MT. ARLINGTON, NJ - During its 10th anniversary in August 2011, Rob Wagner, associate director of Asset Remarketing for Hyundai Capital America was installed as the fifth president of the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance (IARA), succeeding Bob Graham - who became chairman. It was a watershed moment in a life that seemed destined for automotive remarketing and leading the Alliance.
As a young boy, Rob Wagner, associate director of Asset Remarketing for Hyundai Capital America, watched his father work hard as the owner of a car dealership in Northern Idaho and realized he had a passion for cars.
"I love the car industry from A to Z," he said. "I mostly love that I am a channel expert. People want to know what I know. Remarketing is both simple and complicated. We must sell cars in the quickest way for the most money and spend the least possible, plus do it consistently every day, week, and year. It is like an action movie - we have little time to plan for fast moving market changes, so preparation must be tight. I love it because I love to be the action hero."
For 25 years, Wagner has worked in the automotive industry for companies such as GE Capital, BMW Credit Corporation, Kelley Blue Book, Triad, and DealerTrack and now Hyundai Capital America in Irvine, Calif., where he leads asset remarketing teams for Hyundai Motor Finance and KIA Motors Finance, the captive finance arms of these car companies.
"Mostly, I work on strategy and planning, plus the daily development and execution of change," Wagner said. "When one plan goes live, there are two or three more next in the queue. Otherwise, I am checking in with the dealer direct and auction teams as to how the week's sales are progressing. Then, it is off to meetings with risk, sales, finance and collections to review lease residuals, repossession losses, vehicle sale trends, or wherever remarketing is a direct contributor."
According to Wagner, one of the best aspects of being involved in the industry is watching its growth.
"We have come a long way. We have changed, however, due to systems, resources, and references, so the process has evolved," he explained. "Sort of like the automobile that has evolved to be incredibly faster, safer, etc. However, it still runs on a motor, driving gears and rolling on four rubber tires. Remarketing has evolved, too. It is no longer from a few small auctions scattered around the country. It is a sophisticated network of huge auction locations, logistics, and integrated systems; now running just a click away from your smart phone."
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In the Beginning
Born and raised in Northern Idaho, Wagner's father owned an Oldsmobile-Chrysler-Dodge dealership. The family moved away from the town with the dealership while Wagner was in high school. Then Wagner was off to college at the University of Idaho. He finished a degree in architecture, a field of study he chose, because "I always had a love for design and visualization."
After college, Wagner began his automotive career.
"When I got out of college, I worked for the Idaho Division of Highways as a project manager," he recalled. "Then I moved to Spokane, Wash., and joined a local dealership as manager of their leasing company."
Wagner stayed with the dealership for a few years moving up from lease manager to general manager. He then relocated to Seattle to senior positions with BMW, Lincoln, and Volkswagen dealerships. The Volkswagen dealer was sold in 1985 and Wagner joined GE Capital Auto Lease.
"That was my first entry out of the retail car business. I didn't know how well it was going to go," he continued. "I had only seen success from being a retail car dealership manager. Very shortly, I gained three territories and grew the business. I became successful, I was awarded the Fastest Growing Area Sales Manager for that year." The very next year, he was offered a position to be part of the launch team for BMW Credit Corp. as regional manager.
South to California
With the BMW position, Wagner relocated to Northern California, then was promoted into regional remarketing in 1992 and another move to Southern California.
"GE Capital discontinued originations in 1998, so I joined Kelley Blue Book as business development manager until 2002," he said. "The experience was indescribable, it was a big piece of the dot com explosion; it was full of [controlled] chaos every day at Kelley Blue Book. The business was busting at the seams, everyone wanted to sell cars on the Internet and everyone thought that they could do it with KBB.com. People loved seeing what their cars were worth, instantly, all for free, so it was incredible."
After Kelley Blue Book came a few years at Triad as national remarketing manager, then a three-year period where he owned and was dealer principal of a franchised dealership. Since leaving the dealership and moving on to Hyundai Capital America, he is happy to be back in remarketing, and he said he looks forward to the future of remarketing in the car industry.
"I can see lenders using social media to avoid repossession altogether. I can see Web-enabled virtual inventory placing lease cars before they hit maturity. The remarketing of the future will be more about how not to touch the car in the first place; to be upstream earlier before the upstream remarketing of today. Lenders do not want to be in the asset disposition business. The vision would be to place the vehicle assets with their new retail owner via our Hyundai and KIA dealers - all powered by apps on the Web, it is a win-win-win. I see my role as directing the inventory flow and bringing the players together," he explained. L