The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

50 Most Important People in Fleet History

These 50 individuals, many of whom have been inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame, have significantly contributed to shaping the history of the fleet industry.

January 2011, by Grace L. Suizo & Lauren Fletcher

This article was sponsored by Chrysler Fleet Operations.

These 50 individuals, many of whom have been inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame, have significantly contributed to shaping the history of the fleet industry.

Sam Lee
Lee began his automotive career at Chevrolet dealerships in New York and Chicago. In 1948, he organized Lee Fleet Management, Inc., in Chicago, later moving the operation to Cleveland where he purchased a Ford dealership, which became one of the largest fleet and equipment leasing firms. Acting as a consultant to address concerns of fleet operations, he also helped lease companies improve their operations and assisted car dealers in the organization of their lease departments. Following the sale of his own companies, Lee organized the Fleetway System in California, installing lease departments in eight western states. This program was eventually merged into the Chevway system, organized by Lee for Chevrolet. He was the editor and publisher of Lease News, and wrote three books: Introduction to Leasing, Automotive Transportation in Industry, and Fleet and Lease Manager’s Handbook. From 1972-1979, he was VP of marketing for First Leasing Corp. Lee was an honorary NAFA member, as well as a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and California Vehicle Leasing Association (now the National Vehicle Leasing Association). He passed away in 1985.

Emil Ames
Ames began his automotive industry career as service manager for a Packard dealership in New York City. He joined Universal CIT Credit Corp. in the early 1940s, remaining there until retiring in 1963. He served as manager of the car control department, overseeing repossession sales and a 2,200-vehicle company-owned car fleet. Ames was a member of the Round Table Group and a founding NAFA member. He served as 1960-1961 NAFA president and was instrumental in hiring Howard DaSilva for the organization’s first legal counsel. Ames passed away in the late 1960s.

Zollie Frank
In 1938, Frank, a young Chicago automobile dealer, discovered the solution to a large Chicago pharmaceutical company’s problem of losing its vehicles when salesmen left the company: Frank would lease the vehicles to the company, charging them only for the use of the cars and not the cars themselves. From this idea, he started Wheels Inc. (originally Four Wheels) in 1939 with his brother-in-law Armund Schoen. Frank passed away Dec. 29, 1990 at 83 years old. His son, Jim, is president of Wheels Inc., and his grandson, Dan Frank, is a senior vice president at Wheels.

Ray Breault
Breault began his fleet career in 1959 at Hoffmann La Roche (now Roche) in Nutley, N.J. A Round Table Group member, Breault joined NAFA in 1960, recently celebrating his 50-year membership milestone. He served at all New York chapter levels and on the National Governing Board, including president from 1977-1979. An affiliate member of four Eastern Region chapters, Breault received the Outstanding Chapter Service award in 2004. In 1977, he joined Revlon Cosmetics Inc. as national director of fleet operations. After retiring from Revlon in 1990, he joined Rental Concepts Inc. (now Fleet Response) as regional sales manager. Since officially retiring in 1998, he returned to Fleet Response and serves as a part-time Northeast sales service representative.

Al Cavalli
Cavalli’s fleet industry career began in 1948 at Universal CIT Credit Corp. (UCIT) working with mentor Emil Ames. He spent several years at UCIT, becoming VP of client relations and director, retiring in 1981. He joined Avis Car Leasing as manager of sales and service, retiring in 1989. His several industry “firsts” include a national account repair and maintenance program, safe driving manual, and a computerized replacement schedule program. Cavalli was a Round Table Group member and served as 1963-1965 NAFA New York chapter chairman and NAFA president 1969-1971. He initiated the group’s Fleet Safety Manual, Fleet Manager’s Manual, and established a uniform Chapter Code of Regulations. His honors include NAFA’s honorary member award and Distinguished Service Award. Cavalli also serves as field editor for Automotive Fleet.

Ed Bobit
Remaining active in the fleet industry for more than 50 years, Bobit is chairman and founder of Bobit Business Media (BBM), Automotive Fleet editor, and a founding AFLA member. His career in fleet began in 1961 while selling ad space at McGraw-Hill Publishing Company for Fleet Owner magazine. He pitched the concept of Automotive Fleet to his employer, but management did not consider it viable. Bobit resigned and within four months, established BBM with the first issue of AF in November 1961. The company now produces 19 publications, with seven targeted specifically at the fleet industry. More information on Bobit's background can be found on page 42.

Don Fenton
Fenton began his fleet sales career at Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago in 1957 as a fleet sales executive. In 1967, he joined Long Chevrolet as director of fleet sales operations. He left Long Chevrolet in 1981 and went to work for Faul Fleet Group in 1982 where he served as president for eight years. In 1990-1991, Fenton worked for Bobit Publishing as an advertising sales executive, representing AF in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. In 1991, he joined Al Piemonte National Fleet as vice president of sales and marketing. Fenton was also a founder of the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) and served as its third president. He died Aug. 30, 2003 in a single-vehicle traffic accident while swerving to avoid hitting an animal in the Seattle area. He was 67. 

S. Lester Landau
Landau was one of the founding members of the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) in 1957 while working as the budget director for Picker X-Ray in White Plains, N.Y. During his tenure as budget director, Landau assumed responsibility for the management of the company’s fleet. He worked at Picker X-Ray from 1949-1974. Landau was elected the NAFA Foundation’s first president in 1976 through 1986 and served as NAFA treasurer for the first 17 years. During his years with the NAFA Foundation, Landau spearheaded an effort to have fleet management become part of the curriculum at major universities and worked closely with the administrators and faculty of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to create the Wharton CFM program. NAFA honored Landau for his service with Honorary Lifetime Membership and the Distinguished Service Award. After leaving Picker X-Ray, Landau worked for English Electric from 1974-1979 in the finance department. He retired in 1979 to start an independent real estate consulting company, where he worked until just prior to his death. Landau passed away Sept. 28, 2004 in Philadelphia.

Dick Heather
Heather was a founder of Peterson, Howell & Heather (now PHH Arval) in 1946. The company’s three founding partners had worked together at Butler Brothers, a Chicago-based national wholesaler of general merchandise, prior to WWII. Heather served in the Navy during the war and following his discharge, decided to join Harley Howell and Duane Peterson in their proposed venture to find a better way for companies to manage their sales fleets. Heather brought a wealth of sales and marketing savvy to the new company. He was instrumental in selling this new concept and helping the idea of fleet management take root within corporate offices. He served as PHH’s chairman of the board from 1962-1971, and under his leadership, the company expanded and diversified the nature and scope of PHH’s outsourced services.

Duane Peterson
One of three founders and former chairman of Peterson, Howell & Heather (PHH), Peterson’s industry career spanned fleet’s early years, 1946-1962. He pursued partnership creation and a new business model and developed and promoted the finance lease. Peterson was the first president of PHH in 1957 and was elected chairman in 1959. He resigned as chairman in 1962, the same year he died after a long illness.

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