We feature some of the best columnists in the industry including Toby Chess, Rich Evans, Tom Franklin, Mike Causey, Dale Delmege, Walter Danalevich and Lee Amaradio.
We have contributing writers from different regions of the country: Ed Attanasio, David Brown, Chasidy Sisk and Rachael Mercer.
We also have guest columistslike Richard Steffen of the CRA, and David McClune from CAA.
Collectively they represent a unique perspective with hundreds of person-years of experience. Let us know what you think, by posting responses to their columns.
To read Lee's columns prior to last January search "Amaradio" on this site from the home page
David M. Brown is a native of Philadelphia who has lived in Arizona for 30 years. He writes about subjects he is passionate about, including the car industry. A father of two, he is mentored by his border collie/pointer, Haylie, who is much more concerned with thrown tennis balls than with a beautifully repainted Aston Martin.View items...
Walter Danalevich, AAM, has owned Santa Barbara Auto Refinishing in Santa Barbara, California, since 1979. He enjoys sharing his shop management tips with other shop owners and would like to hear about yours. Contact him at email@example.com
See also his shop website: www.sbautobody.comView items...
The "Insurance Insider" is a corporate-level executive with a Top 10 auto insurer in the U.S.. Although he needs to remain anonymous, he will answer questions emailed to him in future columns. Got a comment or question you’d like to see him address? Email him at Auto.Insurance.Insider@gmail.comView items...
Rich Evans is the owner of Huntington Beach Bodyworks and an award winning painter and fabricator. He offers workshops in repair and customization at his facility to share his unique talents. He also appears on a new show on Speed Channel, Car Warriors. See his Twitter (left) and Facebook (right) feeds for more on Rich's active projects.
For contacts and design samples visit www.huntingtonbeachbodyworks.com
Larry Williams is an innovative, award winning parts manager who has been managing profitable parts departments for over 30 years. He recognizes the importance of OEM parts management to collision repairers and now works as a consultant to the industry. He can be reached for consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.View items...
Business Beat is a new column launching May 2012 in Autobody News. It will focus on investment activities in the automobile and collision industry and will feature guest columnists on a regular basis. Opinions herein are strictly those of the author. Autobody News accepts no responsibility for investment actions taken or not taken based on this column.View items...
David Luehr is the owner of Elite Body Shop Solutions, LLC a collision business consulting firm based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a 30-year veteran of the collision repair industry and has served on several industry association boards across the USA as well as leadership positions with companies such as Manheim and ABRA. David is an expert in Body Shop Operations and specializes in Lean and Theory of Constraints methods. Email him at email@example.com
Over the past two issues (see August and September Autobody News), industry attorney Erica Eversman has offered some insights into the various types of documentation that collision repair facilities can use to protect their interests and help them obtain proper compensation for work performed. In the final installment in this series on repair documentation, Eversman helps explain the purpose for and how to use the Parts Notice/Authorization and the Indemnification/Hold Harmless Letter, with a few additional documents.
20 Years Ago In The Collision Repair Industry (October 1994)
Responding to complaints from the collision repair industry, ADP will be pulling the plug on a program that allowed dealers to promote discount retail parts prices using ADP’s “Parts Exchange New” system.
“As a result of the issues that responsible parties of the industry brought to our attention, we will be taking discounted OEs off the ‘Parts Exchange New’,” ADP’s Rick Tuuri announced at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held in Nashville, TN. “They will be off the system by January 1, 1995. I want to emphasize that this is no reflection on the way the discounted OEs themselves are doing business.”
In last month’s Better Blueprinting Part One, we discussed reasons that shops have failed at Blueprinting. This month we will focus on performing Blueprinting, and how it can greatly benefit your collision repair shop.
To download the PDF version of this article, click HERE.
Blueprint Admin Staffing
Over the years I tried numerous variations and combinations of people to staff a Blueprinting program. All of them worked better than no Blueprinting program, but some combinations definitely worked better than others. Much of what influences your Blueprint staff is simply the size and volume of your shop. Many clients run smaller shops where people wear many hats. In a small shop it is not uncommon for the manager to also be the estimator, the parts guys and the Blueprint guy. It is pretty easy to determine how to staff a really small shop, but what about a shop that is a little bigger? I recently worked with a client that had two estimators, one of them liked being in the shop and the second one was better at dealing with customers. So we moved one of them into the shop to be the Blueprint Analyst, and the other efficiently handled the entire volume of customers as the Customer Service Manager. You may need to experiment with different staffing combinations to make it work for your unique needs.
The marketing world has changed significantly during the past few years. So much has moved on-line that most other marketing expenditures may no longer make sense in your area. If you track results from your marketing efforts, you have probably noticed the lack of business coming from print ads, print version yellow page, and other phone book ads. It may be time to pull the plug on non-productive marketing and make better use of those funds. As insurance companies establish toll-free numbers to report claims, you should probably stop marketing to most agents. Unless you have nearly unlimited funds to advertise just to keep your name in front of the public, you should probably end off radio and TV advertising. And stop paying for useless advertising schemes. These moves should free up money to pay for real marketing results.
Some body shops swear by Angie’s List and call it the “Anti-Yelp,” but in the end, isn’t it just another advertising-based review system? If you’re not familiar with Angie’s List, it’s a paid subscription supported website containing crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses. They currently have 2.8 million paid members, although the company lost $1 million last year.
Pro Paint, the largest PPG Platinum Distributor in the Midwest, held their 7th Annual Trade Show on Tuesday, August 12. The event was held at Orchard Banquet Hall and Restaurant in Baldwin, WI. The event offered a variety of vendors demonstrating their products, six educational seminars, and a special guest appearance by NHRA’s John Force.
Lawmakers and regulators on a state, federal and international level are working to make sure they can stay ahead of the quickly-developing “driverless vehicle” technology – but what will it mean for collision repairers?
That was one of the questions considered in a presentation at the most recent Collision Industry Conference (CIC), held in Detroit, Mich. The committee looked at what laws and regulations are being enacted surrounding the technology, and what that could mean for collision repairers, insurers and other industry segments.
I was recently at a body shop that does amazing work, garners incredible customer reviews and skillfully fixes nearly 200 cars monthly. All of the shop’s techs are dressed in clean uniforms and you could eat off the shop floor. But, then I took a look at their reception area and it’s an OMG moment. Ugly yellow walls covered with greasy handprints; one little table that looks like it was pulled out of the Titanic; magazines from 2010; a coffee machine covered in what looks like mud and an old, beat-up sign on the wall that the guys from American Pickers wouldn’t even want.
My first reaction was shock. Why does this shop work so hard to provide amazing customer service, maintaining a professional image with a highly-trained staff and then they badly fumble the appearance of their reception area (or some call it a “waiting room”), the only part of their shop that customers will definitely see?
Think about it. Collision repair is one of the only industries in the world where your average customer is unhappy before they even interact with you. They’re looking for reasons to take you off their list, in some cases, so why give them any ammunition? A body shop’s reception area should be comfortable, clean and inviting, but so many of them just don’t make the grade. So, we found three examples of body shops that understand the importance of a waiting room that fits the aforementioned qualities. They see the value in making a good first impression, because like the old deodorant commercial used to say, “You may never get a second chance.”
Towne Auto Restoration & Collision Specialists in Randolph, NJ hired Aurora Kitchens and Interiors of Somerville, NJ to completely re-do their reception area in 2011. It won a design award in the National Association of Remodeling’s annual contest in 2012, according to Kelley Evens, the owner and chief designer at Aurora Kitchens and Interiors.
“The owner of Towne Auto wanted to provide his customers with a different experience than is usually found in auto body shops,” Evens said. “A comfortable, upscale waiting area for customers was top priority. Other amenities on the owner’s wish list included a television viewing area, a working area with free Wi-Fi for customers, a gourmet coffee/tea center, an inviting reception desk, an area for insurance adjusters to speak with clients privately, multiple employee work stations and beautiful restrooms.”
Figuring out how to keep the waiting room clean in an auto body shop environment was one of the biggest challenges. “Collision technicians often track oil and grease from the shop into the waiting area when they are speaking with customers,” Evens said. “The key was a durable yet attractive concrete floor with a multi-sized tile pattern, some texture and a color variation from gold to terra cotta. Cleaning is a breeze with just water and a mop. To make the seating area more inviting, a multi-colored jewel-toned rug was used to anchor the space. A brown leather sofa and gold leather chairs were grouped for seating. Their colors complement the concrete floor and area rug.”
While many auto body shops have a single unisex restroom, which is often dark and dingy, the owners at Towne Auto insisted on separate restrooms, each modern, clean and well-lit. “We achieved this through the use of mirrors and artwork, with warm paint colors to keep the restrooms from feeling cold and sterile,” Evens said. “The combination of bold colors, wall art and accent pieces created exactly the effect that the owner was trying to achieve.”
Another award-winning reception area designed by a leading interior design firm was created by VictorEric Design, a Canadian design firm located in Vancouver, British Columbia. “B&D Autobody & Glass, (also in Vancouver) came to us looking to upgrade their space,” according to the company’s blog.
“B&D Auto body is the preferred auto body shop of the Vancouver MINI Cooper Club – they are factory-trained for repairing MINI’s and are used exclusively by MINI Yaletown for body work. That being said they wanted to update their look to suit their new clientele. We wanted to design a waiting area for our client that offered style and comfort, and one that conveyed organization and efficiency. We took a blank concrete canvas and chose to create a cool vibe with bold colors of grey, black and white. We custom fabricated a table topped with glass with a base of stacked tires, added colorful automotive themed artwork and threw in accents of chrome and silver. This is not your ordinary auto body shop. Customers don’t even mind waiting.”
Our third example of a well-received reception area that is both cool and comfortable was designed for Uptown Auto Body in Oakland, CA by Ace Architects, also located in Oakland. Ace’s Co-Owner Lucia Howard loved working on the design and dealing with the shop’s owners Lisandro Allende and Giovanna Tanzillo was a creative and enriching experience, she said.
“Giovanni’s idea behind this project was to create a space where people could forget that they were in a body shop,” Howard explained. “Both owners collect art, so they wanted art to play a role. We were also interested in using car images in the overall look, because Lisandro is a big car guy and loves racing cars. We wanted to inject a ton of their personality into the reception area and I believe that’s what we achieved. We also wanted it to be open, so that when customers enter, they can also see part of the offices, so that they don’t get that stifling feeling. We didn’t want the customers to feel like they were being stored off in some room waiting for their car. When you sit in this reception area, there is so much happening throughout the room that you don’t’ even have a chance to be bored.”
So, maybe it’s time to take a longer look at your reception area. When was the last time you did anything to it? It’s all about what the public sees and perceives, so if you do A+ work, but your reception area is getting low grades from the people who matter the most, a makeover might just be money well-spent.
Repair documentation plays an important role in your collision repair business, but many shop owners are not very familiar with what they need to protect their interests, so I’ve turned to an industry-leading attorney to provide crucial information on what you need to know about documentation in the collision repair industry. Last month, Erica Eversman, Chief Counsel for Vehicle Information Services, Inc. and founder of the Automotive Education and Policy Institute, a non-profit organization geared toward educating consumers, explained how collision repair facilities can use the Authorization to Repair and Repair Contract to receive proper compensation from insurers in legal battles. While those two documents are extremely important, they may not be the only documents you need to successfully pursue a shortpay case in a courtroom. Here, Eversman explains the relevance of an Assignment of Proceeds and Writ of Replevin in these situations.
The purpose of the Assignment of Proceeds is to create a bridge between the insurance company and the collision repair shop, and this is especially important when you have a consumer who is unwilling or unable to pursue proper compensation via a shortpay lawsuit on the shop’s behalf. Though the insurance company owes their customer the duty of indemnity and the customer thus expects their insurer to pay the shop that repairs their vehicle, many consumers simply do not know or care enough to pursue litigation in instances of shortpays. By asking your customers to sign an Assignment of Proceeds, your shop creates a necessary bridge to the insurance company, giving you the right to step into the consumer’s shoes (for purposes of collecting the full repair costs), force the issue and get paid.
The “devil is in the details”, so your first step is going to be hiring an attorney with experience in the collision repair industry who can assist you with properly wording the document. Eversman cautions, “you don’t have the right to sue on the consumer’s behalf for everything, such as diminished value; because you’re only being assigned the rights to proceeds, you can only sue the insurance company to collect proceeds for the repair. You need to understand what this industry is about, clarify exactly what’s going on, and specify which rights are being assigned to you.”
Though a Power of Attorney (POA) would also serve this purpose, customers are less likely to agree to sign this type of document. The problem with the POA is that, while it gives a repairer more power, it is also more complicated, leaving the repair facility with the burden of making all decisions for the customers, so Eversman discourages the use of the POA. While every insurer has an anti-assignment clause written into their policies, most states permit the use of post-loss agreements, making the Assignment of Proceeds a viable option. It also makes sense for the shop to assume responsibility for prosecuting the insurance company, if necessary, since it requires less action on the part of the consumer.
Once you get to the point of pursuing litigation in order to receive proper compensation, you must remember that the burden of proof falls on you, the plaintiff. In court, you should try to avoid allowing the insurance company to present their estimate as evidence because part of your battle entails proving that their estimate is meaningless – as the collision repair professional, YOU are the one with the right to determine how the vehicle should be repaired, while the insurer is merely obligated to pay for the repair, not to control the process (unless the insurance company has elected to repair).
In order for an Assignment of Proceeds to be legitimate, it is imperative that the consumer understand what they are signing, so it is also a good idea to ask your customers to sign a separate document confirming their comprehension of the Assignment of Proceeds. When constructing your Assignment of Proceeds, begin by defining what it is and how it will be used. The purpose of the document is to allow “a transfer of property or other rights from one person (the assignor) to another person (the assignee) which confers a complete and present right in the subject matter to the assignor… Essentially, this means that the assignee stands in the shoes of the assignor,” Eversman explains.
Because the assignment serves as a contract between the assignor and the assignee, it is thus subject to contract law and interpretation. An important item that must be included in Assignments of Proceeds is a definition of the assignable rights which will identify causes of action issuing from a wrong that causes injury to property or from tort by which property is diminished or damaged; both of these are generally assignable. It is also vital to inform your customers that they can assign their right to recover damages to their property without conveying the title to that property.
For an Assignment of Proceeds to be valid, it must contain clear evidence of the intent to transfer rights in addition to a description of the subject matter in question. The assignment must be clear and unequivocal and be noticed to the obligor. While there are no formal requirements regarding the verbiage used in this document, the language must clearly indicate the owner’s intention to transfer the claim.
Valuable consideration is essential to support the assignment, and while the word “consideration” doesn’t necessarily have to appear on the document, Eversman recommends it as evidence of the exchange required to make an Assignment of Proceeds valid. Essentially, this allows you to take possession of the vehicle without receiving payment if the document is signed, but you are also agreeing not to sue the consumer for money owed as part of the assignment.
In your supporting documents, you should also include an Assignment for Money Due which must identify the customer, the repair facility, the vehicle and the loss. As long as this is without defects, it should be enforceable without being notarized (dependent upon state laws).
The Writ of Replevin is a document that the insurance company typically uses to retrieve a total loss vehicle, filing it to say a shop is unlawfully withholding a vehicle when they do not want to pay for the repair. Because this document is only valid if the insurance company can prove the shop is wrongfully withholding the vehicle, it is imperative that you are prepared to defend yourself against a Writ of Replevin by including a clause in the Repair Contract that states the consumer cannot transfer the title of the vehicle without ensuring the repair bill is paid in full. With the vehicle owner’s signature affixed to this verbiage, the insurance company has no right to the vehicle until they have paid for the repair, making their Writ of Replevin effectively useless.
So, with the Authorization to Repair, Repair Contract, Assignment of Proceeds and defense against the Writ of Replevin, you are well on your way to protecting your business interests, but you’ll also need a Parts Notice and Authorization as well as an Indemnification Letter (we’ll cover these next month in the third and final installment of this series). You can still get started right away by contacting a local attorney to start drafting these important documents which will allow you to recover proper compensation on every repair that comes through your shop doors.
Although the Independent Automotive Damage Appraisers Association (IADA) was forced to move the location of their 46th Annual Vehicle Repair Conference to the Lord Baltimore Hotel, located at 20 West Street, Baltimore MD 21201 at the last moment, the conference was successfully held on June 18-20, 2014 as “an educational tool for our members and the industry,” John Williams, Executive Vice President of IABA explains. “For guest speakers, we have experts in various fields relating to current methods of repair as well as what to expect from manufacturers in the future. Our expectations for this event are to promote our association and members as professionals committed to exceeding industry expectations as well as providing our members an educational and social venue to network with clients.”
According to Williams, “attendees were very pleased with both the location and the agenda. Our event always focuses on education and training as well as being a social event for members and guests, and it is important because it provides members with an opportunity to train and remain a viable force in the industry. This year, our conference exceeded expectations. We try to build on what we learned in the past to make our next event even more dynamic.”
Registration for the conference began on Wednesday, June 18, at 1PM and continued until 6PM when IADA held their Welcome Reception followed by exhibitor showcases which concluded at 9PM. After breakfast on Thursday morning, IADA President Leo Maki’s Welcoming Address served as the opening to the event.
IADA planned an exciting agenda filled with informative seminars led by nine industry leaders. Around 8:30AM, the educational seminars began with Wayne R. Schaumburg’s “An Illustrated History of Baltimore,” followed by “Best Claims Practices” which was presented by Harvey Lightstone, Vice President of the Directory of Claims and Risk for Management Claims Professionals Liability Insurance Company. Before lunch, Jim Aulby, Vice President of Claims Protective for Sagamore Insurance, discussed “Heavy Equipment Estimating.”
The seminars resumed at 12:45PM with the Highway Loss Data Institute’s Senior Vice President Kim L. Hazelbaker’s “New Technology of Electronics in Vehicles.” Thursday’s lectures concluded at 4PM with “Investigating Fuel System Contamination” as presented by Jeff Lange, President of Lange Technical Services LTD. Attendees then enjoyed a two-hour break which gave them a chance to visit exhibitors before attending the President’s Reception and dinner banquet.
On Friday morning, Dan Oscarson, Vice President of Global Marketing Insurance Auto Auctions, explored “Marketing Salvage in a Global Economy.” He was followed by CIECA Executive Director Fred Iantorno’s “Getting It Done for the Industry.” The final presentation, “Aftermarket Truck Parts,” was led by Donald B. Cameron, President and Founder of Dawson Truck Parts. After their closing remarks, IADA’s conference culminated with their membership meeting.
“Our 46th conference went well, even after facing the challenge of relocating to the Lord Baltimore Hotel at the last moment due to unexpected issues with the hotel we had contracted with. Our conference has always focused on education and training; this year was no exception!” Williams recalls, “our conference started with an excellent presentation by a local historian speaking about the history of Baltimore, and attendees were amazed to learn how Baltimore’s history helped shape many industrial and cultural advances we enjoy to this day. Attendees were given a glimpse of future vehicle technology as well as a look at the past to learn how far vehicle technology has progress and what to expect in the future.”
In regards to the valuable information provided at the conference, Williams also notes that “a presentation on Global Salvage was of great interest to learn how salvage vehicles are being purchased in the US, then shipped in cargo containers with available parts to repair included with each vehicle. Vehicles that would not be put back on the road are repaired in many third world countries due to cheap labor and a shortage of vehicles. Vehicles we take for granted are a luxury in many countries since few have options such as air or other power options.”
IADA was first founded in 1947 as the Independent Appraisal Plan (IAP) with a mission “to offer an unbiased automotive specialist appraiser to assess vehicle damage and establish a fair cost of repair,” Williams recalls. That same year, IAP was approved by the Association of Casualty and Surety Companies and the National Association of Mutual Companies. In 1964, the IAP reorganized and was reborn as the IADA, a national not-for-profit trade association.
Currently, IADA has 98 members in 43 states who employ more than 600 appraisers in over 400 service locations. Over the past 15 years, membership in IADA has increased around 15%. Williams details their membership process: “in order to apply for membership, applicants are required to have five years’ experience in the industry and owned and operated an appraisal firm for the past two years. We conduct a background investigation on all applicants, followed by a site inspection requiring the applicant to prepare a professional damage appraisal. Our Board of Directors then vote on the applicant.”
Though obtaining membership to IADA seems somewhat involved, the cost-savings benefits offered to members makes it well worth the effort. For starters, E&O/GL insurance is provided under a blanket policy and is included in membership dues with no additional charge. Members receive discounts on estimating software from all three providers plus discounts on CarFax, NADA Online and Old Cars Price Guide reports. IADA members are also listed on the association’s website as well as in their annual service directory, around 7000 copies of which are distributed throughout the industry. In addition to the national marketing supplied, members have the opportunity to attend IADA’s national conference which provides them with useful educational seminars as well as the chance to network with other IADA members.
Still, IADA strives to continually add new member benefits in their efforts to attract new members. They also continue to promote educational and training seminars at regional and national events. The association works toward securing new business for their members by “upholding the integrity of the association and being consistent with our honesty policy to enhance our position with the public, insurance industry and automotive repair businesses,” Williams explains. “Our current goal is to recruit new members who have an interest in joining a professional organization dedicated to serving the industry with truly ‘Trained Professionals.’ Our members take pride in delivering professional, unbiased damage appraisals. Our goal is to treat the consumer the way we would expect to be treated if we had a claim.”
Regarding challenges currently facing the industry, Williams notes, “DRP programs have impacted our volume of business to a great degree. While DRPs may be a good concept for smaller losses, I feel some carriers’ attempts to completely control the repair process, no matter how large or small the loss, is a mistake. Having owned and operated an appraisal firm for 24 years, I enjoyed a great working relationship with repair facilities. Preparing an accurate appraisal and securing an agreed price with a reputable shop is quickly becoming a lost art. The industry is losing qualified appraisers at a rapid pace. Many of our members had second, third and fourth generation family taking over their businesses, but we are no longer seeing as much of that.”
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