Don Fowler fell in love with the concept of the International Automotive Remarketers Association (IARA) when the association first formed. He showed that love by becoming heavily involved with the Alliance, serving on the board of directors and as chair of the membership committee. He was treasurer for about three years before he retired this past January, and he also served as chair of the nominating committee to choose the current executive director for the Alliance.
However, Fowler believes the history of the industry is more interesting than the story of his career. A look at his career, however, could also serve as a view of the history of vehicle remarketing.
He started out in 1974, working in the remarking department for PHH, and he stayed there for 12 years.
"We traded all the used cars back to the dealer," he said. "That was easy to do, because we had well-maintained, high-mileage, 2-year-old cars, and this was before the odometer laws were seriously enforced." The dealers did not mind taking in well-maintained, high-mileage cars because they knew they weren’t going to be high-mileage cars for long. "As the odometer laws were enforced, the new car dealers couldn’t take these cars in trade anymore, and it created an opportunity for the wholesale industry and the auto auction business to fill that niche,” added Fowler.
In 1986, he went on to work for GE Capital Auto Auctions as vice president of sales and marketing. In 1989, he started his own remarking company, Performance Remarketing Specialists, PRS.
"This was back when insurance companies were buried in residual value insurance policies that they had written for lessors," Fowler said. "They were losing their proverbial shirts on these cars, so we ended up remarketing a lot of cars for insurance companies that were initially allowing the banks do it and then paying the policies off, and the banks were not proficient remarketing in the wholesale marketplace. So we took over that remarketing responsibility."
Around that same time, remarketing cooperative ServNet hired Fowler's company, PRS, as a consultant. Under the leadership of PRS, ServNet grew from five auctions to 21 over the following two years. He went on to run Statesville Auto Auction in North Carolina, and that company was named General Motors' auction of the year for four straight years from 1991 to 1995. After a stint as general manager for ADESA's auto auction in Charlotte, and later for two independent auctions in the Carolina’s, he provided sales oversight for inventory management company Auto IMS. Convincing independent auctions to sign on with AutoIMS was his main role.
"It was a tough sell," Fowler said. "They just didn’t trust the process as outlined. So we decided to concentrate on signing up the consignors. Then the consignors went to the auctions and said, ‘If you want to do business with me, you need to sign up with AutoIMS.’ That’s how AutoIMS gained traction."
He went on to work for start-up online auction company, Autodaq, around 2000, and he later worked for vehicle transport company United Road. He helped that company develop a used car transporting strategy before overseeing sales and marketing for Vehicle Inspection Services (VIS). He was there from 2005 to 2015, and along the way VIS changed its name to DataScan Field Services (DFS). Fowler became an ADESA employee again when AutoVIN (an ADESA company) bought DFS in 2015.
He showed his perseverance in May 2015, when a fire destroyed his home near Asheville, N.C. He and his wife spent most of the following two years rebuilding their home. That project kept him so busy, he decided to retire.
But he wanted to continue doing what he enjoyed, which was helping people. Specifically for Fowler, that meant identifying and coaching talent.
"My entire career, I've coached people, getting them to better understand what the job is all about and what the customer needs," he said. "For 12 years, I was the customer. When I went into the auctions, I knew what the customer needed and expected. It provided me the knowledge to successfully coach and help people understand where the other side is coming from. That's what I hope I can do in a consulting role."