AuSM has learned that longtime auto auction industry leader Jim DesRochers has died.
DesRochers, who was president of the National Auto Auction Association in 2005 and a regular contributor to AuSM, passed away April 29 in Mesa, Ariz. He was 71.
DesRochers, whose career in the car business ran for more than 45 years, received the Industry Pioneer Award from NAAA this past fall at the association’s annual convention.
He had previously been recognized as a Warren Young, Sr., fellow by NAAA, as well.
“Jim loved the auto auction industry. He was an auto auction futurist who always wanted to be first out of the gate with a new idea,” NAAA chief executive officer Frank Hackett said by email Monday.
“He was a thinker that knew how to get things done in a moment’s notice,” Hackett said.
Visitation will be held Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mariposa Gardens Memorial Park and Funeral Care in Mesa.
A funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe, Ariz.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the following charities are encouraged:
Integrity Hospice Care
Hospice Compassus Of the White Mountain
Humane Society of the White Mountains
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
DesRochers’ time in the auction business included 20 years with Manheim, where he served in general manager posts for the auction company’s Fresno, Calif., Los Angeles and San Francisco locations, according to a November news release from NAAA on the Pioneer Award.
DesRochers was vice president of Dealers Auto Auction of the Southwest for a decade, retiring in 2018. He worked for Avis Rent A Car for 15 years before his auction career. Post retirement, he began Auction Consulting Services.
During his auction career, DesRochers was an accomplished trendsetter, NAAA said, leading a slew of industry innovations ranging from the first handheld check-in system (at Manheim Phoenix in 1988) to the first digital bidder badges (at DAASW), from interior lane-viewing (Manheim’s CADE) to a mobile tablet operational (at DAASW).
“Jim was one of the most innovative president that I’ve had the opportunity to serve in my 15 years at NAAA,” Hackett said in the November news release announcing DesRochers at the Pioneer Award winner.
“He challenged the industry with his creative thinking and was always one of the first to point to ways to improve the long-established practices of the auto auction business,” Hackett said.
In addition to his regular op-ed contributions to AuSM, DesRochers was a frequent panel discussion moderator during AuSM’s National Remarketing Conference at Used Car Week.
“Jim’s wealth of knowledge, humor and personality sparked engaging conversations and panel discussions at the National Remarketing Conference,” said AuSM president Bill Zadeits.
“In his AuSM commentaries, Jim was opinionated, thorough, thoughtful and insightful. He was a friend to us all at AuSM and will be missed greatly,” Zadeits said. "We were blessed to have known Jim.”
Former Manheim GM Lafata passes away
AuSM has also learned that longtime auction executive Sam Lafata has died at 85.
“Detroit and Michigan lost a fighter and a champion. Sam Lafata held multiple titles — entrepreneur, boxing financier, devoted philanthropist – during a winning career spanning six decades before succumbing to his final bout with competing health issues,” read a bio provided by Lafata’s family.
“Lafata’s life exemplified the spirit of Detroit, where he was born, raised and built multiple thriving businesses. Tough, competitive and relentless, Lafata’s grit, ingenuity and common touch fueled his success in business, sport and philanthropy.”
In 1972, Lafata built Aptco Auto Auction in Taylor, Mich., before selling it to a UK auction entity 14 years later, according to the bio.
His career in the auction and remarketing business included several stops, including time as general manager of Manheim Detroit, according to the bio. He retired from the business in 2010 as Manheim vice president of special business development.