Al Cavalli, one of the founding members of the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA), a past NAFA president, and inductee in AF’s Fleet Hall of Fame, died of heart failure on Jan. 16, 2020. He was 96.
Widely acknowledged as one of the industry’s pioneering fleet managers, Cavalli was one of the founding member of the Round Table Group in 1948, the forerunner group that led to the creation of the National Association of Fleet Administrators. The Round Table Group was comprised of 20 fleet managers from various commercial entities and public utilities, primarily in the Northeast, who met monthly to discuss issues affecting early corporate fleet operations. Seeing the need for a national fleet association, Cavalli, along with the other members of the Round Table Group, co-founded NAFA in 1957 by signing the association’s articles of incorporation.
Cavalli was very active in NAFA, serving as the NAFA New York chapter chairman from 1963-1965 and NAFA president from 1969-1971, where he strengthened the Association by increasing the number of chapters and developing instructional material and programs to add to NAFA’s credibility. These included NAFA’s Fleet Safety Manual, its Fleet Manager’s Manual, and the establishment of the association’s uniform Chapter Code of Regulations. Cavalli was awarded NAFA’s Distinguished Service Award and, in 1989, received NAFA’s Lifetime Honorary Membership.
Alfred “Al” Cavalli, born on Oct. 22, 1923 in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, where he was raised. He 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) during World War II. He was employed at the New Castle Army Air Base in New Castle, Del., where serviced planes that Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) flew to pilots operating in war zones.
In 1948, Cavalli’s fleet industry career began at 24 years old when he joined Universal CIT Credit Corp. (UCIT) as a repossession correspondent working with the legendary Emil Ames, who became his mentor. At UCIT, he counseled 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. Cavalli was promoted to fleet manager in the Car Control Department of CIT Financial’s new leasing division. He managed more than 2,000 vehicles in the sales force. It was during his employment at UCIT that Cavalli joined the Round Table Group of fleet managers. Cavalli eventually rose to become VP client relations and director at UCIT, where he worked for 33 years before retiring from the company in 1981.
After retiring from UCIT, Cavalli joined Avis Car Leasing in 1981 as director, sales services for its approximately 25,000 vehicles. He was responsible for development of lease rates, the publication of its annual new model Leasing Product Guide, its Operating Cost Control program, and the lease vs. ownership comparison program. Cavalli worked at Avis Car Leasing until 1989, when he officially retired from the workforce.
After retiring from Avis Car Leasing, Cavalli was one of the “co-founders” the ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out), which included Cavalli and four other retired fleet managers – Warren Feirer, Gerry Keenan, Ray Breault, and Don Rittenhouse. They met several times a year for trips to auto museums, auto shows, or just to have dinner reminiscing about the old days.
During his retirement years, Cavalli continued to stay active in the fleet industry by working as the field editor for Automotive Fleet magazine.
Cavalli’s other “contribution” to the fleet industry was his son, Bob Cavalli, who followed in his father’s footsteps, forging 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 was necessary) my disciplinarian,” Bob Cavalli said.