The 2011 annual conference for the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) was held Sept. 14-16 at Paradise Point Resort in San Diego, attracting an attendance milestone of more than 430 fleet professionals, which included a record 101 commercial fleet managers.

(You can view a photo gallery of the event here.)

“Attendance exceeded expectations, indicating our members appreciate the content, networking opportunities, and value for the money of the annual AFLA conference,” said Tom Callahan, AFLA executive VP and president & chief operations officer for Donlen. “The overall feedback was very positive — everybody was extremely impressed with Steve Rattner’s keynote presentation and the greatly improved quality of event production was noted.”

(Rattner, known as the “car czar,” headed the automotive task force created by the Obama Administration to restructure General Motors and Chrysler under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.)

One of the highlights of the conference was the induction of seven fleet professionals into the Fleet Hall of Fame, which was presented by Ed Bobit, CEO of Bobit Business Media. The award is exclusively sponsored by AFLA. (See the October 2011 issue for a complete summary of the 2011 inductees.)

Also presented were the President’s Recognition Awards, honoring the achievements of AFLA members who provide exemplary service to the organization. AFLA President Lori Rasmussen presented this year’s awards to:

  • Theresa Belding, AFLA executive VP.
  • Debbie Mize, AFLA treasurer.
  • Terry Langness, chairman of the AFLA education committee.
  • Ross Friedmann, chairman of the AFLA membership committee.

The conference’s educational agenda covered a broad range of industry issues. “On behalf of the Conference Committee, I am pleased that the response to the speakers was so positive,” said incoming AFLA President Theresa Belding, who helped develop the educational agenda and is senior manager - Fleet Services for Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “I hope that everyone has been able to implement some of the speaker take-aways published shortly after the conference. ”

The opening day keynote speaker was Mark Vann, manager, fuel cell and government projects for GM. His keynote address was entitled, “Future Outlook for Alternative-Fuel Vehicles.” According to Vann, “Energy efficiency and energy diversity are the key strategies for reducing our dependence on petroleum — all options are in play.”

Another presenter was Maryann Keller, president of Maryann Keller & Associates, who presented a forecast of the new- and used-vehicle markets in the U.S. “Wholesale used-vehicle values have peaked for now, but we do not expect a meaningful decline in prices unless auto companies engage in value-destroying incentives,” said Keller.

A post-conference survey of attendees validated the on-site impression that the conference was extremely successful. “I am very excited with the success of this year’s conference. The conference lineup covered topics on the commercial fleet industry, economy, legal and accounting updates, and more,” said Rasmussen. “I believe our diverse membership with a common focus on the commercial fleet industry is what has made us so successful.”

Next year’s AFLA Conference will be held Sept. 10-12, 2012, in San Antonio.