Gilman, 60, is gray-haired and stocky after 39 years in the industry, mostly at Chrysler and Chrysler Financial. He also had a stint as CFO of Asbury Automotive Group in the early 2000s, a period that included Asbury's initial public offering. He's nowhere near 6 feet 2.
"This is what happens after 38 years," Gilman said.
Toronto's TD Bank acquired Chrysler Financial from New York-based Cerberus Capital Management in April 2011. TD Bank renamed the lender TD Auto Finance in June 2011.
As CEO of Chrysler Financial, Gilman had helped shepherd the former captive finance company through Chrysler's bankruptcy in 2009. Chrysler Financial got left out when the U.S. government bailed out Chrysler and GM and directed Chrysler's captive finance business to Ally Financial.
Chrysler Financial executives were stung in April 2009 when President Obama singled out Chrysler Financial as requiring what he called "an unacceptably large stream of taxpayer money to remain viable -- and that's something I refuse to provide."
Faced with huge losses on lease returns, Chrysler Financial already had quit leasing in August 2008. Gilman said that the process of liquidating Chrysler Financial's legacy lease portfolio left him with an aversion to too much leasing.
The lessons of liquidation
"You learn a lot of lessons when you liquidate a portfolio," Gilman said at the 2012 American Financial Services Association Vehicle Finance Conference in Las Vegas in February in answer to the question: What makes you lose sleep at night?
Gilman said that to stay in leasing, Chrysler Financial needed to raise $30 billion. "We could only get $24 billion," he said. "We had to decide overnight."
Chrysler Financial pulled the plug.
"The day after we announced," Gilman said, "Ford and GM followed suit, and we all got out pretty much overnight. ... Dealers panicked because 90 percent of their volume was leasing. When I hear '30 percent leasing' today, I get nervous. That makes me lose sleep at night."
Gilman spent 27 years at the former Chrysler Corp., where he held positions in finance, manufacturing, product development, sales, marketing, treasury and international operations.
That period had plenty of ups and downs, too, including Daimler-Benz AG's acquisition of Chrysler in 1998. The combined company, DaimlerChrysler, ended in 2007 when Cerberus acquired Chrysler.
Gilman leaves TD Auto Finance in much better shape than TD Bank found its predecessor, Chrysler Financial.
A better place
At the time of the deal, Chrysler Financial had about 3,100 U.S. dealerships. Under Gilman, TD Auto Finance grew to about 8,200 U.S. dealerships as of the fiscal quarter that ended April 30.
TD Auto also nearly doubled in size to about $11.3 billion in outstanding U.S. auto loans. That was up from $9 billion a year earlier. About $6.6 billion in loans came with the original Chrysler Financial acquisition.
Gilman said at the conference that auto sales and auto lending are bound to take off because consumers have postponed buying new cars for so long.
"Right now there's more pent-up demand than at any time since World War II," he said. "When that demand gets released, it's going to be great for [auto lending] companies, great for the car companies and great for the dealers."