Charles Reed, the long-time manager of national fleet sales operations for Subaru of America Inc., announced that he will retire on Jan. 4, capping a career with the automaker that is two months shy of 32 years.
Reed has the distinction of being Subaru’s first-ever fleet manager, a position he assumed in March 1987. Reed applied for the job from an advertisement that Subaru placed in Automotive News, a weekly trade publication covering the automotive industry. At the time, Subaru had no formal fleet program. Reed was hired to establish the company’s fleet program from the ground up.
A subsequent factor driving the company’s interest in entering the fleet market was that Subaru had partnered with a joint venture with Isuzu to build and operate an all-new assembly plant in Lafayette, Ind. With the coming influx of new production from the Lafayette plant, Subaru wanted to further increase its rental fleet sales.
From 1987 to 1996, Reed and Donna Baselice, fleet operations specialist, were the only employees of the Subaru national fleet sales operations. Reed handled sales, while Baselice handled administrative operations with the daily rental companies. Subaru’s first fleet account was Alamo Rent a Car, which ordered 2,500 vehicles in 1987. Reed estimates that during his career with Subaru he and his team sold approximately 500,000 Subaru vehicles to commercial and rental fleets.
The mid-1990s was an exciting time at Subaru when it launched the higher ground clearance Outback in 1997, which some cite as the first-ever sport-utility wagon. The Outback was a huge hit in the retail market and started to make steady, incremental growth, along with the Forester and Legacy, in the commercial fleet market, primarily among pharmaceutical fleets.
Since the humble beginnings of being a two-person operation, the Subaru’s national fleet sales operation has grown to its current staff of six people. Reed’s staff is comprised of three national commercial account managers, one operations specialist, and one administrative assistant.
Ross Friedmann was the first outside fleet sales person hired by Subaru in 1994, where he worked as a national commercial accounts manager until 2006. Another long-time employee of the national fleet sales operations department is Lisa Kuhn, fleet administration assistant, who has been with the organization for the past 17 years. There are currently three national commercial accounts managers, including Tina Kourakos (12 years), Mark Cummings (5 years), and Mike Cross, who was hired two years ago.
Before joining Subaru, Reed worked for Volkswagen/Audi in its Troy, Mich., corporate fleet department as the Eastern fleet account executive from 1985-1987.
Reed’s entire 42-year automotive career was primarily in fleet sales, representing a total of 34 years. He joined Ford Motor Co. in April 1977 after graduating with a master's degree in marketing from Rutgers University. Ford hired Reed as a management trainee and he was assigned to the Boston district sales office, where he ultimately rose to be the Ford Division fleet leasing and rental manager.
At the time Reed was hired by Ford, the company had separate fleet departments for Ford Division and the Lincoln-Mercury Division. Heading up the Ford Division General Fleet Office was Bill Willis, general fleet manager, a position he held from 1982 to 1991. Unknowingly, Willis played a key role in Reed’s decision to retire from Subaru. Willis retired from Ford in 1991. Tragically, Willis only enjoyed retirement for six months, dying from a massive heart attack in October 1991. This tragedy had an impact on Reed, who vowed at the time to retire as early as possible to enjoy retirement.
Reed is the second generation of his family to work in the automotive industry. His father was a 35-year GM employee, working as a cost analyst for the Inland Fisher Guide component manufacturing plant in West Trenton, N.J. Inland Fisher Guide was a division of General Motors.
In his free time, Reed is an avid gardener and landscaper at his home, which sits on an acre of land. In retirement, Reed plans to devote more time to this avocation. In addition, Reed has signed up to be a mentor at Rutgers University to provide BA students and MBA candidates at business school with practical real-world business insights.
Reed is married to his wife Kathleen for 35 years and has two grown sons, Charles and Matthew.