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Tuesday, March 21, 2006 

Vol. 2 No. 13

CAR at 11 Years: Remarketing comes into its own with certification program, new online organizations and record attendance: Part I

This year’s Conference of Automotive Remarketing (CAR) March 8-10 had a record attendance of some 550 attendees, making it the largest event of its kind to date. It sure has come a long way since the early days of its founding, when it only drew a couple hundred people. The Bobit Business Media Group were the first to put on such an event, amidst questions over whether there was a need for a practitioner conference. Today, needless to say, no such questions remain. There was an enthusiastic group at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, who turned out for three important remarketing conferences in one: a meeting of the new Internet Remarketing Business Roundtable (IRBR); an awards luncheon and series of roundtables by the International Automotive Remarketing Alliance (IARA); and, of course, the CAR conference itself. We at Driveitaway added our own events on either side of the program, beginning the first night with a special press briefing, and just after CAR ended, we hosted our own, inaugural Remarketing Advisory Panel, comprised of some of the most highly regarded fleet managers and rental car operators in the nation. We did this with the insightful help of Mike Antich, the Editor and Associate Publisher of Automotive Fleet magazine and this year’s CAR Co-Chairman. Below, a few highlights of the conference on this rapidly evolving industry…

Day One – IRBR, IARA, trail blazers all…
CAR, the country’s oldest conference devoted to remarketing, began with a meeting of the country’s newest national group to form around the topic, the Internet Remarketing Business Roundtable. This was a group of nine car guys who got together about six months ago, based on the fact the no organization was adequately concentrating on the need to educate dealers on the “nuts & bolts” of online buying and selling, on both the wholesale and retail sides of the equation. Our conclusion was that this was not due to lack of interest, but because lots of groups and organizations were focused on other pressing and legitimate issues within the remarketing field. So the IRBR was formed by companies who either are in the market solely and directly online, or who represent vendors focused on this new marketplace. As this is a group of national company principals, and time is always at premium, devotion to this cause was not undertaken lightly and it took a while to define the mission and how it would operate. At CAR, we ironed out the final organizational issues and became ready to put on our first “public” presentation, the next day at a scheduled panel presentation at CAR.

After the IRBR meeting, Driveitaway sponsored the lunch at which the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance (IARA) presented its Circle of Excellence Award and keynote address by Jim Hallett, President of the Columbus Fair Auto Auction. Hallet was instrumental in the creation of one of the largest auto auctions chains, and his talk captured the essence of the theme of the event: letting go of outdated practices and embracing positive change. The Circle of Excellence Award was given to commercial fleet veteran, or maybe more accurately, commercial fleet “legend,” Jim Frank, CEO of Wheels Inc. I can think of no one in our industry more deserving; Wheels is the fifth largest fleet management company in the country, privately owned and managed by Jim for the last 30 years or so. Remarkably, Jim’s father, Zollie Frank, actually invented the fleet lease industry (how many people invent an industry?) 50 or so years ago in Chicago, out of his franchised new car dealership (a dealer group that Jim’s brother still operates today). The Franks qualify as one of the car industry’s legendary families in that regard, and it was great to see Jim recognized both for his industry achievements and his many, many charitable undertakings.

Next came the IARA roundtable presentations, one on vehicle pricing/values and the other on IARA’s launch of the industry’s first-ever certification program for remarketers, to be known as the Certified Automotive Remarketing (CAR) program. The establishment of a certification program is another testament to how far the remarketing industry has come, as it marks the disposal and distribution of used cars as a true specialty, rather than the mysterious “backwater” art it was thought of for many years. It also marks a milestone for IARA in my opinion, a furtherance of its mission statement, “to assist, educate, and share knowledge with one another and our industry partners, so that each member may be empowered to achieve the fullest efficiency and most continued improvement attainable in the commerce of selling vehicles through the marketplace,” moving the industry forward as an active and vital trade group.

The Official CAR Kick-Off, and our Special Introduction
The core CAR conference kicked off with a keynote address by Eric Overby of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, who presented the results of his research comparing and contrasting the effects of physical v. online automotive auctions, and how electronic auctions effect prices. No specific upstream remarketing research study presented here yet, but the fact that serious academic research exists on this online remarketing subject at all indicates the level of seriousness now regarded the topic. Overby’s presentation was followed by the opening networking reception, where I usually get to say hello to some people I’ve seen only from a distance in the previous seminars of the day, or some people that might have arrived late to the conference.

My company this year decided to do a few special events in coordination with CAR, based on the pace of developments in the field of remarketing and its impact on both market specialties (upstream remarketing for commercial fleet managers) and on the U.S. auto industry and economy in general. Many automotive press reporters are only now beginning to understand the significance of the used car market, and we thought that a primer on the composition of the used car market, the fleet business, the role of physical auctions, and the growth of various new methods of disposal in the marketplace, would help people new to this area get the most from the advanced remarketing CAR seminars offered the next day.

Our answer was to present a 90-minute industry primer. We were privileged to have this summary analysis presented by one of the most esteemed (and most quoted) personalities in the field, Tom Kontos, Vice President, Adesa Analytical Services, of the Adesa Auction chain, the second largest (and only public – NYSE: KAR) auto whole car auto auction group in the country, and the largest auto auction chain in Canada. We couldn’t have found a more learned authority to address this group, as Tom is the author of the widely followed Global Vehicle Remarketing (GVR) and Pulse, which provide comprehensive analysis of strategic trends and issues relating to the 45-million-unit used vehicle market and the $460+ billion used vehicle industry in North America. Tom presented a well done summarized overview of the marketplace, and used excerpts from his most recently published research to highlight his eloquent overview.

Next Entry: CAR…Part II (marked by two industry firsts: the Upstream Remarketer of the Year Award, and insights from the inaugural Remarketing Advisory Panel)…

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