Trio of Strong Associations Serve MichiganWritten by David M. Brown
Three associations are serving the collision repair industry in Michigan: ASA Michigan, the West Michigan Body Shop Association, and the recently formed Northern Michigan Body Shop Association.
ASA Michigan, affiliated with the Colleyville, Texas-based national Automotive Service Association, comprises 250 members statewide, says its president, Ray Fisher, noting that dues are priced according to regions, with various terms for individual budgets. “Our membership is back to growing after a decade of a tough economy,” he says.
The group began March 1, 1934, as the Automotive Maintenance Association of Michigan and changed its name a few times until July 2004 when it re-affiliated itself with ASA. The annual October meeting this year is Oct. 18. Preceding it, and new, will be “The EVENT” — combining training, vendor displays and networking in conjunction with the Automotive Recyclers of Michigan. “It is the desire that this eventually will become part of our annual meeting,” Fisher says.
The association variously assists members.
As a liaison, ASA Michigan helps members with state licensing and departmental agencies, seeking answers that a repair facility may feel hesitant to ask directly. In addition, it connects with insurance carriers when problems arise — maintaining anonymity for the facility but receiving the necessary answers.
In addition, the association assists police agencies in their inquiries, usually regarding vehicles that may have been involved in hit-and-runs. “The agencies appreciate our efforts because we send our alerts to the entire state electronically,” Fisher explains.
He and staff also work with legislators. Recently, they assisted in having a mini-tort reform law pass because of the association’s outreach capabilities, which as a “no-fault state,” increased the amount of recovery from $500 to $1000. And now they are focused on updating the Motor Vehicle Service Repair Act (PA 300 of 1974) affecting both collision and mechanical.
Although ASA Michigan does not have a designated lobbyist, the group works on the federal level with ASA’s Bob Redding, who provides assistance as needed. “As the economy here in Michigan begins to recover, as our membership begins to come back, our board will continue to monitor as to whether it will become a budget item in the future,” Fisher says.
Training is also offered. For instance, Fisher says that ASA Michigan was one of the first associations in the country to provide NESHAP/6H rule compliance meetings. “We had tremendous input in the development of a Q&A for this rule, which was then rolled out with Region 5 EPA and expanded from there,” he says.
“We reached out to over 440 repair facilities throughout Michigan in our initial launch. In addition, a few years ago, we were the first association in Michigan to bring in national presenters like Mike Anderson of CollisionAdvice, who provides a vast array of management training, and Erica Eversman providing legal counsel overviews.”
Disseminating factual information is also a key role of the association. “A perfect example was our recent State Farm PartsTrader meeting – it was open to vendors and members – we had some of our ASA National team here along with OEM Representatives, new car dealers, recyclers, staff from the MADA and PartsTrader."
He adds, "We had a few members return and some former members calling and wanting to attend. We had the facts of the program and we were sharing them with our membership, which was appreciated.”
Monitoring compliance issues with DEQ and the state’s MiDEQ helps members avoid fines. “On more than one occasion, we were able to demonstrate that the items in question had different interpretations and sought solutions together,” he says.
The West Michigan Body Shop Association began in 1955 when 28 collision shop owners formed the Greater Grand Rapids Independent Body Shop Association.
“They wanted to address issues of low labor and material rates and the insurance-agent requirement that free loaner cars must be provided; otherwise the work would get ‘steered’ to another shop,” says Diane Rodenhouse, the group’s treasurer and owner of Rodenhouse Body Shop in Grand Rapids. The business has been a member since her father-in-law, Andy Rodenhouse Sr., and other local bodyshop owners called the first meeting of the GGR Independent Body Shop Association.
She is joined on the WMBA board of directors by Chairwoman Cheryl Blish, Star Car Group, Grand Rapids; President Tim Jones, Quality Collision, Greenville; and Vice President/Secretary Scott Baker, Pfeiffer Collision & Paint Center, Grand Rapids. Board members are elected for two-year terms.
In the early 1990s, the original association changed its name to address the growth of the surrounding communities. Unaffiliated nationally, the WMBA has 47 members, all in western Michigan. Dues are $175 yearly.
The WMBA has meetings January, March, May, September, October and November/December and an annual June golf outing. Every spring, the group schedules a tradeshow with educational speakers and roundtable discussions. “Our association supports two local technical schools and gave them support to go to SkillsUSA,” Rodenhouse says.
During the early spring 2008, repair facility owners primarily in the northern Lower Peninsula created the Northern Michigan Body Shop Association. Today, approximately 35 businesses are members, as far north as Marquette in the Upper Peninsula and south to Saginaw. The NMBSA became an affiliate of Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) in 2012.
The employees of each business are Associate Members under the “umbrella” of the business or regular membership. Vendors — suppliers of automotive supplies and products — may also join. Annual membership fees are $200 for a Regular Membership and $250 for vendors.
In forming, the group identified its long-term goals, says Sue Allor, employee of Tri-Rivers Collision, Indian River, and secretary of the NMBSA board of directors. These included creating dialogue among repair facilities, insurance companies and consumers; ensuring quality of repair; improving the perception of the industry through promotion; education for consumers and collision professionals; legislative involvement; and eliminating business-to-business fear of competition.
Allor recalls that the group also identified immediate priorities: a declining technician pool; rapidly changing automotive technologies; legislative issues/concerns; and promoting growth within the collision industry in northern Michigan through educational programs and events.
They also decided to sponsor a “Body Shop Rally” to identify regional interest in the formation of an association. When rally attendance exceeded expectations, the NMBSA formed in October 2008.
In addition to Allor, the board includes President Dave Kolasa, Kolasa Kustoms, Onaway; Vice-President Dan Robinson, Mancelona Auto Body, Mancelona; and Treasurer Steve Plowman, Plowman’s Auto Body, Alpena. Elections are held yearly at the annual meeting on the second Tuesday of October for one-third of the board.
The NMBSA has provided both educational programs and social events. These include presentations by industry officials, such as attorney Andrew Rodenhouse, Mike Anderson (CollisionAdvice.com) and attorney Erika Eversman in addition to trade shows in 2011 and 2012; annual Body Shop Rallys since 2008; general informational meetings (for example, waterborne paints, independent appraisal representative, vendor presentations); a newsletter; and working with state representatives on legislation. As yet, the NMBSA does not retain a legislative lobbyist.
“The association keeps shops together not as enemies but as friends keeping a common goal in perspective,” says Steve Whittaker, a member who started Lake Area Collision, Walloon Lake, in 1985. “They do a great job of keeping us informed of current industry issues, have scheduled trade shows to check out new products to the industry that may save us time and money and bring in informative guest speakers that help with not only current collision industry standards but show us ways to do things better to help try to increase our net profit.”
Michael R. Kime, owner of Kime Collision Corp., Standish, for 38 years, adds: “It is a great association that gives me a perspective of what can be done by friends willing to help anyone who needs them. They offer meetings and training that are second to none to the northern Michigan area; these benefit anyone who is willing to get involved. We can stand together or fall alone.”
All three associations share focal points, such as the pilot State Farm PartsTrader program.
For the NMBSA, other issues include the insureds’ “cashing out” with an insurance carrier; third-party claim reviews; lack of clarity as to who the customer is — the owner or the insurance company?; unlicensed shops; OEM guidelines stipulating repair procedures/methods/guidelines and insurance companies quite often refusing to abide by these guidelines; and disregard of P-Pages by insurance adjustors, independent appraisers and/or insurance companies.
For the WMBA, compliance with recent EPA mandates is a priority. Says Attorney Andrew Rodenhouse, grandson of the association founder, Diane’s son and a member: “One of the biggest concerns for shop owners in West Michigan is the increased cost of compliance with federal, state, and local laws. The NESHAP/6H rule implemented last year, as well as other environmental and labor laws, has added huge costs to each shop in order to be compliant — or the shop may face sharp civil and possible criminal penalties. We are working with these shops and their vendors to try to provide low-cost compliance solutions.”