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News & Press: NVLA News

50th Anniversary NVLA Conference Honors the Past with a Bright Future

Wednesday, April 25, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mike Mathy
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50th Anniversary NVLA Conference Honors the Past with a Bright Future
By Edward P. Kaye


LA JOLLA, CA — The 50th anniversary of the National Vehicle Leasing Association (NVLA) was celebrated throughout its 2018 Annual Conference held April 18 – 20th at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa in La Jolla, California. 


Celebrating the past, embracing the present, and defining the future was the conference theme and an engaging way to mark an important milestone for an association that was on the brink of extinction not too long ago.


“This year’s conference attracted our largest attendance since the Great Recession, the exhibit hall was sold out, our membership is up, and the NVLA is on its most stable financial footing in a decade,” said NVLA President Chris Pontarelli, Vice President of Jacksonville-based GT Leasing. “I’m pleased to see our industry’s recovery, and it’s comforting to know our members are better able to tackle historical challenges such as securing access to capital."


The conference was kicked off by industry icon and conference master of ceremonies, Charlie Vogelheim, the former 20 year editor of Kelley Blue Book. Vogelheim introduced a photo montage spanning most of the NVLA’s 50 years as documented by numerous black and white photographs, big hair styles, fashion, and historic conference events that would give current HR managers heart palpitations. 


Most of the panel discussions and presentations focused on how independent leasing companies can improve and expand their current operations to become more competitive with larger lenders and lessors in this space. From tips on how to compete with large fleet lessors to expanding business with equipment leasing and Fintech, the sessions were well received and well attended.  

There was also much focus on the future of the industry.


Stu Lustman, Fintech and peer to peer lending author and expert, and who started his career in equipment leasing, cautioned the attendees to pay close attention to current industry trends that if ignored can easily take market share away from their businesses. “Fintech companies process $100,000 loan requests in seconds and minutes today,” he stated. “Independent leasing companies need to be mindful that if their front end process is not user friendly they will lose opportunities to Fintech firms that are well capitalized without legacy management, systems, and processes that can make the leasing application experience challenging.”


While new car sales were slightly down year over year in 2017, “I’m bullish about the economy as a whole,” said Tom Kontos, the chief economist for KAR Auction Services, one of the industry presenters. He does not see a recession in sight, expects three to four more rate increases by the Fed in 2018, and continued improvement in used vehicle prices, especially trucks and SUVs for the remainder of the year.


The deep subprime leasing business, known as Lease Here Pay Here (LHPH) continues to grow and become a more meaningful part of the NVLA as evidenced by several panel sessions and attendees this year. Consumer regulations, compliance, and funding remain key industry topics that were addressed throughout the conference.


Highlighting the future, this year’s keynote speaker was West Point graduate, Colonel U.S. Army Retired, and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough.  Kimbrough served nearly six months as commander of the International Space Station during Expedition 49/50. He shared his personal experience along with videos and photos while aboard the space station along with a team of Russian and one Japanese astronaut. The lively Q&A session following his presentation touched on his favorite space movie (Apollo 13) to his current work on establishing a mission to Mars.


The conference ended paying homage to past eleven NVLA presidents with a panel discussion of seven former presidents. Interestingly, all but one past president panelist is retired. They all credit the NVLA with improving their businesses, professional development, and longevity in the industry.  As expected, the lively, passionate, discussion and numerous war stories did not disappoint the industry faithful in attendance.  


Terry Bowdler, Certified Vehicle Lease Executive, was the recipient of the Clemens-Pender Lessor of the Year Award. It is given to the lessor who best exemplifies the highest standards of professional conduct to the industry and community as voted by his peers. Bowdler received the award after recently selling his company, Credit Union Leasing of America.   

As president elect, yours truly looks forward to building on the strong foundation that those before me have established. The takeaway from this year’s conference is the industry is well positioned for growth in numerous niche segments the large lenders cannot pursue. If the past is any indication of the future, there will always be a future for the independent vehicle leasing company in the U.S. economy.


Ed Kaye is a longtime supporter of Leasing News, contributing articles as well as features. He is one of our best writers. He is an attorney, admitted to the bar of the State of New York, 1994, as well as has a MA and BA from the University at Albany. He also is presently serving as the second vice president and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Vehicle Leasing Association. He was the Conference Chair at the 50th Anniversary, is also the President elect, and add to that, an active member of the Leasing News Advisory Board.


This article originally appeared April 24, 2018 in Leasing News.


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