Not many people can say they enjoy the daily challenges in their business, but International Fleet Sales (IFS) President and owner Mike Libasci can. “That’s why I like it,” he asserts. “It is kind of fun.

“We’re dealing with different cultures and different ways of doing business,” he says. “It’s been a challenge to work a deal with these different folks, secure it and make a profit out of it.”

Based in San Leandro, Calif., IFS is an export distributor of U.S. origin General Motors vehicles. Libasci founded the company in 1999 after a long career in the auto industry. Initially, he worked as a car salesman in California and later was hired at a General Motors retail truck center in Oakland, Calif.

“I sold trucks and worked for General Motors for 22 years,” he recalls, noting that he took advantage of the company’s school program and earned his MBA. “I then decided that I wanted to have my own company.”

When he started IFS, “My focus was on selling GM products around the world,” Libasci says. “In 2000, GM gave me a franchise to do that work, and that’s what we’ve been doing for 15 years now, selling GM products globally.”

Today, IFS has 25 employees and offices in locations around the world, including Shanghai, China; Bogotá, Colombia; Cape Town, South Africa; and Lelystad, The Netherlands. Although GM has a global dealer network, “We sell their product where they may not have a dealer or the product that the dealer has isn’t what a particular customer wants,” he says.

IFS’s customer base, he notes, include U.S. companies that have workers who need vehicles overseas, or customers in other countries that need North American vehicles. In the last decade, “We’ve done 25,000 vehicles,” Libasci says, noting that its clients include the United Nations, Multinational Force & Observers, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

One of a Few

Libasci credits IFS’s success to the GM product as well as its own team, which it has carefully assembled. When hiring, “We’re looking for somebody that can create value in the area that they’re going to be hired in,” he states.

They also need to fit in with IFS’s corporate culture, which leans towards traditional values. “We want people that can produce value and also have an ethical and family oriented disposition,” Libasci says. 

IFS also distinguishes itself with its service, he adds. “There aren’t many other companies that do what we do,” Libasci says. “You have your local dealer on the corner that will sell vehicles to guys across the street.

“But we do business in 80 different countries,” he says. “[We have to] make sure that it meets regulatory issues and make sure we get paid for the vehicles. Only a few other companies do that.”

Rewarding Experiences

IFS’s market has seen procurement increasingly taken away from field offices to reduce costs to the customer, Libasci says. “The trend seems to be bringing the centralization of procurement to the home office, as opposed to delegating it to the field,” he says.

“The bid will go to the headquarters, but they’ll require deliveries to the operating companies,” he says. “We are responding to it and we like that because it makes our life easier.

“We’re dealing with one procurement source rather than 10 field offices,” he says, noting that the headquarters are better organized. “We’re able to have a more rewarding experience with them than the field office.”

Keeping It Local

After 16 years, Libasci is proud of IFS. “The thing that I like the most is all the American jobs we created,” he says. “Those 25,000 vehicles were created in the United States by U.S. workers: the people that assembled, the freight company that transported it and our people in the office that handled the transaction.

“We’ve handled over $1 billion in sales of U.S.-produced vehicles to 80 countries,” he states. “We’ve worked hard to provide American workers with jobs and the benefits.

“If we hadn’t been out there, competing and winning these bids, and providing these products, they would have bought a foreign product,” he states.

Growing Around the World

IFS is looking to the future with a strategy focused on growing its business and sales, Libasci says. “We want to sell more vehicles around the world,” he says.

The company recently signed an agreement with Navistar, a manufacturer of trucks, buses, defense vehicles and engines. “We just did our first transaction with them, which was to sell 24 of their tractors in South Korea,” he says.

Its plans also include building ”a global network of business partners to help me provide product support,” he says. “That’s one of the ways that I think I can increase our business.”

IFS also will concentrate on convincing manufacturers to change their products so they are more acceptable in foreign markets, he adds. “The two areas that I’m focusing on in my fleet of commercial business is developing network partners, as well as getting the manufacturers – GM and Navistar – to provide a product that’s more competitive in the global market,” he states. 

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