July 2011

Editor's Notebook
Conference Registration Up!

by Rick Nicoletti, Napleton Fleet Group

Rick Nicoletti

It’s hard to believe that we’re within seven weeks of the annual conference at Paradise Point in San Diego, CA. Conference registrations as of today are running a whopping 83% ahead of last year at the same time. First time attendees are also ahead of last year’s numbers at the same time. It appears that we’re on course to break another attendance record at the 2011 conference.

If you haven’t registered yet, we’ve made it easy for you. There are two banner ads in this month’s Spec Sheet to make registration simple – click on one, register today and join us at the most important conference of the year.

This month’s issue of Spec Sheet covers the usual wide variety of AFLA topics. Some of this month’s highlights are:

  • Hotel reservation information for the AFLA Conference
  • Ross Friedmann – the AFLA horseman
  • Elliot Benson – from West Point cadet to GM Fleet

Finally, I would like to hear from you about your newsletter. We’ve been publishing Spec Sheet for almost two and a half years and now I’m looking for a little feedback (or possibly a pat on the head for the fine job we’re doing). Tell us what you like about the newsletter, give us ideas for future issues or let us know what needs to be changed. This is your newsletter. Let us know how we’re doing and how we can make Spec Sheet better.

Email me your comments at – I look forward to hearing from you.

And one last thing – register for the conference today!

Message from the President

by Lori Rasmussen

Lori Rasmussen

Don’t forget to sign up for the Annual AFLA conference. This year’s conference is September 14-16, at the Paradise Point in San Diego, California. With the conference only two months away, make sure you don’t miss out on this excellent event. 

This year’s conference chair, Theresa Belding, and the conference committee have put together an excellent agenda. 

Here are some highlights of the agenda:

  • Breakfast with Steven Rattner, known as the Obama Administration’s “Car Czar,” and his perspective on the efforts to save the American auto industry.
  • The outlook for Tax and Budget policy and how it may affect you and your fleets as we approach a critical election year.
  • An overview on the new accounting standards and how they may impact you.
  • Future of alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Update on the economy by Todd Buchholz. Learn how to anticipate the new trends that can open up fresh opportunities for many companies.
  • Update on the new and used car markets.
  • The impact on traffic safety, the science of driver distraction and how the public and corporations are responding to it.
  • Ways you can improve and master self-leadership and empowering yourself for personal excellence.

As you can see, we have an agenda packed with high level content that will benefit you both personally and professionally. Not only will you be impressed with the speakers and agenda that are planned, but you will also benefit from meeting with your peers and new people. The AFLA conference provides you a valuable opportunity to network with others in the industry. I look forward to seeing and talking with all of you in San Diego.

Hotel Update for AFLA’s 2011 Annual Conference

by Theresa Belding, Forest Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Theresa Belding

Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina

Due to high demand and increased conference attendance, the Paradise Point Resort & Spa has sold out on Wednesday, September 14, 2011.  

AFLA has a block of rooms available at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina for the duration of the conference. There will be COMPLIMENTARY SHUTTLE SERVICE between the Paradise Point Resort and the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina throughout the event.

AFLA Conference Rate: $179/night

1441 Quivira Road,
San Diego, California, USA 92109
Tel: 619-224-1234    
Maps & Directions
Visit Website

To make a reservation, please call 1-888-421-1442 and mention the “Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association” to receive the discounted sleeping room rates.

Be sure to make your reservation by August 22. Rates and availability cannot be guaranteed after that time.  

President Obama’s “Car Czar” to Address AFLA

Steven Rattner

When the President needed a bold voice to help save the American automobile industry, he called on Steven Rattner. When AFLA needed a bold voice to headline the 2011 conference in San Diego, we followed the President’s lead.

A former chief economic correspondent for the New York Times, Rattner has earned his reputation as one of Wall Street’s top investment bankers and corporate experts. Among the topics he’ll cover in San Diego are the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, and he will cover themes from his book, “Overhaul: An Insider’s Account of the Obama Administration’s Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry.”

AFLA Profile: Ross Friedmann — Taming “Sheriff Tex”

by Shelley Mika

For Ross Friedmann, Sr. Commercial Accounts Manager at Audi of America, Inc., nurturing relationships is a way of life. Professionally, Friedmann has relied on his relationships to develop commercial sales departments for both Subaru and Audi.

“As we all know, in the commercial segment of this industry, relationships are key. So while we all love to ‘peddle our wares,’ the relationships I have fostered along the way are extremely valuable, and I really relish the role of brand-building,” he said. “I’ve been with Audi since 2006 and it is extremely gratifying to see the department flourish and profit from my direct effort.”

Friedmann’s focus on relationship building carries over into his personal life, too. It was a friendship with a farrier and trainer that led him to one of the most gratifying relationships of his life: his bond with his horse, Sheriff Tex.   

In Friedmann’s own words, Tex is an “interesting character.” Shuffled between owners much like a foster child, it took Tex a while to find just the right home.

His first was a ranch — as an American Quarter Horse, he was born and bred for “cow-working.” “Ranchers don’t get as attached to horses in the same way equestrian hobbyists do. They use them more like pickup trucks and ATVs,” Friedmann said. “If/when a cow-horse cannot cut it, he (or she) usually gets sent to an auction for purchase by dealers or brokers. Tex worked for three years, then went to auction. He was deemed too aggressive around other horses, which is how he got the moniker ‘Sheriff.’ He did his job well enough, but ‘horsed around’ too much, so the outfit cut him loose.”

After his ranch days, Sheriff Tex was purchased by a woman who wanted a gentle trail riding horse. Again, this home was just not the right fit: not long after his arrival, Sheriff Tex spun his new owner off his back, and she broke her pelvis.

Then, he was on to “Owner #3,” Friedmann’s farrier and trainer friend, who let him work with the horse as often as he liked. That’s where Friedmann’s gift for relationships served both him and Sheriff Tex well. Instead of saddling him up right away, he worked with him on the ground and in the round-pen, getting to know him for a couple of months before plunging in. “Pretty soon, Sheriff Tex and I became buddies,” he said. “It was as if he just wanted someone to take time with him and develop a real bond. It’s corny, I know, but it worked!”

Now, Friedmann and Sheriff Tex have a deeper relationship than most riders and horses — and it shows. “When I shout to him, he actually comes walking in from the pasture, and he will follow me around without a lead rope,” Friedmann said. “He’s very calm, yet he has fire in him, and will even go into a full gallop if I prompt him!” Seeing that Sheriff Tex had finally found a home he could love, Friedmann couldn’t turn down the offer to purchase him last summer – the perfect chance to give Tex a good home, and the perfect chance to make riding a more permanent part of his life.

Now, as Friedmann and Tex ride the Forest Preserve trails, Sheriff Tex continues to “work” occasionally. “He doesn’t forget his ranch work days, as the trails we ride are teeming with deer,” Friedmann explained. “If he sees several deer, he thinks he has to move them into a herd. The deer are so used to people and horses on the trails that they don’t run off very far, so I let Tex pretend he is moving calves around … It keeps him young, I guess.”
Friedmann and Tex also continue to practice riding exercises together. “You never really ‘master’ riding, you just continue to hone your skills, and make strides, along with your horse,” Friedmann said. “When Sheriff Tex and I get a particular riding exercise going well, it really feels like an accomplishment.”

Although it’s taken time and patience, Friedmann’s relationship with Tex has surely paid off. “I was able to take a ‘difficult’ horse and turn him into a real companion,” he said. “It reinforces that all relationships (business or otherwise) are not ‘one and done’. Any relationship (business or otherwise) worth nurturing takes time, and will have highs and lows.”

Having nurtured his relationship with Sheriff Tex, his equine friend led him to forge yet another bond: his relationship with his girlfriend – who he met at the stable.

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Save the Dates for the Upcoming Webinar Series with Richard Alaniz

Richard Alaniz

Richard D. Alaniz is senior partner at Alaniz and Schraeder, a national labor and employment law firm based in Houston, TX. He has been at the forefront of labor and employment law for more than 30 years. He was a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and served on the President’s Cost of Living Council during the Nixon Administration. He also held prominent posts within the National Labor Relations Board, first in Washington, D.C., and later in Minneapolis, where he coordinated the NLRB’s enforcement actions in the five-state Midwestern region.

Join him for a three-part webinar series this fall/winter. Registration is now open, and more details will be coming soon.

  • October 5: How safe are you from your company’s drivers? Under the theory of negligent entrustment, companies are liable for accidents.
  • November 9: The advantages and pitfalls of monitoring your employees
  • December 7: Equal employment opportunity commission (EEOC): Practical tips for improving your response to harassment in the workplace

Did You Know?
Odd Day was Saturday, 7/9/11. Three consecutive odd numbers make up the date only six times in a century. After 7/9/11, only two days remain in this parade of Odd Days which began with 1/3/5. The previous stretch of dates like this started with 1/3/1905 – 13 months after the Wright Brothers’ flight.

AFLA Profile: Elliott Benson – From West Point Grad to GM Fleet Leader

By Shelley Mika

Elliott Benson in 1980 as a West Point cadet

Elliott Benson in 2011 is Manager, State and Local Government Sales for General Motors Fleet and Commercial Operations

As Manager, State and Local Government Sales for General Motors Fleet and Commercial Operations, Elliott Benson leads the development and implementation of GM’s sales and marketing strategy for the state and local government market segment. As part of his duties, he also provides leadership, guidance and training for GM’s District Sales Managers and dealers who are focused on government sales.

For those who know him, it’s probably no surprise that life led him to a leadership role – and one where he could work closely with others to accomplish a greater good. That’s because Benson holds the honor of being a West Point graduate, an accomplishment that was followed by a very successful military career.

At a young age, Benson knew he wanted to have a career in the military. “When I was growing up, my father was always in the Reserve or National Guard in addition to his full time job as a school teacher,” he said. “I was always proud of him and his service. I never imagined not being connected to the military in some manner when I grew up.”

So when, in junior high school, his father brought up the idea of attending West Point, he took it seriously. “I found some books at the library and read up on it,” he said. “I was impressed with what I read and made it my goal to work hard in school and apply for an appointment to West Point.”

And that’s where it all began – life lessons in leadership, teamwork, and determination – all of which still serve him in his civilian role today.

But these lessons weren’t simply given to Benson – they were hard earned. He says his time at West Point was a challenging four years.

“The challenges, whether physical, psychological or intellectual, were never ending; but the satisfaction of successfully completing those challenges was also never ending,” he said. “The West Point environment is probably second to none for leadership development training. The academic experience is one of the top in the country. Overall it was a very rewarding experience – one you learn to really appreciate in the years following graduation.”

Benson says one of the most valuable lessons he took away from his time at West Point was to “always choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” To this day he stands by the principle that self-discipline and a never-quit attitude are important for success in any endeavor.

Living by these lessons, Benson went on to great success in his military career. In 1980, he graduated from the United States Military Academy, and a year later graduated from Army Flight School as a UH-1 helicopter pilot. With this training he served as an Assault Helicopter Platoon Leader in Germany. Later, Benson attended the Aviation Maintenance Officer Course and the Maintenance Test Pilot Course and served as Aviation Maintenance Officer for a fleet of aircraft at Fort Bliss, TX.

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Get Recognized – Add Your Photo to the AFLA Directory

You can now add a headshot of yourself to your AFLA member profile online. Get recognized among your peers and add your image to the member directory today. Simply log in to the website and click “Add Image.” Choose your best shot and upload.

Late Models are a Tougher Fall...What’s the Exception?

by Ricky Beggs, Black Book

Listen to Ricky Beggs discuss this week’s topic by clicking on the video frame below or clicking on this link:

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