WESTERN NEWS (567)
California, Arizona and Nevada
Autobody News Western print edition is mailed to 8,500 body shops monthly
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a measure August 30 allowing tens of thousands more Californians with environmentally friendly cars to drive solo in carpool lanes according to reports made by the LA Times and 10 News San Diego.
Lawmakers worked late into the night August 30, the second to last day of the 2009-10 legislative session. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took some action of his own, signing into law a measure expanding the list of environmentally friendly cars that qualify for permits to use carpool lanes.
The measure will allow up to 40,000 more California motorists to drive solo in the special lanes. It also extends the lifespan of existing permits for hybrid and electric vehicles. The bill, SB 535 by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by General Motors, would provide thousands of permits for new models of fuel-efficient cars.
The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Inc. (AIAM) supports passage of a bill by the California legislature to reduce copper dust from vehicle brake pads that can wash into urban watersheds. AIAM members worked closely with California lawmakers, industry organizations, municipal water agencies and environmental groups on SB 346 to find an approach to brake pad reformulation that protects the environment without compromising public safety.
“We believe SB 346 provides a balanced approach to achieving California’s environmental goals while maintaining vehicle brake safety,” said Michael J. Stanton, president and CEO of AIAM.
“Brake dust” can contain copper and other materials and is created by friction when the brakes are applied. SB 346, authored by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), sets limits on the amount of copper used in brake pads starting in 2021. By 2025 there will be a virtual ban of the mineral. Owners of vehicles designed with brake pads containing copper will have access to replacement parts for the life of their cars.
“The bill establishes a challenging goal that we and our suppliers are committed to meeting,” said Stanton. “We thank Senator Kehoe for all that she has done to bring the various parties together on this bill.”
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is considering a recent court decision a victory for consumers, as a lawsuit that attempted to stop the Commissioner from protecting Californians in connection with the Executive Life Insurance Co. was dismissed by the Court, according to reports made by Insurance Journal.
Last year, the Commissioner denied a request for permission to buy a California insurance company from a foreign company whose owner is the defendant in a multi-billion dollar lawsuit brought by Commissioner Poizner.
The sale would have siphoned money out of the United States while a federal court is in the process of determining how much that owner, French company Artemis S.A., ought to pay in compensation for previous fraud, according to the Commissioner. The proposed seller in the transaction, Artemis subsidiary Aurora S.A., subsequently sued the Commissioner for denying the transaction. A court rejected that lawsuit.
“It’s my job to protect policyholders, and when I saw the harm this transaction could cause to former Executive Life Insurance Co. policyholders, I refused to allow it,” said Commissioner Poizner.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woolard rejected the lawsuit against Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, ruling that Commissioner Poizner acted properly when he denied approval of a sale transaction that had the potential to cause harm to former policyholders of Executive Life Insurance Co.
The suit is part of the on-going fallout resulting from the failure of Executive Life in 1991 and the massive fraud that was committed by French companies and companies owned by the French government in the subsequent insolvency proceeding.
The lawsuit concerned an attempt by Reassure America Life Insurance Co., a subsidiary of insurance giant Swiss Re, to purchase Aurora National Life Assurance Co. Aurora National is the life insurance company that was set up in 1992 to take over insurance policies from the insolvent Executive Life.
When it was established in 1992, Aurora National was purportedly owned by a consortium of French and Swiss companies. In 1999, the Commissioner learned that the ownership of Aurora National was a fraud and the true owner was a French government-owned bank, in violation of California and federal law.
The Commissioner sued in federal court in Los Angeles and recovered more than $700 million to date for former Executive Life policyholders. The lawsuit is still pending against one of the defendants, French company Artemis S.A.
While the Commissioner’s fraud lawsuit is pending against Artemis, Reassure America filed for permission to buy Aurora National from Aurora S.A. The timing of the sale would get Artemis’s share of the sale money to France, out of the reach of the Commissioner before he could obtain a judgment against Artemis in federal court. Artemis’ share of the sale will be paid to former Executive Life policyholders if the Commissioner wins his suit against Artemis.
The Commissioner denied the application on the grounds that the sale would harm former Executive Life policyholders and Reassure America demonstrated a lack of integrity in attempting to conclude the sale now, when it knew that harm would occur to its own policyholders.
Judge Woolard agreed, ruling that it was not an abuse of discretion for the Commissioner to consider the interests of Executive Life policyholders in his decision.
The San Diego chapter of the California Autobody Association met July 27 at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse in San Diego. The chapter was able to discuss the BAR code of regulations with guest speaker Peter Vann as well as David Jones’ campaign for CA Insurance Commissioner.
Peter Vann gave a presentation about codes and regulations pertaining to the use of aftermarket parts versus OEM parts and how to properly fill out estimation forms to coincide with insurance company standards. Vann also discussed the BAR equipment requirements for auto body shops, specifically equipment used for structural repair purposes.
The San Diego CAA held a fundraiser to benefit Jones at Parkway Bowl in El Cajon on August 13. PAW PAC is supporting Dave Jones’ campaign for CA Insurance Commissioner.
Dave Jones will be interviewed in the October issue of Autobody News.
Drew Ford in La Mesa, CA, held a free extrication demonstration and seminar on late model cars on August 5. I-CAR Instructor and Welding Specialist Toby Chess led the demonstration after giving a one-hour seminar on how to efficiently and safely cut through damaged and mangled late model and hybrid vehicles.
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Drew Ford put on the seminar for free in their collision center for any firefighters, EMTs, police and first responders that wanted to attend. The seminar was given free of charge thanks to seminar sponsors; State Farm Insurance, DuPont, Auto Club of Southern California, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, West Autowrecking, Ken Industries and the California Autobody Association.
“It’s self-serving; I know this training is necessary,” said Ted Stein, Ford Service Manager at Drew Ford, “These guys need to know how to cut apart new cars.”
Firefighters made up most of the crowd; the event had about 50 confirmed guests who had made reservation prior to the meeting but late comers without reservations were welcomed. San Diego area Fire Departments in attendance ranged from Campo to Elfin Forest.
“It’s hard to get vehicles in this condition to work with,” said Jack Glassford, an Elfin Forest Fire Department Volunteer. Glassford also said the types of vehicles advertised to be at the seminar were a real selling point for him to attend.
“My captain told me I should head down,” said Matt Faddis, a Viejas Firefighter.
The wrecked vehicles were donated from State Farm Insurance, Auto Club of Southern California and West Autowrecking. Several late model vehicles as well as two hybrids were available for attendees to practice cutting on.
“The structure of todays cars are radically different than anything you’ve probably dealt with,” said Ted Stein. Stein introduced Chess’ presentation and thanked firefighters who turned out to learn about new techniques in the industry.
Toby Chess’ presentation focused on how to work with high strength steel and some new electrical components found in late model cars, especially hybrid vehicles.
“Most of these guys have never had the opportunity to work on late model cars,” said Chess, who said he has taught more than 2,000 firefighters the techniques to quickly and safely work with new technologies found in late model cars in the last year and a half.
CDs of Chess’ PowerPoint were provided to attendees after the seminar. Chess’ presentation went over into how to completely cut power in newer vehicles, how to avoid the electrical components around a hybrid car’s battery and how to find the weakest spots on the frames of vehicles made with high strength steel.
“We put a lot of effort into this and we’re happy with the turnout,” said Larry Houk, Drew Ford Collision Center Manager and local CAA chapter president.
While all attendees seemed to understand the seriousness of the material Drew Ford also wanted to make it a fun night by providing a buffet-style dinner and raffle at the end of the night.
All extrication equipment was provided by Holmatro Rescue Equipment. More information can be found at www.holmatro-usa.com.
The Nevada Collision Industry Association (NCIA) was founded in 2004 to promote the interests of those involved in the business of repairing both mechanical and collision-related damage.
Autobody News talked with several of the members and officers to get a better idea of the issues facing repairers in Nevada.
“Although we don’t have separate collision and mechanical repair divisions, we try to represent the entirety of the industry, including paint companies, wreckers, glass companies and even those businesses that sell support services such as estimating software,” says Kurtis Rosborough, chairman of the NCIA and owner of Certified Autobody Center in southwest Las Vegas.
The NCIA holds quarterly meetings to discuss and take action regarding the direction of the association as well as schedules fund-raising events to supplement dues. In addition, the group regularly informs members of any new requirements by federal, state or local governments such as by the EPA and OSHA. Regular I-CAR training sessions are held, and guest speakers also appear at times.
A proposed crash tax ordinance before the Sacramento City Council sends a message that Sacramento operates like a small-town speed trap, gouging unwary non-resident drivers, according to Sam Sorich, president of the Association of California Insurance Companies.
Sorich intends to testify against the proposed ordinance, which was scheduled to receive a final City Council vote August 17 at Sacramento City Hall but was postponed until September 14, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The ordinance would impose a tax—or what the city calls a fee—on non-Sacramento residents who are involved in traffic accidents within the city limits. The fee would be imposed on at-fault, non-resident drivers.
“Sacramento is rightly proud to be the capital of America’s largest state. It should be welcoming with open arms those from outside Sacramento who work in the city and visitors from around the world.
“Instead, the city plans literally to add insult to injury,” said Sorich.
He noted that Sacramento, like most local governments, faces some tough economic challenges. But taxing out-of-town motorists—including the thousands of workers who commute into the city every day—is dreadfully wrong and unfair. The ordinance anticipates contracting with a third-party billing company that will bill insurance companies. The ordinance’s scheme is based on the notion that insurance companies will pay the bill.
“But the fact is that auto insurance policies were never designed to cover these fees. Therefore, many accident victims will be forced to pay the tax out of their own pockets. The fees could be $2,000 or more. For insurers who pay the tax, it represents an increase in costs—which in turn could affect rates for all drivers.
“One sure thing in all of this is that the billing company that gets the city contract will always get paid first. The billing company takes its cut. Then it sends the rest of the payment to the city,” Sorich said.
ACIC’s president pointed out that the city envisions that the billing company will determine fault. The decision of fault will be made by the same company that profits from the tax.
“Drivers won’t get a fair shake,” said Sorich. He added that the proposed ordinance is in effect double taxation. The emergency services are paid for with property taxes. Sacramento, as a result, will be double-dipping at the expense of motorists. For non-resident drivers who have accidents, its taxation without representation.
“The ordinance also could end up hurting and not helping the city. It anticipates additional revenue but fails to consider the amount of lost sales revenue when residents from surrounding areas and potential visitors decide to stay away to avoid being taxed for just being in an accident.
“The ordinance tells Californians —who come to work in Sacramento, who come to the city for recreation, shopping and entertainment and who come to Sacramento to visit their state capital—that they are second-class citizens,” said Sorich.
The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), within the state’s department of Consumer Affairs, has proposed changes to its Smog Check Program. The BAR wants to update the regulations involved in the Smog Check Program to speed up the retirement of older, high-polluting vehicles. The program was designed to reduce emissions by requiring vehicles to meet certain standards. Owners of vehicles not meeting these standards can retire their vehicles for monetary compensation.
Currently, the regulations involve retiring vehicles for failing biennial smog checks. Among the new regulations is a plan to incorporate off-cycle vehicles into the program. As a result of these new monetary incentives, it is believed that 11,500 additional older vehicles could be removed from the road annually.
The Automotive Service Association encourages independent repairers to visit its legislative website, www.TakingTheHill.com, to view the BAR’s proposed regulation.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has mandated that all service centers are required to check and inflate customer’s tires to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure--regardless of whether or not the car’s service has anything to do with tires. California’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars driving around with under-inflated tires, which have higher rolling resistance. These circumstances result in cars using more fuel and thereby emitting more greenhouse gasses. Initiated in 2009, the law’s intent is to help car owners to have their vehicle’s tire pressure checked every time the car comes in for service.
In its third and latest revision, the regulation applies to all automotive service providers who do maintenance or repair service, but excludes certain automotive repair shops including auto body, auto glass installer, auto dismantlers, and auto parts retailers.
There could be gray areas if a service provider offers a mix of services, such as repair and body shop work. Also, consumers who have nitrogen filled tires can decline inflation service if the shop does not have nitrogen filling capacity. Shops would be required to keep accurate pressure gauges to check tires, but how they would ensure gauge accuracy is unclear. Questions remain on checking tire pressure in traditionally cold and hot states, as well as determining the responsibility of deciding if the tire is unsafe when performing the service.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met July 21 for a markup of Senate Bill (S.B.) 3495, “The Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010”; S.B. 2843, “The Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009” and S.B. 679, “The Heavy Duty Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 2009.” The committee did not finalize its work on S.B. 679 and will address this bill at a later committee meeting. Both S.B. 3495 and 2843 were reported out of the committee.
“The Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010,” sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., introduced last month, aims to reduce the United States’ dependency on foreign oil and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The main component of the bill is Title I, “The National Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Program,” which aims to:
-Reduce the use of petroleum by accelerating the deployment of plug-in electric-drive vehicles in the United States.
-Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by accelerating the deployment of plug-in electric-drive vehicles in the United States.
-Facilitate the rapid deployment of plug-in electric-drive vehicles.
-Achieve significant market penetrations by plug-in electric-drive vehicles nationally.
-Establish models for the rapid deployment of plug-in electric-drive vehicles nationally, including models for the deployment of residential, private and publicly available charging infrastructure.
-Increase consumer knowledge and acceptance of plug-in electric-drive vehicles.
-Encourage the innovation and investment necessary to achieve mass-market deployment of plug-in electric-drive vehicles.
-Facilitate the integration of plug-in electric-drive vehicles into electricity distribution systems and the larger electric grid while maintaining grid system performance and reliability.
-Provide technical assistance to communities across the United States to prepare for plug-in electric-drive vehicles.
-Support workforce training across the United States relating to plug-in electric drive vehicles.
Introduced last year, S.B. 2843, “The Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009,” sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., seeks to promote federal aid for developing and promoting new vehicle technologies. The main purposes of this legislation include:
-Developing and promoting the deployment of technologies and practices that:
A. Improve the fuel efficiency and emissions of all vehicles produced in the United States.
B. Reduce vehicle reliance on petroleum-based fuels.
-Supporting domestic research, development, demonstration, deployment, engineering and commercial application and domestic manufacturing of advanced vehicles, engines and components.
-Enabling vehicles to move larger volumes of goods and more passengers with less energy and emissions.
-Developing cost-effective advanced technologies for wide-scale utilization throughout the passenger, commercial, government and transit vehicle sectors.
-Allowing for greater consumer choice of domestic-made vehicle technologies and fuels.
-Shortening technology development and integration cycles in the domestic vehicle industry.
-Ensuring a proper balance and diversity of federal investment in domestic-made vehicle technologies.
-Promoting the integration of intelligent vehicle technologies with infrastructure-based information and communications systems and the electrical grid.
-Strengthening partnerships between federal and state governmental agencies and the private and academic sectors.
To view a complete summary of the legislation, along with the full text, visit the “Track Legislation” section of ASA’s legislative website, www.TakingTheHill.com.
The Automotive Service Association is the largest not-for-profit trade association of its kind dedicated to and governed by independent automotive service and repair professionals. ASA serves an international membership base that includes numerous affiliate, state and chapter groups from both the mechanical and collision repair segments of the automotive service industry. ASA’s headquarters is in Bedford, Texas. ASA advances professionalism and excellence in the automotive repair industry through education, representation and member services. For additional information about ASA, including past news releases, go to www.ASAshop.org, or visit ASA’s legislative website at www.TakingTheHill.com.
Nevada Department of Business & Industry Director Dianne Cornwall announced the appointment of Brett J. Barratt as the new Commissioner of the Division of Insurance.
Barratt replaces Scott J. Kipper, who resigned the position in June.
Barratt, an attorney, has extensive experience in insurance regulation. Beginning in February 2005, he served as the Insurance Counsel/Hearing Officer for the Division. In October 2009, he became the Chief Insurance Assistant for the Division.
“Mr. Barratt comes to us with extensive knowledge of insurance regulation as well as strong legislative expertise and legal experience,” Director Cornwall said. “He has already proven his ability to lead during a transition, and I look forward to his ongoing oversight of this dynamic agency.”
The Division regulates and licenses insurance producers, brokers and other professionals; sets ethical and financial standards for insurance companies; and reviews rates.
The Division also reviews programs operated by self-insured employers for workers’ compensation, and investigates claims of insurance fraud.