A Fleet Legend Turns 90
Alfred “Al” Cavalli, born and raised in Midtown Manhattan, N.Y., has acted as a manager, pioneer, executive, and mentor in the automotive industry for the past six decades.
On Oct. 22, 2013, Cavalli marked an important personal milestone: his 90th birthday.
Cavalli began his automotive career in 1946 as a partner of J & A Automotive Service in Greenpoint, N.Y., by applying his knowledge as an aircraft mechanic to automotive repair. Cavalli worked as an aircraft mechanic both before and during his enlistment in the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC).
Before his time in the AAC, he was employed at the New Castle Army Air Base (now known as New Castle Air National Guard Base) in New Castle, Del., servicing planes that Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) flew into war zones during World WWII.
Gaining Automotive Authority
In 1948, at 24 years old, Cavalli continued gaining experience in the automotive field as a repossession correspondent at Universal CIT Credit Corp. (UCIT). Here, he counseled UCIT employees on the best ways to sell repossessed vehicles. Soon after, Cavalli himself was selling an impressive 70 vehicles a month at one of the company’s used-vehicle lots in Washington, D.C.
During his time at UCIT, Cavalli joined a group of fleet managers who eventually pioneered today’s NAFA Fleet Management Association. Between the time NAFA was established in 1957 and when Cavalli became NAFA president in 1969, he was a fleet manager in the Car Control Department of CIT Financial’s new leasing division, managing more than 2,000 vehicles in the sales force. And, he was awarded Automotive Fleet’s sixth Annual Achievement Award for Outstanding Fleet Administration in 1968, particularly for achieving and maintaining exceptionally low operating costs at UCIT. Cavalli said he accomplished this by focusing on operating costs per mile, maintenance costs, purchasing costs, and replacement scheduling.
Cavalli’s main goals as NAFA president were to strengthen the Association by increasing the number of chapters and developing instructional material and programs to add to NAFA’s credibility. All of these goals were initiated or accomplished in the two years he was president.
Cavalli was mentored by fleet manager Emil Ames who taught him “to be proactive and to be familiar with management’s products and needs,” Cavalli said.
As a mentor himself, he advised others to pay attention and never stop learning their craft. With this advice, Bob Cavalli, who followed in his father’s footsteps, forged a notable career of his own in the commercial fleet business.
“From leasing, cars, maintenance and repair, and accident management, every aspect of fleet management I’ve learned, I learned from my dad. He’s been my mentor, my tutor, my friend, and when necessary (and yes, it has been necessary) my disciplinarian,” Bob Cavalli said.
From Manager to the Hall of Fame
Cavalli worked for American Home Products between 1973 and 1977 before he was offered the vice presidency at CIT Service Leasing by then-president Rene Classen in 1977. CIT Service Leasing, by that time, had combined its Canadian and U.S. offices, acquiring 20,000 units. And, as Cavalli had been taught by his mentor, Ames, he acted proactively and successfully oversaw seven account executives, vehicle purchasing and sales, operating cost controls, the safety program, and his client’s needs.
Cavalli was employed by Avis Car Leasing as manager of sales services for its approximately 25,000 vehicles. His accomplishments included developing a product knowledge manual, leasing rate schedules, and more.
In 1989, he received NAFA’s Lifetime Honorary Membership for his dedicated service and retired from fleet management. He has since worked as a field reporter for Automotive Fleet magazine and was inducted into Bobit Business Media’s Automotive Fleet Hall of Fame in 2008.
“My best memories are the people I worked with — who shared information with me without being asked,” Cavalli said.