Today, the Automotive Service Association of Arizona serves both the mechanical and collision-repair segments of the industry. As a state affiliate of Automotive Service Association, the Phoenix-based nonprofit includes 286 members, including 70 collision shops. As it represents the state industry as a whole, the organization has two divisions: mechanical and collision.
The ASAAZ comprises seven chapters: Mohave, Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson, Verde Valley, Yuma and the Grand Canyon Chapter, which represents members statewide that are not part of another chapter. Each elects a board member, who serves for two years, without term limits; currently, the collision division does not have a member on the board. These individual chapters hold meetings, offer local speakers and information exchange and participate in the ASA-sponsored NACE and the annual ASAAZ conference, held this year, July 9–11, at the Prescott Resort & Conference Center.
The group began as the Arizona Auto Body Association, founded June 4, 1976, by Clarence “Bud” Klinefelter, David Keilholtz and Marv Rather.
One of the first members of the ASA of Arizona Hall of Fame, Rather recalls that the AABA furthered the image and power of its collision-repair industry members. “Our major goals were education, communication and cooperation,” he says. “We wanted to pull people together: the shop owners, vendors, the state, the insurance companies and consumers.” As a shop owner in Yuma, AZ, he served as AABA vice president, 1976–77, and its president, 1977–78, 1981–82, 1982–83 and 1984–85.
For example, in 1977 he and the group helped draft the first Arizona Motorist Bill of Rights, working closely with Arizona Secretary of State Rose Mofford and Jack Trimble, the state’s insurance commissioner, as well the state attorney general’s office under Bruce Babbitt, later governor. This became a template used by other states, Rather says.
The early AABA also worked to rewrite what Rather describes as a poor state mechanic’s lien law, which also became a prototype for other states to follow. So, too, the group worked with the state department of transportation to streamline collision repair involving VIN numbers and titles.
In 1980, the group aligned itself with the Independent Automotive Service Association in Austin, Texas, as it had widened its scope beyond collision repair into other automotive areas. “The national IASA came to us,” recalls Rather, who helped set up chapters throughout the state, in Tucson, Yuma, Safford and Flagstaff. “They were weak in collision groups and wanted our assistance.” As a result, the group was hyphenated to IASA-AABA — the only such affiliate in the country with dual identification, he says. “In this way, we preserved our identity,” he says.
Rather, who also served in various positions for the national IASA was also helpful in scheduling, with the Automotive Service Councils, the first NACE, in New Orleans, for which he served as cochairman. For his work in the industry, he became the first recipient of the Emil Stanley Aftermarket Spotlight Award in 1983 from “Auto Body Repair News.” The ASC was later absorbed into ASA.
In 1987, IASA-AABA became the current Automotive Service Association of Arizona, today the only local affiliate in Arizona for a national organization. State shop owners, of course, may join these other groups as individual members.
During the past decades, other organizations have also merged into the ASA. The Service Stations Dealers of Arizona, started in 1963 and became The Automotive Trade Organization in the ‘80s and in the ‘90s the Southwest Automotive Trade Organization. That group merged with the ASA Phoenix Chapter and thus joined ASAAZ.
In 2007, the Arizona Collision Craftsmen’s Association also merged with the ASA. The foundation for what became ACCA started in 1987 with a number of owners who wanted an independent association for collision-repair owners. Among these people were Herb Gerard, Ed Heward, Dave Keilholtz and George Florentine. (Bob Isham, today owner of New Image Paint and Body in Tempe, later joined Gerard to publish a trade magazine called the “Arizona Collision Watchdog,” offering an alternative viewpoint to some of the ACCA policies. The “Watchdog” was later discontinued before ACCA merged with ASAAZ.)
A Massachusetts native, Florentine started the interest in the ACCA by mailing out a few hundred surveys to industry associates in the Phoenix area. He repeated this in his newspaper, “The Automotive Tradesman.” “We started holding meetings in the Phoenix area with great success—first, five–six shops, then 15 and more,” he recalls. “We were on our way.”
Many members of the AABA that had switched over to IASA were disgruntled, explains Florentine, who served as the ACCA executive director from 1995 to 2003. “They stated many times that the ‘body shop’ division was ignored by IASA,” he says. “All they wanted was their dues and got nothing in return for it. Needless to say, this didn’t sit very well with a number of its members.”
Florentine and other founders merged two organizations into ACCA, one from the east side of Phoenix, one from the west. As a result, in 1988 the two groups became The Arizona Collision Craftsman’s Association, with Sheldon Petrich as the director.
“The organization did pretty well for the first few years,” Florentine says. Flagstaff and Tucson chapters were added as well as a monthly publication. The association annually performed a statewide consumer-based survey of shops, members and nonmembers, for the best insurance company. In addition, the ACCA scheduled an annual awards dinner for the top three insurers and also invited speakers to other group meetings—people such as ICAR’s then-director, Jeff Silver, CIC’s director, Jeff Hendler, and John Loftus of SCRS.
“The focus of the organization was to promote quality and integrity in the industry,” notes Brad Beebe, owner of Brad’s Collision Center in Phoenix for 25 years. He served as ACCA president in 1988, 1989 and 2004 as well as on board until the organization merged with ASA. “Our industry suffered from a reputation that was derived from a few bad apples, and the ACCA was successful over the years in cleaning up that reputation and distancing the industry from the bad actors,” he adds. “We wanted to speak as a single voice for the collision-repair industry.”
“The way I heard the story was that a lot of shops were unhappy and wanted to stir the pot,” says Isham, an ACCA member from 1989 until the merger with ASAAZ and a continuing member of that group. “Shop owners are an independent bunch of folks who are not always well organized, and the chance to get a group that represented a lot of what they were fighting for presented itself as a huge opportunity.”
The association also functioned as an employment data base and organized several training programs for its members, recalls Steve McDonnel, a member who owned a shop in Phoenix from 1998 to 2004 during his 35-year career in the autobody industry. He is now an independent insurance agent in the Phoenix area.
“ACCA was a positive organization for almost 20 years in Arizona and helped promote a level playing field for everyone in the industry,” says Heward, owner of Samson Body Shop, Service Center, Auto Glass and Towing in Mesa since 1998 and the organization’s president during the 2005–07 merger period with ASA. “It is my hope that ASAAZ continues this tradition in representing the autobody-repair industry.”
Since 1987, the ASAAZ has performed a variety of services for its members in the mechanical and collision areas of the industry.
“Our mission is advancing the professionalism and excellence in the automotive-repair industry through education, representation and member services,” says Luz A. Rubio, executive director of ASAAZ since 2001. The Arizona chapter is one of 16 ASA affiliates in the country, including those for Central New Mexico and Colorado.
The ASAAZ derives income from member dues, training/seminars, and non-dues generating programs such as worker’s compensation, credit card programs, advertising and sponsorships of vendors.
Among many services, the group coordinates training and seminars and offers member discounts for industry products and services. In February 2009, it sponsored “Profitability to Preserve Survivability,” attended by more than 133 collision-industry shop owners and managers. “As the collision industry’s profit continues to decline, shop owners and managers are looking for real solutions,” Rubio notes. In May, ASAAZ also held an “Estimating Best Practices,” seminar attended by 100 collision-industry people, she says.
The group also monitors as well as proposes legislation at the state level. “We have in the past hired a lobbyist to represent our interest and assist in the introduction of a bill,” she explained.
ASAAZ also encourages its members to offer input with the committees appointed by the national ASA, such as Estimating, Insurance and Crash Parts. Locally, it’s established a Collision Industry Blog to encourage and exchange information among professionals: www.autofixblog.com.
“In today’s economy, it is not enough to hang out a sign and serve our customers well in order to prosper,” Rubio says. “Business owners need to stay aware of changes in the industry. ASAAZ creates strength in unity while advancing the professionalism by providing education and information to our members in the industry, enabling them to maximize the success and longevity of their businesses.”
ASAAZ offers a $1000 scholarship to 4 Arizona high school or community college students each year who are intent on pursuing their automotive education at any approved Arizona post secondary school. These scholarships are awarded through the “Student of the Year Banquets.”
For more information, see www.asaaz.org or by mail at:
ASAAZ: 5060 N 19th Ave, Suite 216
Phoenix AZ, 85015
Phone: 602-544-2600, Fax: 602-544-2277