ST. PAUL, MN - The 2010 Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) Annual Conference, themed "Turn Change into Opportunity," was held Sept. 8-10 at the JW Marriott in Las Vegas. The conference boasted more than 427 registered attendees, including more than 100 corporate fleet managers (the largest segment), marking a second year of record attendance and was a huge success in terms of first-time attendees and overall attendance.

"This year's AFLA conference was the successful culmination of a true team effort by the commercial fleet managers and other corporate fleet professionals who make up our membership," said Tom Donato, 2009-2010 AFLA President.

"I am very excited with the participation at this year's AFLA conference. We not only had record attendance, but we had an overwhelming support from our sponsors," said Lori Rasmussen, president of PARS Inc., and current president of AFLA. "Our membership is what makes AFLA a great organization. It is the diversity of our membership that continues to make this organization strong and dynamic."

According to Donato, conference objectives were to deliver the utmost value for members through informative presentations and to provide the best networking forum for advanced commercial fleet professionals.

Keynote speaker John McElroy presented, "The Current State of the Auto Industry." McElroy is an auto industry expert and producer of Autoline Detroit. He predicted that by the end of calendar-year 2012, Ford will report all-time record profits. "GM will be a year-behind in reporting record profits and Chrysler will do some one year after that," said McElroy.

Other session topics included "Extending Vehicle Replacement Cycles and How it Can Impact Your Fleet," "Is Your Fleet Exposed? Legal Implications that Affect Your Fleet Policies," "Harnessing the Power of Social Networking for Business," and "A Look at the Global Fleet Market."

"The sheer number of presentations related to today's important issues, including an update on the auto industry's turnaround; the implications of extended vehicle replacement cycling; the legal issues affecting corporate fleet policies; the use of social networking to cost-effectively reach drivers, an update on national electronic toll systems, and an update on today's global fleet issues, ensured a valuable educational experience," said Donato. "The fact that AFLA set a new attendance record bears out that the conference is the best networking event for advanced commercial fleet professionals."

 This year's agenda also included "Breakfast with Bob Lutz." AFLA honored Lutz by presenting him with the Association's first-ever, all-new Lifetime Achievement Award.  The recently-retired GM vice chairman and former executive at Chrysler, Ford, GM, and BMW, is probably the foremost expert opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of the industry, the players, the global automotive market and much more. He offered his perspective on the auto industry in a Q&A interview with Mike Antich, editor, Automotive Fleet, onstage before AFLA attendees.

"As co-conference chair for the 2010 AFLA Conference, Turn Change Into Opportunity, I am thrilled with the record conference attendance," said Theresa Belding, senior manager, fleet services for Forest Pharmaceuticals and current co-conference chair for AFLA. "We have already received positive feedback on our energetic and timely topics and speakers. I look forward to preparing for the 2011 Conference and strive to continue the trend of providing valuable education for all conference attendees."

The "President's Recognition Awards" honor the achievements of those AFLA members who provided exemplary service to the organization. Outgoing AFLA President Tom Donato presented this year's awards to the following individuals:

  • Terry Langness, Membership Committee. Langness developed a full slate of educational Webinars this year. He added new White Papers to AFLA's "Resources" page, and worked overtime (along with the entire committee) to improve the overall value of the Association's Education program.
  • Sue Miller - and chairman of AFLA Commercial Fleet Sounding Board. Miller stepped into the unexpected vacancy as chairman, and led the Sounding Board through its busy schedule. The Commercial Fleet Sounding Board provides valuable input to the AFLA Board, ensuring it remains relevant to the commercial fleet decision-makers.
  • Mark Klein - chairman of AFLA membership committee. This is the second year Klein received the award. He is the founding member of the membership committee. Under his leadership, there are 175-percent more corporate fleet managers today compared to 2008. In just the past year, the Association went from 78 corporate fleet manager members to 103.
  • Ed Pierce - AFLA director of Fleet Management Company's. Pierce has contributed for the past three years helping to in put together the AFLA conference agenda. This year, he volunteered to head up the Association's Technology Task Force. He, along with Tom Callahan, recently elected AFLA Vice President, took the first steps in marketing online e-Learning a new member benefit that will grow in importance.
  • Rick Nicoletti - chairman of AFLA's Communications Committee, editor of AFLA Spec Sheet. Nicoletti made the eNewsletter vital reading for AFLA members in a thoroughly professional design that is well-written. Though his efforts and those of the entire committee, AFLA members are keeping apprised of new developments and learning more about fellow AFLA members.
  • Mike Antich - AFLA Past President. Antich is a member of the AFLA Board, Communications Committee, Conference Committee, and Executive Committee. He actively promoted AFLA to the industry.

AFLA's conference committee, education committee, membership committee and commercial fleet sounding board all deserve credit for making this year's conference the best ever, according to Donato. "Their success, in turn, sparked interest among attendees to become more active in these committees. Increased involvement by our members is the key to making next year's conference in San Diego even better while increasing year-round AFLA membership value," he continued.

Also presented was this year's Fleet Hall of Fame Award, sponsored by Automotive Fleet and AFLA. Eight fleet professionals were presented with this prestigious award, with their photo to be displayed on a wall at Bobit Business Media's headquarters in Torrance, Calif. This year's honorees included:

  • Mike Antich
    Automotive Fleet
    Editor & Associate Publisher
    Dates in Fleet: 1985-present
  • George Argueta
    Fleet Manager, Celanese Corp.
    Dates in Fleet: 1965-present
  • Helene Kamon
    AmeriFleet Transportation
    Dates in Fleet: 1970-present
  • Don Kreft
    LeasePlan USA
    President/CEO (Retired)
    Co-Owner Transport Solutions
    Dates in Fleet: 1965-present
  • Wayne Smolda
    Dates in Fleet: 1980-present
  • Hal Barton
    Chrysler Corp.
    Lincoln-Mercury Division
    General Mgr. of Fleet Operations
    Dates in Fleet: 1950-1995
  • Sam Penn
    Executive Vice President (Retired)
    Dates in Fleet: 1969-1990
  • Jack Taylor
    Enterprise Holdings
    Founder of Enterprise Rent-A-Car
    Dates in Fleet: 50+ Years

New board members and officers were announced at the AFLA business meeting, and include:

  • Vice President: Tom Callahan, Donlen Corporation
  • Director of Fleet Management Companies: Ed Pierce, ARI
  • Director of Fleet: Frank Memolo, Panasonic
  • Director Allied: Tina Kourakos, Subaru
  • Director At Large: Mark Klein, Safelite Auto Glass

Looking forward, Rasmussen is "honored to be the next President of AFLA. The Association has had tremendous growth over the past few years. I think our focus on the commercial fleet market and our ongoing educational programs will only further enhance the mission and success of our organization."

Rasmussen continued, "AFLA is unique in that it tries to make it our mission to educate not only the commercial fleet manger, but all of the businesses that service the commercial fleet market. We try to make sure that everyone in the commercial fleet market will benefit from the topics discussed at the conference."

Donato concluded, "Finally, a big thank you must be given to all of AFLA's sponsors for their financial support and their ability to forego selling in favor of networking at the conference. AFLA alone recognizes that fleet expertise relates to years of relevant experience, not a job function.  As equals, our members have a unique opportunity to learn more from the broadest possible range of expert perspectives."

The AFLA Annual Meeting & Conference is the primary venue for the nation's largest commercial fleet managers to meet with industry experts about fleet industry matters. 

The 2011 AFLA Conference will be held Sept. 14-16 at Paradise Point in San Diego, Calif.