WASHINGTON, D.C. — Top industry executives are slated to examine the vehicle financing environment in a panel discussion at the upcoming American Financial Services Association's 12th Annual Vehicle Finance Conference and Expo early next year.

The Chief Executive Officer Panel: Managing Profitable Growth will include:

—Michael Bannister: chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Credit and executive vice president of Ford.

—Dan Berce: president and CEO of AmeriCredit.

—George Borst: president and CEO of Toyota Financial Services.

—Stephen Smith: senior vice president of American Honda Financial Services.

—Marc Sheinbaum: CEO of auto and education finance with JPMorgan Chase Retail Financial Services.

The discussion, set to kick off at 8:45 a.m. on Feb. 7, will be moderated by Dennis McCuistion, host and producer of PBS' "McCuistion Program."

According to officials, next year's events will also feature other big names, such as John Snow, chairman of Cerberus Capital Management and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, who is slated to speak on the morning of Feb. 8.

"Featuring John Snow or a panel of powerhouse vehicle financial executives would be impressive alone, but when combined, create a can't-miss lineup," explained Chris Stinebert, AFSA's president and CEO.

The conference will be held Feb. 6 to 8, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It's set up to precede the National Auto Dealer Association's Annual Convention, which will run Feb. 9 to 12 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

"This will mark the fifth consecutive year that AFSA and NADA coordinate their respective meetings to create a two-for-one conference opportunity for industry executives," explained Donald Gottwald, who serves as chairman of AFSA's Vehicle Finance Division Advisory Board, as well as group director and chief marketing officer for HSBC Auto Finance.

"It's a format that has been a wonderful success, resulting in increased attendance and a valuable way to exchange information between the lender and dealer communities," he added.

He pointed out that the 2007 Vehicle Finance Conference in Las Vegas attracted nearly 400 executives.

Moreover, the AFSA indicated that its upcoming event will be the first for the vehicle finance industry in 2008.

"With a new Congress and uncertain economic and competitive conditions, you will have an opportunity to participate in strategic, thought-provoking discussions on important business issues with key industry leaders and the NADA leadership," executives said.

"Division members will benefit from the exchange of information and the ability to help define and coorindate AFSA's legal and legislative strategy and special projects to benefit the industry," they continued.

The conference is designed for auto finance and leasing senior management, attorneys and education counsels, in addition to executives representing marketing, operations, data security, e-commerce, public policy, state and federal government affairs. Moreover, officials said dealers, industry suppliers and business partners are also welcome.

In addition to Snow, many other top industry executives are already lined up for the event. Some speakers include:

—Rosemary Austgen: 33-year veteran of Ford Credit, current manager in Global Process Management.

—Harry Goff: chairman and CEO of CitiFinancial North America.

—John Haines: president and CEO of HSBC Auto Finance.

—Gregory Jackson: president of Prestige Automotive Group.

—Steve Lambert: president and CEO of Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.

—Gary Lorenz: president of Wells Fargo Auto Finance.

—Lee Mitchell: Group 1 Automotive's director of F&I operations.

—Ken Rice: senior manager of securitization for GMAC.

—Tim Russi: president of Bank of America Dealer Financial Services.

—Paul Taylor: chief economist for the NADA.

To register for AFSA's meeting, visit www.vehiclefinanceconference.com, or contact the group's meetings and conferences department at (202) 296-5544. The department can also be reached via e-mail at meetings@afsamail.org.

For exhibit and sponsorship opportunities, contact Tom Thomas at tthomas@afsamail.org.

Understanding Vehicle Financing Now Available in Spanish

In other recent news, a brochure, Understanding Vehicle Finance, designed to help consumers learn more about the financing process is now available in Spanish, officials reported.

The brochure was created by the American Financial Services Association Educational Foundation and the NADA, in cooperation with the Federal Trade Commission.

The new pamphlet offers such items as:

—A checklist of recommended actions to take before, during and after visiting a dealership.

—A worksheet to determine a monthly payment amount that the borrower can afford.

—A worksheet to allow borrowers to compare terms from up to three creditors.

—A glossary of common vehicle financing terms.

—A revised list of federal laws regulating dealership financing and leasing.

—New information on the process of obtaining a credit report.

First produced in 2003, the recently released English and Spanish versions are designed to update the information provided to help consumers learn more about dealership financing and evaluate their own financial situations before looking for a new or used vehicle.

According to officials, more than 1 million copies of the brochure have been distributed in English and Spanish since its inception.

"While this joint project already has benefited many car and truck buyers, we created a Spanish version to reach and educate an even wider audience," explained Susie Irvine, president and CEO of AFSAEF.

"We are pleased to continue working with auto lenders in an effort to educate the public, including those who speak Spanish, on one of the most important aspects of the vehicle-shopping process — financing," Dale Willey, NADA chairman, added.

"Building consumer awareness is this area is a top priority for NADA, and this brochure helps a great deal in that process," he concluded.

For a copy of the brochure, visit www.afsaef.org, or call the foundation's toll-free number at (888) 400-7577. 

A copy can also be obtained by sending a request to AFSAEF, 919 18 Street, NW, Dept. UVF, Washington, D.C. 20006.