyte said. "I am also very humbled and grateful to my company, Johnson Controls, for recognizing our fleet team's value in managing one of the largest commercial fleets in the industry."

Managing in  a Tough Economy

JCI is a global leader in automotive systems, building efficiency and power solutions. Coyte oversees fleet operations in more than 30 countries, managing more than 17,000 vehicles, including about 7,500 in the United States.

She supervises the strategic direction, coordination, and implementation and management of fleet activities throughout North and South America, Mexico, and Europe. She also is establishing contacts in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

Coyte joined fleet 14 years ago, but began her career with Johnson Controls in 1978, holding various positions in audit, legal, and human resources. She has been a NAFA member since 1994, currently serving as Michigan chapter secretary. Coyte is also a member of the LeasePlan's Future Directions (U.S.) and Global Advisory boards. Her work with LeasePlan has led to enhancement opportunities benefiting all LeasePlan clients.

Coyte has faced many challenges in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the economy's downturn, but she handled the roadblocks with a positive outlook and continued dedication and hard work. To ensure the effectiveness of the company's global fleet strategy - with a specific goal of cost reduction - JCI's European fleet program was reviewed in 2008.

Collaborating with all key stakeholders, the fleet team reviewed vehicle policies, terms and conditions, and the supplier base, resulting in the implementation of several key initiatives.

"We saved nearly $2 million in FY 2008 and 2009," Coyte said. "Essential to the initiatives' successful implementation was maintaining open communication and partnerships with suppliers,  and there continues to be significant cost saving opportunities in 2009."

Coyte's main goals are to contribute to the company's bottom line, deliver value to customers, and be an effective leader to her team. The team consists of two direct reports, Kate Bombeck in the U.S. and Michel Moonens in Europe. In addition, 19 fleet coordinators support the fleet in North America.

Observers find the amount of work Coyte and her team accomplish each year amazing. The cost savings exceeds all expectations, and Coyte and her team achieve these goals with limited resources.

She also credits her success to family. Her fiance and sons have been key influences for Coyte throughout the years. "I want my kids to be proud of me and to see that you have to work hard for your achievements, and it doesn't hurt to have some fun along the way!" she said.

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