Items filtered by date: February 2012

by Ed Attanasio

There are three sacred things dear to the hearts of Texans: 1) Football 2) NASCAR and 3) Bass fishing. And although there wasn’t any car racing or angling during the recent Super Bowl weekend, there was a lot of football and all of it was done Texas-style.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

On Saturday, February 4, one day before the New England Patriots met the New York Giants in the actual Super Bowl, 20 flag football teams competed in the Van Tuyl Group’s Super Bowl of Flag Football tournament followed by a trade show and two days of company meetings. The Irving-based company that operates more than 70 car dealerships’ collision centers nationwide hosted an activity-packed four-day schedule, bringing Van Tuyl management and employees, as well as collision vendors and local collision professionals together to eat BBQ, network and play some high-spirited flag football.

The entire weekend was the brainchild of Van Tuyl Group’s National Collision Director Darren Huggins, who comfortably wore several hats in creating, overseeing and implementing all of the weekend’s events. Sponsored by Van Tuyl, PPG Refinish and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the full-day flag football double-elimination tournament took place at the Stampede Sports Arena, a state-of-the-art facility in Southlake, Texas that features three artificial turf fields. Autobody News and Collision Hub were also on hand to cover the event and all the fanfare surrounding it.


When I think of a manufacturer who has had hard times over and over, and has still survived, the first name on my list is Chrysler. Of course we know that Chrysler is back from the brink. I would expect these dealers to be hardened, efficient and frugal, but I wasn’t expecting to be surprised.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised to encounter Jerry Ulm Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Tampa, Florida. This dealer is not only a survivor; they are the largest auto parts wholesaler I have ever interviewed.

This is a long term family operation, with roots deep in the community. Jerry Ulm is the son of the original owner, and knows parts and service as well as sales. Rob Brenneke, the fixed operations manager, has been there for fifteen years. Their dealership philosophy is total service to their customers, and the service department will work on any vehicles their customers own. This dealer has earned the Chrysler Dealer of the Year award twice; and probably will again.

This parts department services its customers to the tune of about a hundred thousand dollars in business every day! This is a major operation, requiring forty-five employees in two buildings, and two managers. Their level of volume requires eighteen drivers, six days a week. But that’s not all; they also use an outside delivery service to take parts to their customers—not just in Florida, but also in Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

Published in Williams, Larry

Modern vehicles are complex and increasingly easily totaled; advances like anti-lock brakes and traction control have increased driver control, and increased consumer awareness has improved safe driving practices. This all translates into fewer repair jobs and collision shops must follow best practices to remain profitable. But what about business declines due to steering?

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

Steering has existed since the beginning of the auto insurance industry and, while illegal, it may be here to stay unless something is done to change the awareness, standards within the industry and the laws that govern their behavior.

Steering hurts both the shops and the customer, and if there is going to be progression in this industry, a solution must be found and regulations must be enforced. Good body shops are being forced out of business. Car owners are receiving sub par parts and service. A solution would benefit the entire industry and its customers.

The shops trying their hardest to get work based on their reputation and work aren’t the only ones being affected. The customer is also affected by steering and it can be dangerous to more than the bottom line. Insurance companies can have agreements with shops and vendors where the car owner will get cheaper aftermarket or unexamined used parts, which can have hairline fractures or other structural issues that may be unsafe.

Almost everyone agrees that this practice hurts the industry, but for decades no progress has been made to change it. Obviously a steered vehicle usually ends up at a DRP shop, rather than an independent one, and whether you see steering as good or bad depends on which type of shop you have. One reason there’s not enough opposition to steering is that the shops losing jobs are balanced by the DRP shops that benefit from it. Solutions must be evaluated and once one is agreed upon, implementation and enforcement must be carried out and monitored.

Published in Domenico Nigro

During World War II the US used a secret type of language to send and receive messages, so the enemy couldn’t find out what they were talking about. They enlisted the help of Navajo and Comanche Native Americans as radio operators. These guys used a combination of their language and relative terms as a way to disguise the real message over unsecured radio waves during World War II.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

Most of the coding was done by using a native word for each letter of the message.  Such as, if you were going to say the word “ARMY” they would pick one of the native words that represented a word in English with the first letter “A” and the same for each letter after that. In other words the letter “B” would be sent over the radio waves as, “Toish-Jeh” which means, “barrel” in English.

So the word “ARMY” would have been transmitted something like this: “Wol-la-chee” (Ant) – “Gah” (rabbit) – “Tsin-tliti” (Match) – “Tsah-as-zih” (Yucca)

Thus the word Army would have been spelled out and easily translated at the other end. A lot of times an entire phrase could be stated with one word, or a word that was often used had a selected native word that was used as a substitute. Then on other occasions an English word was thrown in just to confuse the whole thing even more. It was quite ingenious, and believe it or not, the code was never—ever—broken. To quote General Howard Connor (while at Iwo Jima), “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima.”

Trying to sound out those four Native American words (correctly) and translate it into the actual word was easy for these guys. They understood it, it’s their language and they could send/translate and relay an answer faster than any machine available back in the day. They truly were code talkers.

Published in Gonzo Weaver

I was out at Barrett-Jackson in Phoenix last month with a good buddy of mine, Alan Taylor, from Entertainment Radio. I wrote about Alan in last month’s column ( in case you missed it) but that was about SEMA 2011. In Phoenix at the Barrett-Jackson auctions Alan put together something called A World of DIY (as in ‘Do it Yourself’).

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

Alan reached out to me and asked me to come there and show off some tools and demonstrate building a car. I said ‘yes’ without hesitation, “I’ll pack up some tools and drive out there and see what you guys have put together.” He told me “we’ve got a 12,000 square-foot DIY pavilion” inside a tent and we’re going to have a project car there. It doesn’t matter to me what car I’m working on because regardless I’m going to try to do something cool with it. When I found out it was an 1972 El Camino I suggested a toned-down concept. Something clean, more modern. You know, simplify the car and give it that old school look, a couple of rally stripes and choose a great color, add some rims, and we’ve got a car that brings back that 70s feel and some muscle.

I put a concept together, sent it off to Alan, and he’s got feedback right away. “Dude, can you put this blue color on?”, including a paint photo. We collaborated on a concept and a design. I like working this way because when I get there everybody’s not going to ask me what I’m building (because they’ll already have seen the concept.) I don’t like having to sound like a broken record answering the same question over and over and over.

Published in Rich Evans
Thursday, 23 February 2012 17:15

Spotting a Newsworthy Opportunity

This has been a year of extreme weather. Recently, fierce winds blew down hundreds of trees in one area I’m familiar with. Many of those trees damaged vehicles parked on the street or in driveways and those damaged vehicles wound up in a local collision center to be repaired. Those local shop owners obviously were pleased to get the business, but only one that I know of took the time to get some photos and get the story to a local newspaper to get the name of their shop in print. Perhaps if they had acted a bit faster, they could also have gotten their shop featured along with some of the TV news coverage of the wind damage, but any coverage is better than none. To take full advantage of a situation like this requires a real nose for news. Most shop owners are too busy taking care of business to constantly ask, “Is something happening that might get us free publicity and our name and picture in the news?”

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

The amazing thing is every shop owner, manager or estimator is presented with potential news stories most every day. Many vehicle owners who bring a crashed vehicle in for repair have a story to tell. And many of those stories are bizarre and often funny. If the customer is willing to have the story told— and better yet if he or she has some photos—there could be some great material to pass along to the evening news or the morning paper.

Published in Tom Franklin
Thursday, 23 February 2012 17:13

Getting a Guess-timate From the Real Experts

Before you can begin repairing a vehicle, you need an estimate. It’s the easiest part of this whole deal, right? You have a computerized estimating system that allows you to accurately document everything that is needed to fix the car.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

Some say it’s so easy that you can do it remotely by merely looking at a picture. Now that does sound easy! Almost as easy as going fishing with the “Pocket Fisherman.” Ah, the memories. For those not old enough to remember, every man in the world wanted one of those little babies nestled in their glove box.

Why do I reference the inspirational and ageless Ron Popeil and his company, Ronco? It has nothing to do with getting a sales commission. I mention him because he made the impossible seem possible. The trivial and difficult became simplified and logical.

I believe that repairers and insurers view estimating through the never-invented “Ronco Goggles.” (Sorry for another pathetic Popeil reference. If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan and proud owner of an original Pocket Fisherman and Mr. Microphone.)

If estimating is so easy why is it the most misguided, challenged and subjective part of the process? There is an easy answer: It’s not really that easy. Repairers and insurers argue all the time about the estimating process. I’ve heard repairers say, “The cost to repair the car is the cost to repair the car. Insurance companies are just trying to write a low-dollar estimate. Let the experts write the estimates and repair the vehicle.”

Does that sound familiar to anyone? It should.

Published in Insurance Insider

by John Yoswick

Speaking at the January Collision Industry Conference (CIC) in Palm Springs, State Farm’s George Avery said that PartsTrader, the electronic parts ordering system the insurer expects it will eventually require its Select Service shops to use, is currently being tested at one repair facility and soon will be at another location.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

He declined to identify the shops, saying that it is too early in the testing “to put those folks under the microscope and ask, ‘What do you think of the new system?’”

The announcement was just one of the parts-related issues discussed at CIC. The CIC “Parts and Materials Committee” shared the results of a preliminary survey of 11 of the companies offering electronic parts locating and procurement systems to the industry. Committee member Mary Lou Lubrano of reported, for example, that about the same number of those companies said insurers pay for use of their systems as those that said they are funded by parts vendors; two of the companies said shops pay for the systems.

“I would argue that shops pay for all of them, because having nine disparate parts systems, some of which may be mandated by their insurance partners, may require shops to train their people on potentially nine different methodologies to order parts,” consultant Matt Ohrnstein of Symphony Advisors responded during the committee’s question-and-answer period.

Published in INDUSTRY NEWS

Prestige Auto Body in Garwood, NJ always strives for excellence in their repairs and customer service. Owner Sam Mikhail’s efforts were recently brought to light when he was inducted into the AASP/NJ’s Hall of Fame in November, 2011.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

About this, Mr. Mikhail states “It was a surprise to me. I’ve been on the board for a long time, but I am a minority shop when it comes to DRPs. I’ve been active and vocal when it came to DRPs and steering so I know I am not the most popular guy among the DRP shop owners, so for me to get the award never came across my mind. I appreciate the honor and the people that nominated me. I know that my effort and hard work did not go unnoticed.”

He is also happy with the fact that several local newspapers published the story where consumers can see that he practices what he preaches. Sam Mikhail attends the AASP/NJ tradeshow every year because he feels it offers great information about the industry.

As a veteran in the auto body industry, Sam Mikhail sees many negative trends occurring lately. Because shops are being squeezed by insurers resulting in a lot of shortcuts and the use of inferior parts and materials, bad repairs are predominant in the industry. Many insurers overlook procedures that need to be done, changing or altering data to fit their needs. Because of this, he believes many existing shops will go out of business.

Published in Shop Showcase

Checker Auto Body in Huntsville, AL is a small, neighborhood shop with a big reputation for quality and customer service. They like to know their customers by first name, and they offer pick-up and delivery services, especially for their older customers, demonstrating their dedication to helping members of the community. Their website offers a shop “dedicated to providing the Huntsville, Alabama community quality body repair with the emphasis on integrity, honesty and value.”

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

The shop was founded in 2007 by Steve Locascio, Bill Goebel and Alan Andriakos when they purchased a long-running body shop after the owners decided to retire. Checker Auto Body has since built a reputation for quality repairs, superior customer service and dedication to the community. Their website is filled with information to assist the consumer needing a body repair. For starters, it informs customers that they are able to choose the body shop where they want to have their vehicle repaired and do not need to allow the insurance company to choose for them. offers information about how auto body shops work, what to do at the scene of an accident and how to ensure great customer service from an auto body shop. They also offer free estimates and advice to consumers who have been in an accident.

Additionally, the website details the specifics of how they determine what repairs are necessary and what they offer with their collision repairs, frame repairs, automotive painting, auto rebuilding, doors/windows and fleet body repair services. “Performing repairs to the highest possible standards, with absolute integrity, while meeting demanding timelines are the founding principles of the Checker Auto Body Repair business”, according to their website.

Published in Shop Showcase
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