MT. ARLINGTON, NJ - International Automotive Remarketers Alliance (IARA) Past Chairman and current Director, Layne Weber's remarketing philosophy is straightforward and to the point: "If you focus on creating a mutually beneficial enviroment with your partners and do the right thing when selling vehicles, you will be successful and not have to worry about repercussions from your actions and decisions," he said.
Weber, vice president, national remarketing sales for CitiFinancial Remarketing and Recovery Service, has taken this practical win-win business philosophy, which he has followed through his automotive remarketing career, and applied it to the IARA - first as a committee member, then as its vice president, president, chairman, and now director.
Answering the Call
Unllike many of the early leaders of the IARA, Weber wasn't even aware of it's existence until he recieved a phone call at his Chicago office in 2003 and was personally invited to take a seat on the IARA's education committee.
Even though the Alliance was relatively new and mostly unknown, Weber was intrigured enough to accept the invitation. "What attracted me to [the IARA] was that, in banding together, it represented a force. If we could come up with a consensus among our ranks and approach the vendors - the auction network - with that consensus, they would be willing to work with us at that point," he said.
Weber knew how important it was to have a unified voice. He had been involved in remarketing since the early '90s when he accepted a position at GE-owned McCullagh Leasing. Transplanting from his native Salt Lake City to the Kent, Wash., operations of Detroit-headquartered McCullagh was a career-defining move.
"I had been working in automotive-related industries for Firestone, a Goodyear dealer, and Sun Electric. I got 'hooked' quickly on handling the lease returns [for McCullagh] and never left the field," he said.
He would eventually transfer from Kent, Wash., to Eden Prairie, Minn., with GE, after it dropped the McCullagh name and reorganized the business. In addition to continuing his remarketing work, Weber got involved in the Six Sigma process, becoming a certified black belt in the quality department, and briefly running customer service for small fleet operations. When he left GE, he moved his family to Mundelein, Ill., to work for Donlen Corporation, eventually rising to vice president.
Weber notes that timing of the IARA's founding was particularly fortuitous.
"There was not another organization out there that represented the seller of cars. Unless you were Ford, GM, Chrysler, or Toyota, it was quite a challenge to go to the auctions and ask for something. Unless you had enough volume, you didn't have the clout in the industry," he said.
Weber took his remarketing leadership skills, which he had honed at GE and Donlen, to help shape and guide the IARA, working with members of the education committee on certification for employees and content for the annual meeting. He then served under Steve Houston as vice president from 2004 to 2007, and, following the IARA succession plan, as president from 2007 to 2009.
Evolving the Organization
Even in a leadership position, Weber is nothing if not a team player.
When reminiscing about his tenure as the IARA's president, he is quick to give credit where credit is due - particularly to Houston, who laid the groundwork for many of the initiatives that bore fruit on Weber's watch.
"We've all worked together. It's not like politics where each new administration changes the strategy. We've done this all on a continuum," he said.
For instance, the arbitration policy was an IARA milestone marked during Weber's presidency, but he notes that it wasn't his brainchild.
"I remember that [Steve Houston] made a joint announcement with the National Auto Auction Association (NAAA) president about some programs that we were going to do. We did get the arbitration program done, if I remember correctly, during my tenure, but Steve kicked off the concept," he said.
Weber, too, was the author of programs that became reality after his tenure.
"In my time, we kicked off the program for the certification for the cars that they are selling during auction, and that came to pass during Bob Graham's tenure. I don't think any of us take credit for it because we all worked on it together," he said.
While Weber might be reluctant to take the credit for others' work, he does take credit for increasing the membership, making the Alliance more solvent - he was able to build a one-year operating reserve - and reenergizing the IARA committees.
The period during which Weber led the IARA were momentous ones for the Alliance, certainly, as they were for him personally. Around this time, he moved from Chicago to Denver to take a position with CitiFinancial Auto as vice president of national remarketing sales. He is currently handling remarketing services for third-party entities for the company.
Weber's involvement with the IARA continues to this day. As chairman of the board, he worked closely with past president Bob Graham, continuing the maturation of the organization. "There has been this flow of leadership," Weber said. "We continue as a group to evolve. There's just a figurehead [the president, who] has to do the day-to-day work. But, I think there's a group consciousness of where we want to go."
Weber is bullish about the future of remarketing, but does foresee that, like the IARA, it will continue to change as new technologies and selling models emerge.
"Automobiles aren't going away, so there will be an opportunity to handle the used-vehicle commodity for a long time," he said. "However, wholesale used-vehicle sales volume is down from the previous decade, and the growth of Internet-based sales is going to continue. Remarketers are going to need to evolve their sales strategies and look at the brick-and-mortar auction location in a different light. Most sellers have already made strides in developing new sales channels and will need to continue to focus on more changes."