When the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance launched in 2001, the to-do list was stacked. The trade group needed to define itself among established industry players, secure a clear, unique purpose, offer members ongoing value, and overcome some skepticism.
Not to mention all the usual logistical, structural, and financial requirements of a business non-profit organization that deppends mostly on the efforts of busy volunteers with executive-level day jobs.
The IARA had to go where no industry group had gone before in creating a voice for consignors while complementing the other groups in the wider remarketing industry. Therein lay some major hurdles, but if successful, would produce an enduring industry resource and catalyst.
Measured Performance Results
So how has the IARA done? According to its leading founder and first president, his baby has made it to prime time. Dave Langley, a former national manager of vehicle remarketing for American Honda Financial Services, formed the group with a team of remarketing colleagues after identifying some critical needs among consignors participating in auctions.
Langley spoke with Bobit recently for an interview after attending the 2021 Summer Roundtable in August. He referenced two key measuring sticks of success after 20 years:
“The first was when I started the organization; I wanted to be on a firm financial foundation. My successors have achieved that. The organization is well-funded now. I also wanted it to become a premier organization like others in our industry, such as the National Auto Auction Association. I wanted the industry to recognize the IARA as being on that level. That has been achieved.”
A central pillar to the IARA’s 20-year-earned prestige and professional reach has been its achievements on the educational and certification front, said Langley, who served as IARA President from 2001-2004.
“One observation I made when I entered the remarketing business was when I handled fleet sales and was entrusted with rental returns; it was my first foray into the remarketing business,” recalled Langley, who joined Honda in 1994. “As I moved around and got the position with Honda, I noticed many were thrust into remarketing jobs, whether finance, fleet companies, or any other discipline, with no background in remarketing whatsoever. There wasn’t a mentor and they had no place to go. The most important thing the IARA has brought to the industry has been the educational aspect to train and mentor folks in the business.”
Such observations helped clarify Langley’s vision for the IARA, creating it as a separate organization filling an open niche in the remarketing industry.
“As I moved into the business, I got involved with (auction) advisory boards, which I found interesting, but were mostly social activities,” Langley said. “I also noted most of what was talked about in the meetings was what auctions wanted to talk about. What they were interested in bringing forward was to enrich revenue. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some things they were interested in were not revenue generating for us.”
He also noticed many remarketers had their own way of doing things, and what was important to one on a condition report, was not important to another. “There seemed to be no real focus on those issues,” he said. “The standards of preparation and care of vehicles was all over the board.”
Langley said he wanted to reform the process of grading used vehicles by finding ways to categorize the conditions of vehicles without having to go through every detail of every dent or scratch. “There had to be some way to say it’s a really great car or a crummy car. Grading became a part of what auctions do now. That was not revenue generating for them.”
While the IARA formed in 2001, it drew on origins that could be traced to 1996. “I started with Honda in 1994, and when I joined, they had no real remarketing at all,” Langley said. “There was no process for handling vehicles because Honda was late getting into the lease game. I had to do the remarketing process and kept my head down for the first two years as I matured in the position. I then started seeing the needs I outlined. In 1996, it started to get rolling.”
Langley’s close founding colleague, Scott Kolb, attributes the IARA’s start to the reality that remarketers were going to meetings and sharing best practices, but the auction partners were taking those ideas and implementing them to their benefit. Manheim and ADT, for example, had client advisory boards which remarketers met with to convey their ideas, needs, and pain points in selling their vehicle portfolios, Kolb recalled. The only reselling option then was in-lane physical auctions, with online options still years away.
“The real genesis was Langley’s vision, and then it became Langley, me, and a few others,” said Kolb, who was national manager of fleet and remarketing for American Isuzu Motors at that time. “We got the remarketers at Hyundai together with legal counsel and that was the beginning of IARA. Dave says, ‘Let’s get together as remarketers, represent ourselves, and talk about our issues.’”
The group held its first meeting in 2001 and hosted a press conference with David Gesualdo of Bobit announcing the IARA’s start and alignment with Bobit. From there, the IARA launched its annual Roundtables, its first committees, and eventual partnership with Bobit’s Conference of Automotive Remarketing.
Kolb is the only founding member still active with the IARA. He has chaired and served on multiple committees during the last two decades and served on the board of directors until this year.
“The IARA has been like having a kid for me,” Kolb said. “I was there getting the influencers together and hired executive directors along the way. I’ve been with it all along. Many others have retired or moved on. It’s been a passion of mine since we got started to make certain the original vision and mission was fulfilled.”
U.S. auto manufacturers at first were a bit miffed at the IARA since they perceived the alliance as a West Coast-based group more oriented toward the interests of manufacturers of import vehicles, Kolb said. “It was a process of slow adoption to get the domestic ‘captives’ to join our ranks.”
As an IARA leader and volunteer, Kolb said it has been his priority to involve all industry stakeholders and representatives who need to have influence or a voice on any industry topic or proposed set of best practices.
“Despite being the voice of the consignor, it was important to us for everyone to have their voice heard,” Kolb said. “We got all experts involved or asked them to. We had a lot of initiatives of interest to remarketers overall that would be brought out and discussed.”
Twenty years later, Kolb is encouraged to see the IARA as having the “greatest landscape of subject matter expertise in remarketing” across the U.S. and Canada.
He also credits the volunteerism and expertise from automotive industry segments outside of remarketing, such as service providers, for stepping in and helping build credibility and best practices for the alliance. “That’s really been a testament to the growth of so many different committees,” Kolb said.
The IARA has worked to focus on a wide range of remarketing industry issues, such as compliance, data security, and business continuity. That, in turn, has drawn acceptance and adoption from other associations, such as the National Auto Auction Association, the National Independent Automotive Dealers Association (NIADA), and the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA).
“The IARA created lines of communication and strong ties of educational support to one another to help educate remarketers, auctions, dealers, and ancillary service providers,” Kolb said. “It’s been about the people, passion, purpose and pace in our segment to really collaborate and bring forward best practices, new ideas, and new ways of doing things.”
The IARA’s education helps drive knowledge and experience not only to automotive industry segments outside of remarketing, but to professionals coming up through the remarketing ranks, the founders say.
“The IARA certification is the highest designation and standard in the remarketing industry,” Kolb said. “It has also helped serve as a beacon and guiding light for the success we’ve had. We have a critical mass of the greatest minds in the remarketing space now,” added Kolb, who now works as the executive director of client services and sales for the Primeritus Financial Services Inc., a family of companies that handles the recovery, repossession, and remarketing of vehicles and other assets such as heavy-duty trucks, sport vehicles, trains, and “anything with wheels.”
Over two decades, the role and presence of the IARA made it easier for auctions to do business with consignors, said Langley, who is semi-retired in Osage Beach, Mo., and runs Lenders Remarketing Services, where he remarkets vehicles for a handful of smaller clients. “We have a more common approach to auctions that makes it easier for both parties, by incorporating all things common to the needs of the remarketing world.”
Added Kolb, “The IARA has led in embracing disruption and finding more efficient, effective, and productive ways to conduct many aspects of remarketing.”
Note: This article appeared in the IARA 20th Anniversary Commemorative Issue published in November 2021