WHEN Mike Wear was handed a pen as one of his parting gifts as fleet director of Ford, it was particularly appropriate for several reasons.
At it was a Mont Blanc pen, it was symbolic of his career climb over 33 years from graduate trainee to director. But it also reflects his role in re-writing the history of the company car market, which is acknowledged in a telling figure on the side of the pen.
It reads 2.5 million, which indicates the number of company vehicles sold through the Ford fleet department since he took the helm of its fleet operation in 1994.
It is a staggering figure, almost equalling the highest annual sales achieved by the entire UK car industry. It also means at least one in 10 cars that have hit the roads in the past decade went through Wear's department.
Wear was appointed director of Ford of Britain fleet operations in November 1994 after a career spanning many of the manufacturer's operations.
After graduating in 1969, he joined Ford as a graduate trainee, becoming a demonstration vehicle co-ordinator in truck merchandising in 1971. From 1973 to 1977 he was fleet and leasing sales representative.
After joining the company's Midlands district office as a car sales representative, he was appointed car marketing plans co-ordinator, followed by three years as supervisor of car marketing merchandising programmes.
In 1984, he became area truck sales manager and then spent four years in managerial positions in dealer affairs and business and strategy planning before becoming London and south east district manager.
Before taking up his directorship, he was manager of rental distributions and remarketing.
His record in the fleet division does not stop with achieving an unbroken record as best-selling fleet manufacturer. One of his earliest successes was setting up Ford Direct.
He said: 'It offered a straight forward conduit for disposal of cars that returned within a year, such as rental cars and staff vehicles. Since 1994, when the division was set up, more than 500,000 Ford Direct used cars have been sold.'
Wear admits a tendency to 'badge spotting' – looking out for Ford Direct holograms on passing cars and ticking them off as 'one of mine'.
Another successful launch was the Ford Fleet Business Centre, in Byfleet, which has become a focal point for corporate enquiries from customers of all brands under Ford ownership, including Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover.
Wear said: 'When you take people around, they are impressed by the sheer buzz of the place and the people who work there are genuinely enthusiastic about the role they play.'
He also launched MAGIC (Mobility and General Information Centre), Ford's free telephone information service for disabled and mature drivers.
Then there is his instrumental role in the company's success in commercial vehicles.
Wear said: 'It has grown from a platform for sales to a key division with its own director. It is a huge part of what we do and has become a significant profit contributor.'
In his time at Ford, Wear has seen an immense change within the fleet industry and at the firm.
He said: 'In the early days there used to be huge fleets for companies such as television rental firms, but they don't really exist at the same level any more. As human resources departments became more vocal in companies and started affecting employers' choices of company cars, it changed the landscape because user-choosers behave like private buyers.
'The Ford line-up has changed as well, as we now have everything from the Ka, though to the C-MAX, vans and also the halo effect of the GT. We heard the other day that a Focus RS was sold second-hand recently for £2,500 over the list price.
'There have also been enormous benefits from the wider Trustmark products, such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, because there is no reason for someone to go outside the 'family'.'
During Wear's time at Ford, he believes he focused not only on building business, but also ensuring it was fun.
He said: 'We have a good team who believe in what they are doing and are good at it. But the key message is to make business fun. If you get quality time with customers and staff, you really get to know them and that can make all the difference. There is no replacement for it.
'I have really enjoyed the motor shows and the launches, such as the original launch of the Focus, which was superb. Mondeo and Focus were the two biggest landmark products to be launched during my time with Ford.'
He also enjoyed a run of success at the Fleet News Awards over the years and he had a line of trophies on his windowsill marking each success.
Wear was speaking on his last day at Ford before his retirement, and was tight-lipped about his future moves, saying he planned to play some more golf and watch Nottingham Forest.
But after a short break, it was revealed that after he left Ford he would be joining Motability as manufacturer and dealer relationship director.
He also plans to continue to work on the Vehicle Crime Reduction Action Team for the Home Office.
Wear said: 'I have had a great time at Ford and there is no other job I would have wanted to do. But this is a good time for a change and I am looking forward to the new challenge.
'I have never done a job I haven't wanted to do and it has been a wonderful career so far with terrific memories and a lot of friends.'
Mike Wear fact file