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News & Press: NVLA News

2019 Annual NVLA Conference Drives the Future

Tuesday, April 23, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Marcie Liebert
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ATLANTIC BEACH, FL — The 2019 annual conference of the National Vehicle Leasing Association (NVLA) took place March 27–29 at One Ocean Resort & Spa in Atlantic Beach, Florida.  Coming off of last year’s 50th anniversary honoring its past, this year’s conference theme was “Drive the Future,” an acknowledgement that times are changing and independent lessors need to change with them.


Clearly, the industry has turned a corner based on the conference’s robust attendance, number of hotel rooms booked, and session participation.


“I was pleased with the turn out this year,” said Ken Sopp, the conference chair and president of Credit Union Leasing of America. “Our members are looking to keep current and the conference is one way they benchmark their businesses, network with peers, and see what’s new in the industry,” he added.


Common challenges continue to be obtaining access to funding, choosing technology, finding effective sales people, and as many in the industry are aging, exit strategies and succession planning.  The association developed sessions to address each of these challenges and to steer company leaders in the direction of growth and profitability through new business lines supported by cutting-edge, affordable technology.


The conference kicked off with a networking reception and exhibitor meet and greet followed by a keynote speech sponsored by Toyota about elevating your business brand from Ryan Hart, tournament director for THE PLAYERS Championship, which is based in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach.


Mr. Hart shared his experience in the development of THE PLAYERS iconic brand supported by its trophy, theme music, and community involvement.  “Be relentless in your pursuit to protect it,” he stated. “It strengthens business relationships with both existing and prospective customers,” he added. 


The conference opening presentation by master of ceremonies Charlie Vogelheim, the former editor of Kelley Blue Book and VP at J.D. Power and Associates, discussed the viability of the flying car.  His current focus is the cross section of where Silicon Valley intersects with the automotive industry.  “There will be flying cars before there will be autonomous cars,” he stated to a surprised group.  Clearly captivating the audience, his presentation set the tone for what will drive the future of the industry. 


Several forward-focused sessions included turbocharging the credit process (automation or auto decisioning), integrating emerging technologies, ride sharing (leasing for Uber and Lyft), vehicle subscriptions, and utilization of autonomous vehicles.   


Not surprisingly, the future is here for many independent lessors who are reaching retirement age, and in an industry that is primarily family-owned, they face unique challenges in succession planning.  One robust session on ownership transfer brought together legal counsel, a CPA, and an investment banker to discuss challenges and strategies. 


According to industry investment banker Steve Sherman of CrestMount Advisors, “Now is a good time to sell,” he stated. "Understand the nuances of how a potential acquirer accounts for profits, have realistic expectations, and keep the 'hassle factor' low," he advised attendees.


One longtime lessor added his experience in successful tax planning that enabled him to transfer his business to the next generation tax free.


On the last day of the conference, industry staple and Chief Economist at KAR Auction Services, Tom Kontos gave his industry update, analysis, and forecast.  His comments included the following:


§  All signs point to continued growth through the second quarter.

§  The current economic expansion is expected to continue and not just die of “old age.”

§  The Fed’s pause in raising interest rates will prove to be significant in “keeping the economy rolling.”

§  Predicting a recession based on 10 years of growth is short sighted.

§  The strong labor market will continue to enable consumers to make timely auto payments.

§  New vehicle sales will continue to be strong, close to the $17M 2018 number of new car sales.  Trucks now make up 70% of new car sales in the U.S.

§  Auto dealers are holding onto trade-ins longer than they used to due to improved technology in inventory management.

§  Used car values will have a tougher go in 2019 and 2020.


The closing session featured Matthew Daus, a transportation lawyer, City University of New York professor, and former New York City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner under mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.  Daus's session focused on the future of vehicle leasing in a rapidly evolving transportation technology world.


Stating that there will be a lot of business opportunities for lessors in the future, Daus cautioned session attendees that the various and fragmented governmental regulatory agencies will likely delay any significant utilization of autonomous vehicles for the next 20 – 25 years!


The deep subprime leasing business, known as Lease Here Pay Here (LHPH) had a separate track of seminars, as they did last year. 


Facing similar challenges as traditional lessors, the program director, Nick Markosian of Markosian Auto, stated, “LHPH is expanding throughout the United States and this conference continues to be the preeminent national gathering of dealers and service providers to our industry.  I was pleased with the quality of speakers, exhibitors, and attendees,” he stated.


This year’s Clemens-Pender Award recipient was Roger Camping of RC Leasing in Phoenix, AZ.  The Clemens-Pender Award is the NVLA’s highest honor.  Growing his business from a start up to becoming Arizona’s oldest independent vehicle leasing company over the past 38 years, Mr. Camping demonstrates the values of commitment, transparency, and success throughout his decades of service to the NVLA and the leasing industry.


The receptions, networking opportunities, dynamic speakers and attendees from the U.S. and Canada made this year’s conference a success.  Clearly, and as the conference speakers stated numerous times, the industry is at a tipping point for future growth, while only a few short years ago its extinction was predicted by many.  It was rewarding to see the optimism abound and this is what will likely drive the future of automotive leasing.  

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