While working at Chicago-based Butler Brothers, Harley Howell (one of the founders of Peterson, Howell & Heather) helped conceive the idea for a vehicle management plan to solve the problem of providing cars to sales and service personnel, along with Duane Peterson and Richard Heather. In September 1945, Howell met with his two associates, who had moved to Baltimore, to discuss the idea of offering their own “car plan” to organizations whose employees used cars on company business.
The three launched Peterson, Howell & Heather on April 1, 1946, 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, the company developed the first actual cost, no risk, no premium “finance lease” for corporate automobile fleet users, ultimately revolutionizing the leasing industry.
Howell retired in 1973, and following a long bout with cancer, passed away in 1979.
He was inducted into the AF Fleet Hall of Fame in 2008.