SOUTHEAST NEWS (436)
Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, N. Carolina, S. Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee
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Marathon Collision in the greater Charleston, SC, area has promoted female employees to key positions across the company.
“When promoted, decisions are made based on merit and skill set, not gender,” said Robert Sadeghian, general manager. “It just so happens that many of these promotions are female.”
At Marathon Collision, the entire front office is female—from the estimators, to the service writers, to the customer advocates.
Marathon’s staff is just as good at greeting a customer as they are getting underneath a vehicle to assess hidden damage.
Marathon works with local technical colleges to recruit employees and high schools where students from shop class work as interns.
“Accidents happen on average every seven years, and as the population continues to grow, so does the collision business. ”
Since the front office has gone 100 percent female, Marathon has seen a greater interest from female job applicants, in addition to higher customer service scores. “It’s the message AND the messenger,” said Sadeghian. “Females have a Midas touch with customers.”
Attorneys for repair shops that filed suit against State Farm and more than a dozen other insurers recently responded to the State Farm request for the U.S. Middle District of Florida Court, Orlando division, to dismiss their antitrust and steering lawsuit, saying that there is “more than sufficient facts asserted to satisfy the pleading requirements.”
The Florida repair shops sued State Farm and dozens of other insurers. To learn more, view the Property and Casualty Insurers Hit With Antitrust Suit by Florida Auto Body Shops article from the April edition of Autobody News.
“Plaintiffs allege that defendants imposed maximum price limitations for automobile parts and services, adopted similar reimbursement policies and practices, and attempted to steer customers away from shops that refused to adhere to defendants’ price limitations. The ‘crucial question,’ however, is ‘whether the challenged anticompetitive conduct stem[s] from independent decision or from an agreement, tacit or express,’’ State Farm attorneys write in their response.
“As a general rule, businesses are free to choose the parties with whom they will deal, as well as the prices, terms, and conditions of that dealing,” they claim. “Section 1 of the Sherman Act does not preclude a party from unilaterally determining the parties with whom it will deal and the terms on which it will transact business…At the pleading stage, ‘formulaic recitations of a conspiracy claim’ are insufficient, and ‘a conclusory allegation of agreement at some unidentified point does not supply facts adequate to show illegality.’…The complaint fails utterly to meet the standards set by the Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit for pleading conspiracy.”
In response, the repair shops’ attorneys argue that the claims in their complaint are valid.
“Defendant State Farm’s motion rests primarily upon the incorrect assertion the complaint fails to set forth sufficient facts to satisfy the pleading requirements,” attorneys write. “Repeatedly and throughout the motion, defendant State Farm misrepresents both the contents of the complaint and quite often the holdings of authority to which it cites. When the correct legal standards are applied, a straightforward reading of the complaint establishes there is more than sufficient facts asserted to satisfy the pleading requirements.”
“Defendant State Farm’s numerous misrepresentation of fact and law do not alter this. The motion to dismiss is without any merit, legal or factual. The plaintiffs respectfully submit it should be denied in its entirety,” attorneys claim.
The repair shops’ attorneys also responded to Geico’s request for dismissal, writing, “[Ge]ico’s motion rests primarily upon the incorrect assertion that the complaint fails to set forth sufficient facts to satisfy the pleading requirements. Repeatedly and throughout the motion, defendant Geico misrepresents both the contents of the complaint as well as citations to authority, holdings of the cited courts, and the procedural posture of those cases. When the correct legal standards are applied, a straightforward reading of the complaint establishes there is more than sufficient facts asserted to satisfy the pleading requirements.”
The judge had not issued any decisions at press time.
The Georgia Collision Industry Association (GCIA) March member meeting was held at the Doubletree Hotel in Atlanta, GA, on March 20, 2014.
After enjoying a catered dinner, attendees received valuable information aimed at aiding shop owners and managers in their day-to-day operations from the two speakers. GCIA executive director Howard Batchelor explained that the goal of the February 2014 meeting was “to help educate shops on key issues in the industry that they need to be aware of.”
Reid Heiser of Mitchell International began by discussing their RMC Paint and Material calculator. Batchelor recounts, “he mentioned that this type of invoicing can help overcome paint and material thresholds, and it can also help you get paid on special colors that the typical refinish hour times material rates don’t account for.”
Next, Bob Winn from Enterprise Rent-A-Car discussed several ARMs reports that should be reviewed on a daily basis. In particular, Batchelor notes, “the LOR (Length of Rental) report is very important in tracking your cycle time.”
According to Batchelor, the meeting “went very well. The event was well-attended, and I believe attendees found value in the presentations.” For Batchelor, these types of educational meetings are important for GCIA members and the industry at large because they “help shops be better prepared to address issues that affect their businesses.”
Currently, GCIA is gathering information for their eighth annual labor and material rate survey.
Despite the harsh and unusual weather in the southeast portion of the country, the Automotive Aftermarket Association Southeast (AAAS) has been hard at work in their efforts to strengthen the industry—they aren’t going to let a little snow and ice slow them down! Currently, their main focus is on two upcoming lobbying events, but they are also preparing to award scholarships as their scholarship deadline draws near and planning for their annual conference in June 2014.
Legislation to allow counties to exempt owners of antique motor vehicles from the privilege tax was approved by the Tennessee House and Senate. Under the bill, the county may also only require a one-time-only payment of the tax. According to the state, the average amount of the one-time tax imposed would be $43.10.
In Tennessee, an “antique motor vehicle” is a motor vehicle more than 25 years old with a non-modified engine and body that is used for participation in, or transportation to and from, club activities, exhibits, tours, parades, and similar uses as a collector's item; on the highways for the purpose of selling, testing the operation of, or obtaining repairs to or maintenance; and for general transportation only on Saturday and Sunday. The bill will now be sent to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature and enactment into law.
St. Augustine Family Struggles to Recover From Complete Loss of Shop in Fire, Cause Officially Undetermined But Source of Fire Was Not Near Flammable MaterialsWritten by staff
Abe Chatila has opened a new tire and automotive repair business, Complete Automotive and Tire, on U.S. 1, north of St. Augustine, FL, after his auto body repair business, Complete Collision, was destroyed in a fire in January 2014. The Chatila family is used to making adjustments in the business world, and they might be dealing with their biggest one yet right now, according to Peter Willott, writing at StAugustine.com.
Fixtures of the automotive business in St. Augustine, the Chatilas are trying hard to recover from the loss of their collision repair center off State Road 207. The body shop was completely destroyed by a fire that started just before midnight on January 20, 2014.
“Everything that was there is gone,” said Abe Chatila, one of three brothers who work at the family-owned businesses Complete Collision and Complete Automotive and Tire.
“It was a super old building. It wasn’t so much the building (that was lost) but what was inside.”
The building contained all the tools of the trade as well as several cars that had been purchased to be fixed up and resold. Many of items lost from inside the building were either not covered by the insurance policy or under-covered so that they cannot all be replaced.
Chatila said he got a text in the middle of the night from his brother that there was a fire at the body shop.
He lives on Anastasia Island and rushed to the site. Driving over the State Road 312 bridge, Chatila could already grasp the seriousness of the damage by looking in the direction of the shop.
“It was just a glow and smoke everywhere,” Chatila said. “There was nothing that was salvageable.”
After investigations by the fire marshal and insurance adjuster, Chatila said the cause of the fire was declared officially as undetermined. But because it started in an area where there were no flammable materials, there is suspicion that it was arson—whether accidental or intentional.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. There were no injuries, which was the good part. But the losses were above the level that insurance will cover, Chatila said, which is the bad part. Chatila said he isn’t sure if the family will ever reopen the collision repair side of the business, but the site of the fire is also the location of the towing business, which operated as part of Complete Collision. The towing service, which was purchased from Fulkerson Towing, remains a viable business. Neither of the two trucks were damaged by the fire.
Working with brothers Mohammad and Abdul and father Riad, Chatila helps run Complete Automotive and Tire on U.S. 1 North. That property was leased shortly before the fire destroyed the body shop. In fact, it hadn’t even opened its doors when the fire occurred.
“The idea was to have both businesses running (together),” Chatila said. “The body shop is totally gone for now.”
What hasn’t ended is the ambition of the family. While working to establish a customer base at the tire/repair shop, Chatila and his family are ready to start a new venture.
The family was granted approval for used car sales by the city Planning and Zoning Board at the northern section of the property where the repair shop sits.
Moving from one aspect of the automotive industry to the next is what they’ve always done. Chatila said he remembers working with his dad as a child when Riad owned Anastasia Mobile and Anastasia Towing.
“We’ve always been in the automotive business one way or another,” he said.
Despite the financial and emotional losses from the fire, the Chatilas are committed to remaining part of the local business scene.
“It hasn’t discouraged us,” Chatila said. “We’re moving forward.”
The Independent Auto Body Association (IABA), not to be confused with the Indiana association with the same acronym, is currently inactive as they restructure their leadership, but they have big plans for the future for when they’ve regrouped. Mike Causey, president of IABA, is excited about these upcoming changes and shares some information about the association.
IABA was founded around the turn of the century, 1999-2000 that is, because a group of small body shop owners in Western North Carolina “were fed up with insurance companies steering customers away from their shops in favor of large body shops willing and able to sign on their insurer’s direct repair programs (DRPs),” Causey recounts.
Taking the lead on resolving this dilemma, Tommy Green, one of the owners of a collision repair facility, circulated a petition that was endorsed by 60 shop owners before being forwarded to elected officials in Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, NC.
At the time, Causey was running for a statewide office, to be the North Carolina insurance commissioner, but when Green contacted him to ask about starting a collision repair association, Causey aided the involved shops by drafting a constitution and by-laws for the new statewide association that was to be called the Independent Auto Body Association. Causey notes, “the ironic part is only a small handful of those petition signers had the will to join the association. So the IABA started with only five western North Carolina body shop owners. The initial goal was to pass legislation in North Carolina to stop steering, or at least slow it down.”
After losing the election for insurance commissioner in November 2000, Causey agreed to represent the IABA as a legislative lobbyist at the North Carolina General Assembly. Causey and Green immediately engaged in discussions with key representatives about drafting proposed legislation to help consumers by enforcing their right to choose the body shop where their vehicle would be repaired. In October 2001, the IABA’s proposed House Bill 13—the Consumer Motor Vehicle Repair Act—was signed into law by the state’s governor; this success launched Causey’s part-time career as a writer for various collision repair publications, including Autobody News. Since the association’s inception in North Carolina, they have expanded their service area to include Virginia and South Carolina as well.
When invited to contribute feedback on IABA’s beginnings, Tom Green stated, “the only guy I ever met who was equally as persistent as myself had to be Mike Causey. Looking back 14 years ago, I believe that we both had a good understanding of what we were up against at the time. House Bill 13 was originally written by Wilma Sherrill, State Representative for Buncombe County 116 District, and she also deserves a tremendous amount of credit for passage of the bill through the State House of Representatives. She is, without doubt, one of the best Representatives to ever serve in North Carolina’s House of Representatives. I still to this day often wonder what we might have accomplished had more people got involved. Like I used to tell those guys back in the day, ‘I’ve never seen a war won on your knees or sitting on your ass.’”
Though the IABA is currently inactive as they work on reorganizing the association with new officers, they still anticipate the need to overcome a multitude of challenges once this regrouping is completed. Causey notes that the biggest challenges that the IABA faces in maintaining operations is “apathy from body shop owners, opposition from insurance companies, and financial challenges.”
The general disinterest and unwillingness to get involved that is pervading the collision repair industry lends itself to the IABA’s goals, which, according to Causey, are “to survive as an association in the fact of such apathy by shop owners and to get more members by getting body shops involved. Most shops show little interest in participating in associations or meetings. Most are afraid of the insurance companies, it seems, and don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ or make waves.”
Although the IABA is not currently working on any legislation, their mission as an association includes getting legislation passed to help consumers and small business owners, as well as “to educate the public (and elected officials) on their rights, help consumers, and help ‘level the playing field’ for shop owners,” Causey explains.
Of course, Causey recognizes the challenges of these aspirations, especially regarding legislation—“the main challenge is getting enough shop owners and managers behind the proposed legislation. Then, [we have to rally] consumer groups and individuals interested in consumer protection. The next challenge is funding to hire a professional lobbyist to guide the legislation through the legislative process, which sometimes can take many months or years. Insurance companies always oppose consumer-oriented legislation that takes any control away from insurers in the repair process.”
Discussing current legislative initiatives related to the collision repair industry, Causey notes, in regards to the PARTS Act, that “IABA favors full disclosure legislation. Give consumers a choice, and make it clear that the consumer can choose OE parts or otherwise.”
The IABA is also against any mandated parts-procurement systems, such as State Farm’s PartsTrader because “it is a one-sided agreement in favor of the insurer. Plus, it harms the local economy by cutting local suppliers out of the loop.”
This view relates back to what Causey sees as the biggest problem currently facing the industry today: “control of the repair process has been taken over by the insurance companies. Insurers now dictate what shop gets the repair job, where the shop will buy the parts, what price the shop will pay for the parts, how much money the shop gets paid—regardless of whether the shop will take a loss. Insurers have near-total control of the process.”
Through their efforts, IABA hopes to restore control of the collision repair industry back to the repair professionals to whom it truly belongs. The first step to change is getting involved!
The Boys & Girls Club of Highlands County, FL, has acquired a box truck for use in picking up and delivering large donations for its downtown Sebring, FL, thrift store, The Emporium.
Board member Paul DuBrule, Elli-B Honey Company owner Robert Elliott, and volunteer Patty Bird of Avon Park were instrumental in obtaining the truck.
The Boys & Girls Club is an organization that provides daily after-school programs for 300 local children, ages six to eighteen, who are either from single parent homes or homes where parents both work multiple, low-paying jobs and are not at home when the children arrive after school.
The Boys & Girls Club is a safe place for children to go where they receive a snack, help with their school work, recreation activities, and guidance with socialization.
The “Five Core” program of the club consists of guidance in character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sports and fitness.
The donated truck is not new, but it is very serviceable and much appreciated by club staff members. The Emporium manager Levon Stukes is thrilled to have the truck. “Man, what a help...couches, easy chairs, and large appliances are tough to load in a van or a small pickup. We can put a lot of items at once in the box truck and we won’t have to keep running back and forth to the store after every delivery or pick up like we had to before,” he said.
Stukes and Boys & Girls Club director Woodraun Wright plan to make the truck a “rolling billboard” that will generate much-needed income for the club by advertising local businesses.
The truck needs to be stripped of its current graphics and painted, which will involve a lot of hard work. Wright and DuBrule contacted Beverly Ragland, owner of Duck’s Body Shop at 1153 Hawthorne Drive, Sebring, FL, who will paint the truck at no charge. It should be ready by mid-April 2014, DuBrule said.
The plan is to offer local businesses the opportunity to purchase advertising space on the truck.
A local sign company will produce the vinyl signage for each business and it will be applied to the truck, which will also display the Boys & Girls Club logo.
Russom’s CARSTAR Collision recently celebrated the grand opening of its second shop location in Dyersburg, TN, during a local chamber of commerce event, CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts announced. The shop is independently owned by Brad Russom, who joined the CARSTAR network in 2010 with his first shop location in Rutherford, TN. “We congratulate Brad Russom on his expansion to a second store and their continued commitment to excellence,” said David Byers, CEO of CARSTAR.
Pack Brothers Collision Center of Belmont, NC, has won a short-pay arbitration case in a Lincoln County North Carolina court against Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.
On February 3, 2014, a judge awarded a customer of Pack Brothers a little more than $3,000, which was owed to Pack Brothers for collision repairs that Nationwide refused to pay upon completion of their insured’s car.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the customer with a Power of Attorney assigned by the customer in cooperation with Pack Brothers. The customer was insured by Nationwide, which refused to pay for repairs for a first-party claim. According to Pack Brothers, Nationwide did not honor their policy and refused to pay them for the repairs. A judge found that under the policy language, Nationwide did owe their policyholder so he could satisfy his collision repair bill. The judge entered a judgment against Nationwide finding in favor of the customer so that he could pay Pack Brothers.
“Insurance companies are so used to saying that they will not pay for correct repairs, and they know that very few shops will push it into litigation,” said Ronnie and Larry Pack. “Therefore, they continue to deny payment to the shops because they know it’s time consuming and expensive for the shop owners to pursue.
“What we are seeing is that insurance companies are short-cutting repairs, and so the repairs to the car are now compromised because of the insurance company refusal to pay for the correct repairs needed. Therefore, some of the shops are short-cutting the repairs to make up for that loss— which ultimately makes the customer the loser.
“Our victory means nothing unless the whole industry gets involved and demands to be paid for correct repairs.”
Shane Steele, new owner of Elite Auto Collision, has worked in the industry for more than 20 years, and opened his new body shop February 20, 2014, on Hazelbrand Road in Covington, GA. Steele spent many years working with DuPont developing expertise in automotive paint technology. Not only does Steele understand the science behind automotive paint and the painting process, he also has taught hundreds of other painters how to perform their jobs. He has worked in shops as an employee, as a trainer, as an adviser, and as a business coach helping other shop owners. All the while, he kept as his goal to own a collision shop one day and create a business that would stand apart from all the others. He started with one shop in Georgia and quickly added new locations throughout northeast Georgia.
Steele said he chose Covington because he saw a strong business climate in Newton County that will continue to grow with the arrival of Baxter International and the continued growth of the film and television industries. He also cited the area’s strong technical education resources, as well as “a huge need for our services.’’ Steele said Covington is the type and size of community where a business owner can build lasting relationships with customers while at the same time making a difference in the community. He said Covington has a small-town feel, but its business and government leaders work together to foster positive growth in the community.
Elite Auto Collision has a combination of highly-trained technicians and new, state-of-the-art equipment. The company started as a family owned business in Bogart, GA, before opening other locations throughout the area.