COMMENTARY: Hat’s off to a great career for Kennedy

Dan Kennedy of General Motors (third from right, with award) was Auto Remarketing's first-ever National Remarketing Executive of the Year, presented by ServNet, in 2013. File photo by Jonathan Fredin.
CARY, N.C. - 

At a remarketing industry event last year, I got the rare chance to go fishing during a work trip.

Along with one of the event’s hosts, my partner on the boat that day was Dan Kennedy of General Motors.

Well, after a short-lived stay of not catching a darn thing, the three of us found ourselves a good ways from the pond’s dock. And that’s when the sky opened up.

Though rainwater soaked us for much of the trip back to the dock, the three of us managed to stay in pretty good spirits.

After all, there’s not much that beats spending an afternoon fishing, even if it is a rainy one.

And soon, Kennedy will get a chance — and deservedly so — to spend more time fishing, gardening and spending time with his family.

In mid-February, Kennedy told the industry he was planning to retire (likely before June 1) after 39 years with General Motors, including 31 years spent in the automaker’s remarketing organization.

I caught up with him by phone a few days later.

In addition to sharing a couple laughs about our rain-soaked fishing adventure where zero fish were caught, I talked with Dan about his plans after retirement, what he’ll miss about GM, and what he enjoyed about the remarketing business he has called home for more than three decades.

“It’s a wonderful group of people. And the attitude of the people is very can-do. I think they actually like the challenges that are put before them,” Kennedy said.

When faced with a challenge, Kennedy’s colleagues and business associates don’t say “no.” 

“It might take us a little while, but we’ll get there,” he said. “The people have been outstanding, they really have.” 

And just like you might hop on a fishing boat not expecting a rainstorm, the remarketing business may bring with it some unforeseen challenges. But that’s part of the fun.

“In today’s job, and the job I’ve had for a while, you never know what you’re going to walk into,” Kennedy said. “It’s not a routine, 8-to-5 type of job. You walk in and it’s a little bit of firefighting.” 

Heck, things like weather certainly impact the auction business. You might have hailstorms, snow, flooding — all of which require some maneuvering and adjusting on the fly.

And Kennedy said one of the “unique parts of the job” is the chance to tackle challenges that perhaps you haven’t faced before or faced in a long time.

“We use our talents, we use our resources, but in a lot of cases, we have to get the people involved at the auctions and in the industry to help get things resolved, too,” Kennedy said.

It’s perhaps this kind of collaborative attitude and aptitude for problem-solving that helped earn Kennedy the first-ever National Remarketing Executive of the Year award in 2013, an honor presented by ServNet during Used Car Week’s National Remarketing Conference in San Diego.

He was inducted into the National Auto Auction Association’s Hall of Fame in 2011.

As for his retirement plans, Kennedy said he’s still figuring out exactly what that will look like, though he’s not going to go “cold turkey” right away. It will be more of a winding down period to end his tenure.

“Total separation right away is probably not exactly what I want to do. It’s probably a phase-down type of thing,” Kennedy said.

And while he was careful to emphasize that he is not looking for employment, Kennedy said he does see himself coming back to things like automotive conferences or providing some insight to folks in the business.

“I would hope so. I would hope that I have some qualities, information and experiences that the industry would find helpful and beneficial. So, somewhere down the road,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes.” 

You will certainly find him near the water with a fishing pole, outside working on his garden or volunteering at one of his favorite local charities.

“The phone stays inside, and I just go out,” Kennedy said of gardening. “And that’s kind of my time. Some will call it my therapy.” 

And certainly of great importance, he will get to spend even more time with his wife Sherry, son, daughter and their spouses. And perhaps do some traveling.

“Just kinda see where life takes us,” he said. 

That’s the best kind of adventure.

Reaction from industry

In putting together this column for the print publication, I gathered some thoughts from industry folks who have worked with Dan over the years. Here's a sneak peek at what they had to say, with more to be found in the March 15 issue of Auto Remarketing.

  • “Dan has been the pillar for GM Remarketing for years. His leadership, skill and contributions in the remarketing area has been critical for General Motors over the last 39 years. His contributions have been phenomenal and he will be greatly missed from his General Motors family. I wish him the most happiest of retirements, he surely deserves it!”  — Jennifer Costabile, general director of GM rental sales, used-vehicle activities, fleet & commercial advertising and marketing, General Motors
     
  • “If you look in the dictionary for professional remarketer, there would be one picture and that would be one of Dan Kennedy. The truest professional in all aspects and the finest friend in all of the automotive industry. No one has ever been such a standard in remarketing and the OEM business. It has been such a positive for me to have known Dan all these years and to have learned so much from him. You have earned this next step in life. All the best!”  —Ricky Beggs, Beggs on Wheels, LLC 
     
  • “Dan Kennedy is a very special member of our industry. His vast knowledge of remarketing, his integrity, his work ethic and his friendship will be missed by many, including me. But while I may have to give up working with Dan, I will not give up his friendship. My best wishes and sincere thanks go out to Dan for his many years of service to our industry. Enjoy your retirement!” — Bob Rauschenberg, ADESA executive vice president of sales, marketing and special services 
     
  • “Dan, congratulations on your retirement. You’ve worked hard over the years and accomplished many great successes. Thank you for your partnership and all you’ve done to further our industry. Wishing you a healthy and happy retirement.”  — Sandy Schwartz, president of Cox Automotive
     
  • “On behalf of ServNet Auctions, we want to Thank Dan for his many years of service to the wholesale automotive remarketing industry. Dan’s leadership and persistence has helped guide the industry thru many challenges and his accomplishments are documented by the many industry awards (including Remarketing Executive of the Year) he has garnered.”  — ServNet Auctions 
     
  • “Dan Kennedy was the friend who made you laugh a little bit louder, smile a little bit bigger and made his time with you a whole lot better. He was a member of the NAAA Hall of Fame for all those reasons and much more. I will miss Dan and his commitment to our industry.”  — Frank Hackett, chief executive officer, National Auto Auction Association 
     
  • “One very important trait which makes Dan Kennedy a great asset to GM and our industry was how approachable he was; I can really offer him nothing in return, but when I first met him, he was always willing to talk to me about issues happening in the remarketing world, what’s going with GM and how could he help me be successful at Wheels. He will be missed in the remarketing world and I hope he has a great time in his new adventure!” — Darrin Aiken, assistant vice president of vehicle remarketing, Wheels Inc.

Again, this is just a sample of the great response we received. For full commentary, see the March 15 issue of Auto Remarketing.

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