A cry for help in consumer leasing

For an industry that hangs on being able to analyze numbers and trends, the auto business is overlooking one big area of competitive data: consumer vehicle leasing.

Individual automakers and financial institutions track their own activity, of course. But there is no central authoritative voice on consumer leasing and the companies that operate in it, John Sternal complained the other day.

Sternal is vice president of marketing at LeaseTrader, a business that arranges lease swaps for consumers who want to get out of one vehicle and into another. He needs to know essentially everything about the market -- retail volumes, factory incentives, inventory levels, lending rates, used-vehicle market conditions... There are people involved in tracking different parts of it, he acknowledges. The National Vehicle Leasing Association looks after the interests of the fleet leasing business, for example.

"But we keep asking, 'Why can't we get one-stop, industry-wide data on consumer leasing,'" Sternal asks. "Why isn't there a voice to represent us? Considering the number of people in the business, from dealers on up, you'd think there would be an association monitoring every move the market made."

Sternal says LeaseTrader has thought about taking on the role of consumer leasing association and data center itself. But no one has the time, he says.

It would be a task for somebody -- or maybe an opportunity.