Automotive Fleet readers have nominated and subsequently selected by vote the 30 people who have most influenced the fleet industry I the past 30 years. More than 1,100 reader ballots were submitted.
In November 1991, Bobit Publishing will celebrate its 30th anniversary of publishing Automotive Fleet Magazine. Long before the magazine's inception in 1961, the fleet business was well on its way to becoming the dynamic automotive sector that it is today thanks to the genius of many innovators and leaders.
To celebrate Automotive Fleet's 30th anniversary, Bobit Publishing would like to honor the top 30 individuals, both past and present, who have made significant contributions to the automotive fleet industry.
In 1942, Helen Bland, former fleet manager for Hallmark, Inc., left her teaching job in Eldorado Springs, Mo., and moved to Kansas City, Mo., to begin a business career that spanned 45 years.
After spending 20 years in Hallmark's order department, Bland requested a transfer to the newly formed fleet department.
She started as the assistant to the fleet manager, but the company began changing fleet managers every other year. After interviewing the third candidate for the fleet manager job, Bland asked the division director if she could take on the role.
"When the director of the division was interviewing for the third fleet manager," Bland recalls, "I went to him and said, 'I am familiar with this position and I know many of the dealers and manufacturers. Why can't I have this job?' I don't know how I ever summoned up enough courage to say that, because I am a relatively shy person at heart."
But the risk paid off and Bland got the job. [Read AF's profile of Bland from 1984.]
In addition to her responsibilities at Hallmark, she was installed as National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) president in 1985, making her the first ever woman to hold that office.
Bland retired from Hallmark in 1987.
Having solely an automotive focus in his business career enabled Jack Lamb to develop years of fleet expertise. The former fleet manager for the Houston-based Exxon Company USA, sums up his experience saying, "I didn't deal with anything that didn't have plates and rolled down the highway. Fleet is the only business I've been in and I sure had lots of fun doing it."
Lamb first got his feet wet working for ARI. Between 1963 and 1967, Lamb was in the interesting position of being an ARI employee on contract to Humble Oil, as today's Exxon Company was known then. In his own words, his task was "to come up with a neighborhood car rental program." Lamb learned about purchasing, sales, accounting, maintenance, and rentals.
In 1967, Lamb became an employee for Humble Oil. His first challenge was to help organize a captive leasing company. By serving as supervisor of operations for the leasing company, Lamb's broad responsibilities gained him what he considers his "basic foothold in the automotive business, combining an administrative experience with new- and used-car purchasing skills."
In the mid-1970s, the company changed its name to Exxon as part of its move toward establishing an international marketing identification. Lamb retired from Exxon in July 1986.
With more than 25 years of fleet management experience at Xerox Corp., Ron Pink believes that the 1990's and beyond are going to be the best years yet for the automotive fleet industry.
Pink, business manager, vehicle fleet business for Xerox, joined the company in June 1963 and entered the area of fleet management in January 1964.
According to Pink, it happened by circumstance.
"I was in a staff meeting with my manager at the time," says Pink. "During the meeting, the executive vice president of marketing telephoned to say he had decided to put our 700 service technicians into leased company cars. My manager asked, "Who would like to take this on as a part-time duty, in addition to their current responsibilities?" I volunteered."
Today, Pink believes that many exciting things are going on within the motor companies such as the migration to minivans which makes van conversion possibilities endless. Also, he thinks there are some opportunities in extending vehicle life.
Says Pink, "Today, so many companies are involved in the quality process that it is going to force everybody to be better business managers and it is going to open up tremendous opportunities and challenges."
An industry participant and leader since 1957, Weimer first got into the car leasing business as a salesman for Hertz Car Leasing in Chicago. Weimer left the company as vice president of sales in 1973 to become vice president of U.S. Fleet Leasing in New York, where he stayed for one year. In 1974, he joined Contel Service Corp. of Atlanta, as director of transportation services. In 1982, Weimer fully implemented the concept of replacing vans with mini-pickup trucks with caps, which resulted in fuel savings of 6 million gallons annually. The installation of standardized cab/chassis for aerial trucks resulted in an additional annual fuel savings of 1.5 million gallons. Weimer is also responsible for the installation of a database computer program allowing Contel to provide manufacturers with information on problem components.
Weimer's development of innovative financing arrangements with major vehicle lessors brought savings to his company of $1.5 million over a five-year period, and his development of a used-vehicle marketing program resulted in an annual refund of over $2 million over the book value of sold used units. A past president of AFLA and present chairman of the Association's Audit Committee, Weimer has also been a NAFA member since 1961, chairman of the Atlanta Chapter, and a member on Ford's Fleet Advisory Panel.
Weimer passed away in 2005. He was 72.
One of the first airport-based car rental outlets was opened in Detroit, MI, in 1946 by a man whose name would one day be synonymous with the car-rental business - Warren Avis. Avis possibly started the first airport operation when he opened an office at the Old Willow Run Airport in Detroit.
Avis started franchising in 1948, and in December 1954, he sold his system to Dick Robie, a Hertz licensee, who moved the company's headquarters to Boston, MA. Hertz signs went down and Avis signs went up, resulting in a lot of confusion. This was reversed several years later when part of the Robie companies were sold to Hertz, and the Avis system was sold to F.C. "Buck" Dumaine.
In an effort to expand his own business in 1923, John Hertz, then head of Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing, bought Yellow Driv-ur-self System, a car rental system, from Walter Jacobs. The business was owned by Hertz until 1926, when General Motors bought it. In 1953, GM decided to get out of this sideline and the company as sold to Omnibus Corp., and the present corporate name was adopted.
During the 1920s, it was standard procedure to rent cars at side-street locations. There were virtually no car rental facilities in prime business areas. Transactions were on a cash basis and credit was rarely extended to individuals. Typical rentals were usually of short duration and distance.
Walter Jacobs entered the car renting business in Chicago in 1918, at the age of 22. His fleet consisted of 12 black Model T Fords, which he rented to motorists for $10 a day. When he wasn't totaling up accounts, Jacobs was out in the garage with a wrench or polishing rag, putting his "gas buggies" in shape for the next day's business. One of the merchandising gimmicks Jacobs used to sell the rental idea was an open touring car carrying billboards.
So successful were his efforts that within five years his fleet had grown from 12 to 565 cars, with annual rentals totaling $1 million -- quite a remarkable feat for 1923. Jacobs first named his company Rent-a-Ford, but then changed it to Rent-a-Car, and finally to the Yellow Driv-ur-self System.
In 1923, Jacobs sold his company to John Hertz and was hired as Hertz's top operating and administrative executive.
Jacobs retired from the Hertz Corp. as president and chief executive officer.
Arbaugh was hired by Peterson, Howell & Heather (now PHH Arval) in 1964 as manager of the Title and Tax Department. After serving in several management positions, he was named vice president of legal services in 1971 and appointed senior vice president, truck and equipment programs in 1974. Arbaugh became senior vice president of the Car Division in 1976 and was promoted to executive vice president in 1978. Under Arbaugh's leadership, PH&H continued its role as a fleet management industry innovator. While serving as senior vice president, he was responsible for expanding truck and equipment programs. As president of PH&H, he managed the acquisition of Avis Leasing's domestic fleet operation. In 1987, Arbaugh was named vice president of PHH Corp. corporate marketing.
In 1964, Henk Bosman started Vehicle Lease and Management Services with no cars and a modest promise that he "might be able to add a few more in time."
Bosman surpassed that prediction as he took Vehicle Lease and Management Services to a position of national prominence with more than 80,000 vehicles. It was purchased by U.S. Leasing in 1972 and became a subsidiary of the parent company.
After the firm because a subsidiary, it entered an expansive growth pattern that was spurred by new business and the addition of several other leasing companies.
Bosman remained at the company's help throughout, and under his direction, USFL gained a national reputation for its leadership in the area of cost-controlling products nad services.
Further, Bosman established the company's Preferred Rate Program, Customer Reporting System, and Personal Computer Information System.
Stan Chason, former president of Gelco Fleet and Management Services, had spent 12 years in all aspects of the retail auto business prior to his five-year stint at LPI (Lease Plan International), which began in 1963. In 1967, Chason was appointed president of Transportation Service & Survey Corp., the full-maintenance leasing division of LPI.
He left the company in 1968 to go to work for Gelco.
According to Chason the period from 1962 to 1975 was one of major growth in the fleet leasing business. He believes it was during this period that the business acquired the level of sophistication and legitimacy that took it out of the automobile business and into a corporate services environment. Chason retired from Gelco in July 1984.
In 1948, Eddie Dame started out in the automotive industry as a garage serviceman for Dick Robie, a Hertz licensee in Boston, MA. Then in 1954, Robie bought the Avis system from Warren Avis and moved the company's headquarters to Boston.
During his long-term employment with Avis, Dame held a number of positions such as a reservation agent, a rental agent, and an assistant to the general manager, a car leasing salesman, and a car leasing operations manager. When Dame retired from the company in 1986, his title was senior vice president and general manager of the car leasing division, a position he held for 20 years.
In a recent interview with Automotive Fleet, Dame said the car leasing division at Avis is very service-oriented and "profitable, even though it is treated as a secondary endeavor to the daily rental business."
When Frank, president and CEO of Wheels Inc., first joined the company in 1967, his mentor in the car leasing business was his father Zollie Frank, who founded Wheels Inc. in 1939 with his brother-in-law Armund Schoen. Jim began in the business selling cars on the retail side. When he was promoted to Wheels president in 1974, he said, "My personal objective is to keep the company true to the fundamental goals we have successfully established over the past 35 years. We don't necessarily want to be the biggest, but we want to be the best company in the industry. We emphasize quality and sensitivity to our clients' needs - to me, those are our most important goals." That motto still holds true today. Wheels remains one of the top four largest automobile and truck leasing companies in the United States. Frank also served as president of the American Automotive Leasing Association (AALA).
The year was 1939. A young Chicago automobile dealer, Zollie Frank, had been in business for just three years. One day, two executives from a large Chicago pharmaceutical company, Petrolagar, stopped by to buy a couple of cars. While looking at cars, the executives talked to Zollie about a problem they were having. They had been helping their salesmen buy new personal cars in order to get them started on their jobs. But salesmen with job training and a car were often quickly hired away - taking their new cars with them. They asked Zollie if he had any solutions for their problem.
In retrospect, Zollie said, "I thought why not lease them the cars, charging them only for the use of the cars and not the cars themselves? This way Petrolagar would retain control of the cars without having to make a major cash outlay. They agreed and a deal was made." And an industry was born.
So in 1939, Zollie started Wheels, Inc. (originally Four Wheels) with his brother-in-law Armund Schoen. Fifty-two years later, the Chicago, IL-based family auto empire now includes 22 companies. Among them are five in the leasing and rental group, five vehicle franchises, four firms in the finance group, five in the real estate group, and three in the insurance group.
Zollie Frank passed away December 29, 1990 of natural causes at the age of 83. His legacy lives on through his sons Jim, president of Wheels, Inc., and Chuck, who handles the family's dealership business, the Z Frank Auto Dealership Group.
Technology pioneer, dedicated manager, savvy business executive - these are at the heart of Jerry Geckle's contributions to the fleet management industry and PHH Corporation. Geckle joined PHH in 1955 to implement the company's first data processing system. Throughout his 35-year career with PHH, Geckle rose steadily through the ranks to reach the office of chairman of the board in 1980, a title he held until his retirement in 1989.
During his early years with Peterson, Howell & Heather, Geckle pioneered the use of computer technology to offer clients the advantages of information processing.
During his tenure as president, CEO, and chairman do the board, Geckle was responsible for PHH's diversification into relocation management services with the acquisition of Homequity, Inc. Under his management, PHH also grew through internally-developed products and services, as well as acquisitions in other new service areas.
In 1956, Bud Grossman founded The Gelco Corporation, which was subsequently listed as a New York stock exchange transportation management company. Grossman remained at Gelco until 1987 when it was sold to General Electric Capital Corporation.
He was also a founder and chairman of Dyco Petroleum Corp., a New York stock exchange oil and gas exploration company which was eventually sold to Diversified Energies, Inc. Currently, Grossman is the CEO of Cogel Management Co., based in Minneapolis, MN.
He is also a director of Toro and Sit Investment Co., and a former director of General Mills, Northern States Power Co., Norwest Corp., and Ecolab.
Holman, chairman of the board of Holman Automotive Group, Inc. began his automotive career in 1950 after graduating from Princeton University. Founded in 1924 by Steward Holman, Joe's father, Holman Automotive currently has dealerships located in South New Jersey and Florida, one remanufacturing operation, one body installation company, and one emergency vehicle manufacturing company. At the request of a major manufacturer, the Holmans formed ARI in 1948; now it is a national fleet management company with more than 740,000 vehicles under management in North America. Holman was a 1990 candidate for the Time magazine quality dealer award. He is actively involved in national, county, and local automobile dealers associations. Holman served on the Lincoln-Mercury dealer council, and his dealership honors include Ford's Vice President's 100 Club, Ford's Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Automotive Hall of Fame Distinguished Service Citation.
As one of the founders of Peterson, Howell & Heather, Harley Howell was one of the pioneers of the fleet management industry. The idea for a vehicle management plan was conceived during years of struggling with the problems of providing cars to sales and service personnel while employed, along with Duane Peterson and Richard Heather, by Butler Brothers, wholesalers of general merchandise headquartered in Chicago, IL.
While at Butler Brothers, Howell conducted extensive research to find out how other companies handled the compensation inequities and inconsistencies that plagued the car plans in use at that time. He discovered that the most practical, economical, and equitable method was for the company to provide cars for its salespeople and to reimburse them for actual expenses incurred in the operation of the cars.
In September 1945, Howell met with his two associates, who had moved to Baltimore, MD, to discuss the idea of offering their own "car plan" to organizations whose employees used cars on company business. The three agreed to spend the next several months gathering more information, refining their ideas, and preparing to launch their business venture. Then on April 1, 946, the partnership of Peterson, Howell & Heather, Inc. opened its doors, offering complete management and leasing services for companies operating automobile fleets.
During their first year in business, they found that companies were reluctant to tie up capital in cars. In response, Peterson, Howell & Heather developed the first actual cost, no risk, no premium "finance lease" for corporate automobile fleet users. There is no way that the founders of PHH could have foreseen that their idea for "open-end" or "finance" fleet leasing was so powerful that it would ultimately revolutionize the leasing industry.
Howell retired in 1973, and following a long bout with cancer, he passed away in 1979.
The late Sam Lee enjoyed a long and distinguished career as one of America's foremost leasing innovators and strategists. He worked as the country's first fleet dealer, developed an innovative replacement program, took a hand in starting PHH, and helped originate NAFA.
Born and educated in Canada, Lee got his start in the automotive industry through Chevrolet dealerships, first in New York and then in Chicago, IL, in 1948, he organized Lee Fleet Management, Inc., and later moved the operation from Chicago to Cleveland, OH, where he had purchased a Ford dealership. This company became one of the largest fleet and equipment leasing firms in the nation.
Lee helped established 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 different states. This program was eventually merged into the Chevway system, organized by Lee for Chevrolet.
Don McCullagh, founder and former president of McCullagh Leasing, became interested in the leasing business when he was a young man in Lansing, MI. During the early 1930s McCullagh would buy used cars and put them up for sale in his front yard. Then in 1940, he bought his own Chrysler/Plymouth dealership and sold it in 1944 to buy a Lincoln-Mercury dealership. Soon after that, McCullagh's son Jack began working with his father.
They sold the dealership in 1949 and moved to Detroit to purchase a Chevrolet dealership. The following year, they started leasing cars to individuals. At that time, Don McCullagh focused on the Chevrolet dealership while his son concentrated on their leasing endeavor, McCullagh Leasing.
In 1956 they sold the Chevrolet dealership and put all of their energies into McCullagh Leasing.
The company really got off the ground when it signed with Dow Chemical Company in 1957.
McCullagh Leasing was sold to Commercial Credit Company in 1966 and Don McCullagh was named chairman, a title he held until his retirement in 1970.
McCullagh passed away in 1973.
Sam Penn joined Peterson, Howell & Heather in 1969 as a regional buying manager. Three years later, he was named regional vice president of sales and service, and in 1974, Penn became president of the company.
As president, Penn managed the growth the company experienced during the mid-1970s: growth in client base, vendors in automotive services and PHH Service Card networks, services and products to meet changing client needs, technological advances, and profitability.
In 1978, Penn was appointed senior vice president of PHH Group (now know as PHH Corporation), and president of the domestic vehicle management operations.
When he was named executive vice president of PHH Group in 1981, Penn lent his management and marketing expertise to all areas of the company. He made significant contributions to the growth of fuel-management services at NTS, vehicle management services in Canada, as well as continuing contributions to the growth of PHH's domestic vehicle management services.
From 1987 until his retirement last year, he had executive responsibility for PHH's facilities management business.
In leasing lore, Hubert Ryan and the Hertz Corp. are inextricably intertwined. In 1934, Ryan ventured into the vehicle leasing business as an office boy with a truck leasing company called Metropolitan Distributors. Then in 1955, he joined Hertz when they bought Robinson Auto Rental, a Philadelphia, PA, car leasing company. The operation was then moved to Chicago, IL, where Ryan began nearly two decades as vice president and general manager of the Hertz Car Leasing Division.
When Ryan first arrived in Chicago with a fleet of 2,000 cars which Hertz had acquired from Robinson Auto Rental, his orders were to expand the fleet as quickly as possible. At that time, the sales force consisted of two people who covered the U.S.
By 1973, at the time of Ryan's retirement from Hertz, the sales force had grown to 35 people and the fleet had grown to over 30,000 units. Ryan was a cofounder of AALA.
Armund Schoen, Wheels, Inc. (formerly called Four Wheels) co-founder and Zollie Frank's brother-in-law, was a key player in keeping the company a "family operation." Besides the fact that Schoen brought sales experience and marketing savvy to the company that gave birth to the automotive fleet leasing industry in Chicago, IL, in 1939, his partnership with Frank helped make Wheels a more personal, dedicated company.
In an earlier interview with Automotive Fleet, Schoen recalled how the industry really began to grow when the then-small group of separate companies realized there was strength in unity.
"At the time, this being around 1955, we were all facing common problems - things like federal and state tax matters, insurance regulations, and licensing and registration compliance. We all anticipated a host of additional regulation. Well, all the members of the industry get together to see if we could do something about it. We organized and began a lobby to make ourselves heard...and that was the beginning of AALA."
Today, the American Automotive Leasing Association, of which Schoen became the first president, represents national, regional, and local vehicle lessors from all parts of the country.
Hal Burton, general manager of fleet operations for Chrysler Corp., is responsible for all fleet, leasing, and rental market sales and marketing activities.
Barton began his automotive career in 1950 and has held a wide variety of sales, finance, and fleet executive positions with General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and now Chrysler Corporation.
Barton joined Chrysler in September 1982. Prior to that, he served as leasing and fleet sales manager for the Lincoln-Mercury Division of Ford Motor Co. He held finance and sales posts with Ford since 1959, and spent most of that time specializing in leasing, rental, and fleet activities. Before joining Ford, he worked in sales, credit, and financing for General Motors Acceptance Corp.
Cook began his lengthy career with Ford in 1926 when he attended the Henry Ford Trade School in Dearborn, Mich. Upon graduating in 1931, he worked as an apprentice and student mechanic in Highland Park. After his apprenticeship, Cook held several positions with Ford such as service traveler, zone manager, sales representative, and project engineer. He transferred to Washington, D.C., in 1945 as a commercial supervisor. Shortly after, he became sales manager and was promoted to assistant district manager in the same year. In 1948, Cook was named district sales manager of the Ford Division. In 1954, he became fleet sales department manager. Nine years later, Cook was promoted to fleet and leasing sales manager, a position he held until his retirement in 1969.
If you asked George Frink how he happened onto the fleet industry, he would probably answer, "It just happened that way going West or just lucky." The truth is, he did not have the foggiest notion what the fleet business was when it was added to his job title. Ford and Chrysler were well into their first post-war incentive and daily rental buyback or lease programs by the mid-1960s. By 1966, these programs were having a serious negative impact on General Motors, so GM decided to beef up their corporate fleet activity through the GM Fleet Section. Their man for the job was George Frink, who joined the GM Fleet Section in August 1966.
In 1974, Frink was named director of fleet sales at Buick, and in 1976 he was promoted to director of marketing for the division.
Frink headed the GM Fleet Section in 1978, and in the same year, he moved to Chevrolet as fleet sales director.
Today Frink is found at Chevrolet mumbling things like:
"Let me tell you what happened the last three times we tried that."
"The good old days are today."
Formerly fleet general marketing manager of Chrysler Corp.'s fleet operations, Roy Houston was responsible for all marketing, used vehicle sales, special vehicle sales, new vehicle programming and scheduling, special bid activity, and special equipment.
Houston spent his entire career with Chrysler, joining the company in 1955 in the corporate treasuring department. During his nearly 36 years with Chrysler, he had worked in incentive programs and payments, dealer business management and marketing investment division prior to joining Chrysler Leasing Corp (fleet operations) when it was founded in 1962.
During his time with Chrysler Fleet, Houston served in various positions, such as financial analysis manager, national accounts manager, dealer leasing and rental manager, and national fleet sales manager. Houston retired from Chrysler in August 1991.
Bill Willis began his career with the Ford Motor Company in 1953 as an administrative assistant in the Kansas City Aircraft Division.
Then in 1954, Willis joined Ford Division at the Kansas City, MO, District Sales Office, and served in various sales representative department manager functions until his assignment to the Division General Office in Dearborn in 1966.
Willis return to Kansas City in 1967 as general field manager and became Omaha assistant district sales manager in 1968. He was also the division's district sales manager in Davenport, IA, and Cincinnati.
Willis was appointed general fleet manager for Ford Division in 1982, after six years as manager of the division's Jacksonville, FL, District Sales Office. He retired in July 1991.
Ed Bobit is chairman and CEO of Bobit Publishing, a company he founded in 1961, which publishes various national automotive, retailing, export, and medical publications.
Bobit's professional career began with Dow Chemical in Midland, MI, and he later transferred to Chicago, IL, to work in sales. In 1954, his interests moved to publishing where he took a position as sales manager for McGraw Hill. Seven years later, Bobit launched his own publishing company in Chicago. The headquarters offices were moved to Redondo Beach, CA, in 1977.
Bobit is founder, and currently executive director, of AFLA.
Back in 1957, Don Fenton began his fleet sales career at Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago, IL. At that time, Fenton was virtually alone as a fleet sales executive traveling the entire country in search of a market for his company's products.
In 1967, Fenton went to work for Long Chevrolet as director of fleet sales operation. He left Long Chevrolet in 1981 and went to work for Faul Fleet Group in 1982 where he served as president for eight years.
"Over the years," Fenton says, "I have always firmly believed that a buyer could get the same Ford or Chevy or Chrysler from literally thousands of different dealers - many a lot closer to the buyer's place of business than my dealership. But the difference that made it all work was the fact that I always made sure I had the best people, the best systems, and the best service. That formula has proven itself time and again, and is a mainstay of my business efforts today."
In 1991, Fenton joined Al Piemonte National Fleet as vice president of sales and marketing.
Fenton was one of the founders of AFLA, as well as its third president.
Milo Matick's career in the automotive industry began with his employment in an auto parts retail store. From there he went to work as a retail lease salesman for AAA Leasing and left the company as used car manager to work for Avis Car Leasing and then Grand Rent A Car, an Avis franchise in Los Angeles, CA, as its fleet manager.
During this time, Matick helped pioneer daily rental repurchase units through dealerships. After accepting a position with Hertz as fleet and distribution manager, he and his family relocated to Chicago, IL.
In 1971, Matick joined the Al Piemonte dealership as fleet sales manager. During his 21 years at Al Piemonte, he has been instrumental in building and maintaining one of the most sophisticated, full-service fleet sales departments in the industry, and has been the recipient of Ford Motor Co.'s highest level of sales recognition award.
Matick is presently vice president of AFLA.