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Monday, January 13, 2014 - Business students help kick off auto show at industry event

Eight Oakland University business students got a rare opportunity to meet and network with auto industry professionals, gain insight from executives and catch a sneak peek into this year’s North American International Auto Show at the Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA) 2014 Outlook Conference at Cobo Hall Sunday, Jan. 12.

The thought-provoking agenda featured key note speaker Jim Lentz, Toyota’s North American chief, who predicted slowing car sales growth in the U.S. as the auto industry there enters a “leveling-off” period.

“Automakers have enjoyed four consecutive year-over-year sales increases,” Bloomberg News reported Lentz said at the industry conference. “This year we believe that the industry will start entering a ‘leveling-off’ period and continued sales growth will be more a result of economic gains rather than pent-up demand.”  

Additional speakers included Jessica Caldwell, senior director, industry analysis,, Paul Ingrassia, Reuters News, Brian Johnson, managing director, Barclays, and William Strauss, senior economist and economic adviser, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Joe White, Wall Street Journal.

Mark Phelan, Free Press auto critic, presented a show preview. The event ended with a networking reception.

Oakland University was the only university with students at the event.

“This event was great not only because of those in attendance, but also because it was during preparation of the North American Auto Show,” says Phil Johnson, business economics junior.  “We got a sneak preview of many brand new cars before they were officially unveiled."

"It was great to hear about the outlook of the industry I intend to continue working in upon graduating,” says Drew Steffes, operations management sophomore and Honors College student, who has an internship as an information systems business analyst at Meritor. “Everyone seemed very optimistic about the future."

“The conference was a great way to gain insights into the future of the global automotive industry and to network with professionals,” adds Joshua Yasoni, finance major. “We also touched on key economic trends and the role that they will play in both the near and distant future.”

"It was great having so many Oakland University students participate at the Society of Automotive Analysts' (SAA) 2014 Outlook conference,” says SAA’s Gary Bundshuh, MKT/MIS ’03. “Events like SAA's Outlook are extremely beneficial for students. They provide the opportunity to take part in a real-world Industry conference where subject matter brings academic studies to life. It provides expected graduates with a chance to develop key networking skills that are a big plus for landing their first job.  While balancing classes, work schedules, and the anxieties of a career search it can be easy to overlook the fact that Industry conferences are attended by key corporate decision makers from various levels of an organization. Making a good impression can often lead to inside information regarding current and future job openings.”

The students attended as guests of Oakland's business school, while the SAA provided networking support by seating the students with leaders of the SAA’s Young Professionals Network (YPN), introduced the students at the beginning and end of the event, and arranged for them to meet with Toyota’s president.

“As for the industry, it is extremely valuable to meet highly motivated students like the ones from Oakland's business school. In a time when so much emphasis is placed on the digital resume and ‘canned’ application forms, I still believe that meeting someone in person is far more valuable,” says Bundshuh. “Having the support of the university and a highly motivated professor like Dr. Janell Townsend also plays a critical role. Without the sincere encouragement from professors and faculty, many students may miss real world opportunities like the SAA Outlook Conference to develop their skills. As the Director of the SAA's Young Professionals Network (YPN) I look forward to meeting additional Oakland students at future SAA & YPN events."

PHOTOS: Top OU School of Business Administration students and faculty members with Jim Lentz, Toyota's North American chief (center). Photo by Greg Sadler Photography. Bottom left: OU School of Business Administration students and faculty members with SAA Young Professionals and new Corvette Stingray. Photo by Greg Sadler Photography.  Bottom right: OU School of Business students Karine Celis and Phil Johnson at SAA 2014 Outlook Conference.