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Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) launched its nationwide Nissan Certified Collision Repair Network at NACE in Orlando. The new certification program is open to both dealer-owned and independent collision shops.

A half decade has passed since we started tracking collision repair organizations that generate repair revenue of $20 million or greater annually. During these past five years we have seen a remarkable amount of change, not only within the collision repair and auto physical damage aftermarket industries, but also with our U.S. and world economies.

Chrysler’s Southeast & Southwest Service & Parts Business Conference was held at the Disney Contemporary Resort in Orlando from October 12 through 14.

Car rental firm Hertz Global Holdings still wants to buy Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, despite missing a deadline to make a final offer, and is chasing antitrust approval for a takeover of its smaller rival, according to Reuters.

On October 11, Dollar Thrifty said it failed by end-October 10 to flush out any final takeover bids that met antitrust concerns, and planned to go ahead as a stand-alone company.

However, Dollar Thrifty, which has been at the center of an 18-month tug-of-war between Hertz and rival Avis Budget, said it would consider any changes to Hertz’s offer or any other offer that might be made.

“We remain interested in acquiring Dollar Thrifty. We remain focused on receiving an FTC consent decree,” Hertz spokesman Richard Broome told Reuters, referring to the Federal Trade Commission. “That’s the first step in the process.”

Dollar Thrifty is seen as the last big prize in an industry that has consolidated in recent years, but its takeover has been uncertain as this would leave three players dominating more than 90 percent of a U.S. car rental market worth close to $21 billion in 2010. The market leader is privately-held Enterprise.

One of Dollar Thrifty’s biggest shareholders said it was highly likely Hertz would win antitrust approval and would push to get a deal through early. The shareholder asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

CARSTAR held their annual National Conference for 2011 in Seattle, WA, from September 24 through 27. The conference drew in around 400 industry members and franchisees. During a teleconference leaders of the multiple shop operator (MSO) offered insights into their future plans for growth over the next few years.

CARSTAR’s CEO, David Byers, who was added to the team as of this year, started the conference by highlighting where CARSTAR is presently. Byers said the MSO is on track to reach total sales of at least $600 million, and that according to industry averages for independent shops, individual CARSTAR franchises make about twice as much per year.

Byers also talked about how the MSO has been able to continue to grow thanks to continued industry consolidation since the company’s inception in 1989 and an increasing trend of insurers moving towards using MSOs.

At the Conference Ryan Keller was named the new head of Business Development, and he is expected to help the MSO open 40 to 50 new stores in the next year. This is 2 to 3 times more growth than the MSO has been able to produce over the last few years. This dramatic increase in growth is expected because of a renewed focus on acquiring new stores and adding a lot of new staff, according to Byers.

Dan Young, Senior Vice President of Insurance Relations mentioned that part of CARSTAR’s success can be attributed to the way their franchises are set up. Although each store is a CARSTAR franchise, there remains one owner at each location and this enables the franchises to self-manage and have a single point of contact for insurers and customers per franchise.

Stacy Bartnik, Vice President of Field Services also talked about the MSO’s continued efforts to grow existing stores as well. She mentioned training existing shops on lean processes so they can improve cycle and touch times.

Gerald Wicklund, Owner of Wicklund’s CARSTAR was also on the teleconference. His franchise was the first franchise of CARSTAR and he is the second generation owner. He talked about the Conference’s focus on educating their franchises about effective marketing and website and social media management.

Wicklund also mentioned that the military appreciation efforts his franchise makes have been very effective marketing tools for his business.

“25 to 30 percent of my customers that come in the door have done their own research before I write the estimate,” said Wicklund.

Wicklund’s CARSTAR was also honored with the Outstanding CSI Award at the conference this year.

For more information please visit www.carstar.com.

Thursday, 20 October 2011 15:42

R2R Coalition Gathers 100,000+ Signatures

The Right to Repair Coalition announced on Oct. 19 that it has collected 106,658 voter signatures after just 19 days of effort, well exceeding the 68,911 required for the pro-consumer initiative to appear on the 2012 ballot. A groundswell of support and enthusiasm from Massachusetts consumers has driven this issue forward in what could be record time for a signature gathering effort to reach 100,000-plus.

According to the Right to Repair Coalition, the Right to Repair voter initiative would, for the first time, allow consumers to access all of the non-proprietary repair information required to have their vehicles repaired where they choose, at a new car dealership or an independent shop. The proposed law would level the playing field between the big car manufacturers’ dealerships and independent, neighborhood repair facilities, allowing the latter to finally be able to access the same non-proprietary automobile diagnostic and repair information that is currently only available to the manufacturers’ dealers and their new car dealerships.

“It’s time that car owners have the right to get our vehicles repaired wherever we choose,” said Jeff McLeod of Marshfield, one of the signers of the ballot petition. “The growing support for this issue shows how important it is for consumers, especially in a difficult economy.”

The proposed Right to Repair law would keep vehicle repairs affordable for consumers by ensuring competition among repair facilities. By leveling the playing field and increasing consumer choice, Right to Repair can save families an average of $300-$500 each year, according to an industry study. A recently released AAA Financial Automotive Repair Survey highlighted that many car owners can’t afford to pay for their repairs, thus, often forgoing having them done. This creates a safety hazard for themselves and others on the road. Right to Repair would help alleviate their financial burden by increasing competition and allowing motorists to choose the less expensive repair.

Support for the ballot question continues to grow across the state as more car owners recognize that this law would directly benefit them by making it easier to access repair information electronically, increasing their safety and convenience in obtaining affordable repairs.

In addition to the rapid signature gathering, the Right to Repair coalition’s Facebook page continues to grow daily and now has over 10,000 supporters.

The Right to Repair Coalition includes consumer advocates like AAA and more than 2,000 independent repair shops, small businesses and retailers in communities across Massachusetts.