Challenged to question assumptions and abandon perceived limitations, GE Capital Fleet Services Client Advisory Board (CAB) members at a recent meeting examined fleet industry "megatrends" and explored creative solutions to current fleet management needs.

The meeting, held at GE Capital Fleet Services headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn., presented CAB members a review of the U.S. economic outlook, an overview of the fleet market, and a detailed exploration of fleet industry trends.

Trends Reviewed

Robert Podorefsky, managing director, interest rate strategist, GE Capital, delivered a cautiously optimistic view of a continuing slow U.S. economic recovery, pointing to glimmers of positive signs, including growth in personal consumption and private investment, indications of inventory rebuilding, stabilizing unemployment rates, and some movement in bank lending standards. Unemployment and the mammoth public debt remains issues of concern.

Expressing an equally "fledgling optimism" in his overview of the fleet market, John Righini, chief marketing officer, GE Capital Fleet Services, predicted a normalizing of commercial vehicle cycling levels by 2012. He identified three key trends to monitor:

● CAFE emissions standards.
● Climate legislation.
● International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)/Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) developments.

A presentation produced by Mike Antich, Automotive Fleet editor, examined commercial fleet segment trends in acquisition, operating costs, sustainability, safety, accident management, used-vehicle resales, technology, and the impact of the economic slowdown.

Creative Solutions Encouraged

Working with identified industry megatrends, CAB members applied problem-solving principles presented in a day-long "Innovation Workout" to develop incremental, breakthrough, or singularly inventive, "industry-disruptive" product or technology solutions. Outlined industry megatrends included:

● Corporate belt-tightening.
● Rising energy costs.
● Virtual communication technology.
● Social responsibility.
● Personalized services.
● Risks of driver behind-the-wheel multitasking.
● Legislation/regulation.
● Vehicle replacement cycles.
● "Time is the new currency."

During the megatrend discussions, CAB members gained insights from each other and from GE experts who are focusing on some of the toughest challenges facing fleets today.

"This innovation workshop allowed us to bring the breadth and depth of GE to our CAB," said Deb Frodl, chief strategy and product development officer, GE Capital Fleet Services. "It was a productive session, and we truly value their thought  leadership. The ideas they generate help us create and execute our product development strategies."