Fleets have been around for over 75 years. - Photo: Work Truck

Fleets have been around for over 75 years. 

Photo: Work Truck

The past 75 years in the fleet industry is full of company origins and acquisitions, new concepts to help the industry move forward, the birth of associations to improve the industry, new fleet leasing companies, and a rollercoaster of fiscal ups and downs.

Today, fleet is a thriving, growing industry full of phenomenal people. Take a look back to learn more about the path the industry took to get where it is today.


● 1938: Wheels, Inc. was founded as Four Wheels.


● 1946: Peterson, Howell & Heather formed partnership.

● 1946: LendLease Cars, Inc. was founded.

● 1948: Automotive Rentals, Inc. (ARI) was founded.

● 1949: McCullagh Leasing was founded.

● Late 1940s: The concept of drop-shipping fleet vehicles was developed.


● Early 1950s: Tire companies began national account billing.

● 1951: Peterson, Howell & Heather introduced nation’s first open-end (or finance) lease.

● 1952: LMV Leasing (Lease Motor Vehicle Co.) was founded.

● 1954: Partnership developed into Peterson, Howell & Heather, Inc. (PHH).

● 1955: American Automotive Leasing Association (AALA) was formed.

● 1957: General Leasing Co. established, later known as GELCO.

● 1957: Enterprise Leasing Co. founded.

● 1957: Mike Albert Fleet Solutions was founded (as Mike Albert Leasing).

● 1957: National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) was founded.

● 1958: Ford developed Ford Authorized Leasing System (FALS) program.

● 1959: Wheels and PH&H installed first IBM computers.


● 1960s: Seatbelts installed in fleet vehicles.

● 1961: Bobit Publishing Company started.

● 1961: Buick Skylark was the first non-Chevrolet, Ford, or Plymouth vehicle to enter the fleet market.

● 1962: Merchants Leasing was founded.

● 1962: Chrysler announced its entrance into car and truck leasing business, formed Chrysler Leasing Corp.

● 1963: The IRS announced the drawing up of permanent regulations permitting a lessor to treat a lessee as purchaser of equipment for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

● 1964: United States Fleet Leasing, Inc. (USFL) was founded as Vehicle Lease & Management Services, Inc.

● 1965: Donlen Corp. was founded.

● 1967: California moved the violation of odometer tampering from misdemeanor to felony charge.

● 1969: Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) founded, the first meeting took place in Toronto, Canada.


● 1970s: Funding choices emerged, such as fixed- versus floating-rate financing and commercial paper.

● 1970s: Accident management programs became available as a supplemental service offered by independent vehicle mechanical repair companies.

● 1971: Kerr Leasing, Inc. was established.

● 1972: General Leasing Co. changed name to GELCO Corp.

● 1972: GM set up “Fleet Distant Delivery Assistance” program to compete with Ford Authorized Leasing System (FALS) program.

● 1972: Nissan established fleet department.

● 1973-1974: OPEC oil embargo against U.S. and other nations, resulted in gas rationing.

● 1975: Toyota established fleet department.

● 1976: Volkswagen established fleet department.

● 1976: California Vehicle Leasing Association (CVLA), forerunner to the National Vehicle Leasing Association(NVLA), formed in California.

● 1976: Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), enacted Rule 13, effective starting 1977, requiring all obligations under finance leases (capital leases) be shown on a lessee balance sheet as liabilities.

● 1978: The IRS considered defining open-end leases as conditional sales.

● 1978: Dart Industries formed Dart Leasing.

● 1979: During President Jimmy Carter’s term, the second fuel crisis occurred.


● 1980s: OEMs started negotiating unique and substantial incentive programs directly with individual end-users.

● 1980s: Trend to outsource non-core services swept corporate America.

● 1980s: Air bags installed in fleet vehicles.

● 1980s: Fleet leasing companies began to offer collision repair services.

● 1980: ARI acquired Interlease Corp. (7,000 vehicles).

● 1981: Swift Dodge vs. IRS landmark court decision legitimized use of an open-end TRAC lease.

● 1982: Isuzu established its first fleet department.

● 1982: Dart Leasing became Dart & Kraft Financial Corp., acquired Gambles C&M Leasing.

● 1982: ARI purchased Fleet Body Equipment (FBE) in Kansas City, Mo.

● 1983: LeasePlan USA was founded.

● 1983: Wright Express (WEX) founded. First entry into fleet fuel card business.

● 1983: Mitsubishi established fleet department.

● 1983: Ultimately defeated, H.R. 1415 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, prohibiting OEMs from selling autos to leasing companies and fleets at a price lower than to dealers, barring OEMs from offering cash rebates, free options, or other incentives unless same was offered to all purchasers.

● 1984: First fleet advisory board created by D&K Financial Services.

● 1984: GE Capital Credit Corp. purchased Kerr Leasing.

● 1984: Chrysler introduced the minivan.

● 1984: Certified Fleet Manager (CFM) program began as a partnership between the NAFA Foundation and the Wharton School of Business.

● 1986: Truth in Mileage Act signed into law, requiring sellers to provide actual, truthful odometer readings and disclose any known inaccuracies.

● 1986: Tax Reform Act.

● 1987: Subaru established fleet department.

● 1987: GELCO Fleet Management Services was purchased by GE Credit Corp., GE Capital Fleet Services formed.

● 1987: D&K acquired by GE Capital Credit Corp., (GECC).

● 1987: McCullagh Leasing acquired by Bank of New England.

● 1988: Sherwood Industries acquired by GE Capital.

● 1988: Mazda established fleet department.

● 1988-1989: First female president of AFLA elected (Helene Kamon of Wendy’s).

● 1989: Lend Lease Cars, Inc. (U.S. and Canada) acquired by ARI.

● 1989: The Leasing Emporium acquired by GE Capital.

● 1989: CFM program brought in-house by NAFA as the CAFM program.

● 1989: PHH created first-ever total fleet management program with Eastman Kodak.


● 1990s: Emergence of strategic sourcing rapidly changed corporate purchasing, and increasingly forced change in the fleet purchasing and supplier selection process.

● 1990s: OEMs began consolidating fleet operations. GM’s separater divisional fleet operations became GM Fleet & Commercial Operations, and Ford consolidated to Ford North American Fleet, Lease & Remarketing Operations (NAFLRO).

● 1990s: Fleet management companies dramatically and quickly shifted to Web-enabled services.

● 1990: GE Capital Fleet Services acquired McCullagh Leasing and Major Leasing.

● 1990: Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 mandated all centrally fueled and maintained commercial and government fleets with 10 or more vehicles located in EPA-designated non-attainment areas to purchase a specified percentage of clean-fuel vehicles in MY-1998.

● 1991: GM launched series of first-ever fleet safety symposia to increase fleet manager awareness.

● 1991: GE Capital acquired LMV Leasing, American Auto Leasing Corp., Hansen Leasing Corp., and Ballas Leasing.

● 1992: PH&H renamed PHH Corporation.

● 1992: Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992 enacted, imposing alt-fuel vehicle purchase mandates on federal, state, and alternative-fuel provider fleets.

● 1992: FAVR plan established, reimbursing employees on a non-taxable basis through a combination of a monthly allowance and a per-mile reimbursement.

● 1993: GE Capital acquired Main Auto Leasing.

● 1994: ARI founded Global Fleet Services (GFS).

● 1995: ARI formed joint venture in Mexico with Groupo Zapata to create ARIZA.

● 1997: Following signing of Kyoto Protocol in 1997, a number of multinational corporations, especially those headquartered in the European Union and Japan, began corporate-wide sustainability programs, which invariably included corporate fleet.

● 1999: PHH Vehicle Management Services sold to Avis Rent-A-Car (later acquired by Cendant in 2001).


● 2000: Explosion of commercial GPS applications, due to a more precise GPS signal made available for civilian use.

● 2000: PHH Corp. changed name to PHH Arval.

● 2000: LeasePlan acquired Consolidated Service Corporation (CSC).

● 2001: 9/11 terrorist attacks and resulting collapse of resale values due to widespread downfleeting by daily rental companies.

● 2001: Penske Truck Leasing Co. bought Rollins.

● 2002: GE Capital acquired Wells Fargo Leasing.

● 2003: GE Capital acquired CitiCapital Fleet Leasing.

● 2004: Merchants Leasing acquired Myrick Leasing.

● 2004: PHH Arval acquired FirstFleet Corp.

● 2004: Penske Truck Leasing acquired AMI Leasing truck portfolio.

● 2004: Emkay acquired AMI leasing business units.

● 2005: GE Capital acquired Walden Leasing.

● 2005: AALA celebrated 50th anniversary.

● 2007: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated all diesel engines used in heavy-duty highway vehicles comply with more stringent emissions standards.

● 2007: Shift to vehicles with four-cylinder engines became significant, as gasoline prices climbed to $4 per gallon.

● 2008: Merchants Leasing acquired OneFleet Source in Kansas City, Kan.

● 2009: Chrysler & GM entered voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

● 2010: Merchants Leasing acquired ALD Automotive USA.

● 2010: The 2010 Diesel Emissions Standard lowered permissible NOx emissions even further.

● 2010: ARI Merged FBE with Auto Truck Group, Inc. (ATG).


● 2011: Bobit Business Media and AF celebrated 50th anniversaries.

● 2011: Hertz acquired Donlen Corp.

● 2012: Bobit Business Media acquired Newport Business Media, which included Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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