Thursday, 21 October 2010 16:11

14th Annual GCIA Golf Invitational a Success

The Georgia Collision Industry Association held its 14th annual GCIA Invitational Golf Tournament at the Golf Club at Bradshaw Farms in Woodstock, Georgia on October 13th.

The event was quite a success, filling to capacity as it has for many years in the past according to Howard Batchelor, Tournament Coordinator. Registration started at 11:30 am with lunch at noon and Tee Off at 1:00 pm.

Safelite AutoGlass® celebrated the official opening of its newest vehicle glass distribution center. The 357,000 sq. ft. facility in Braselton, Ga., will process 3 million units of glass in 2011. Safelite AutoGlass® will have a significant impact on the town of just over 2,000, bringing 77 immediate jobs to the area, with an eventual 120 person workforce anticipated.

"Being able to provide employment opportunities for the residents of the Braselton area and aid in the overall economic health of the Jackson County area is something we’re very excited about,” said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Safelite®.

The National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides Program gave five refurbished vehicles to families involved with the Family Promise of Las Vegas program which provides support to families in crisis on October 12 on the NACE show floor.

The number of women entering the collision repair industry has been quite substantial in recent years, and is further encouraged by events and sessions put on by the Women’s Industry Network (WIN) at the NACE expo this year.

To view a PDF of this article please CLICK HERE.

WIN sponsored the Women’s Professional Development Track which included a total of five sessions during the event, as well as having their own booth on the expo floor.

A lunch meeting in mid-October  launched a new program for Central Florida collision repairers and local businesses to work together in securing and reconditioning four or more vehicles to bestow upon local families in need of a hand-up.

The intent is to have the vehicles ready and the recipients selected in time for this coming Christmas.

Monday, 18 October 2010 22:11

How One Impression Multiplies

A while back I made a sales call at a high-quality body shop in my area. There was no one at the front desk so I took a seat to wait. I didn't mind waiting since I had something to gain from being there. A few minutes after I arrived, a potential customer pulled up out front and came up to the front desk. Ten minutes passed and no one came out. The customer began to pace around. Ten more minutes passed and still no one appeared to take his information. He turned around, walked out and drove away.

Sunday, 17 October 2010 20:17

GM IPO moves ahead for week of Nov. 15

General Motors Co  is on track to move ahead with its initial public offering during the week of Nov. 15 after a recent round of meetings with sovereign wealth funds, however the company has said it has not determined a price range for the stock and could not confirm that the IPO would take place in November.

The GM IPO has been closely watched both because of its expected scale and because of the involvement of the U.S. government, which is looking to the landmark stock offering to reduce its nearly 61 percent stake in the automaker.

Bankers representing GM met with sovereign wealth funds in Asia and the Middle East over the past two weeks to make the case that the automaker has emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy as a leaner and more nimble competitor, two of the sources said.

Analysts from the 10 underwriter banks involved in the GM IPO began a series of meetings aimed at reaching a consensus on the market value the top U.S. automaker, two sources said.

After analysts come to consensus on that valuation, GM will offer investors a discount of 20 percent from that level in pricing shares for the IPO, multiple sources said.

That margin of discount is part of a standard practice in IPOs to reward investors for taking a risk on a new issue.

GM needs to have a market valuation of about $67 billion if U.S. taxpayers are to break even on the common stock the U.S. Treasury holds.

The U.S. Treasury is expected to be the major seller of common stock in the GM IPO and is prepared to take a loss on the initial sale of stock, sources have said.

The governments of Canada and Ontario will likely follow the lead of the U.S. government as sellers, two sources said. As part of the GM bailout, Canada offered the automaker funding and took a stake of 11.7 percent in return.

It remains unclear if a trust fund affiliated with the United Auto Workers union will sell part of its stake in the IPO. The union trust, which was established to pay for retiree healthcare costs, holds 17.5 percent of GM.

 

M was restructured in 2009 with a $50 billion bailout from the U.S. government.

U.S. auto sales are picking up, with an annual selling rate that could exceed 12 million cars and light trucks in October, a senior Toyota Motor Corp. sales executive said Oct. 14. That would be the highest selling rate since last August, when "cash-for-clunkers" rebates stoked demand. Since then, the selling rate has been between 11 million and 12 million light vehicles.

"The truth is the industry is on the mend, but the economic recovery is much slower than many forecasted and certainly slower than many of us would have liked," Don Esmond, senior vice president at Toyota Motor Sales USA, told the Automotive Press Association.

"The good news is that the job market, personal consumption, capital spending and residential investment are inching up," he said. "The bad news is that lingering high unemployment and erratic stock prices are restraining consumer confidence and spending."

Uninsured and underinsured drivers are a real problem in Georgia and many other states, says the McAleer Law Firm through an attorney spokesperson. The firm has issued the following press release:

While it is true that all drivers are required by law to have liability insurance it is abundantly clear that many have no insurance at all. Some estimates state that nearly 50 percent of drivers are uninsured. Additionally, many that do have insurance only have the minimum coverage limits of $25,000 so that they can "drive legal for less". If a driver with such low coverage limits were to cause an accident with injuries, this minimum coverage will barely cover a brief hospital stay.

As a practicing lawyer in Atlanta for the past 14 years, I have counseled numerous clients who have been in the unfortunate position to have been injured by someone who has minimum or no insurance coverage. Although these clients had insurance on their cars, the other drivers did not and these clients were then left holding the bag.

 

The California Senate has approved a bill bringing the state's commercial driver's licensing rules in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations regarding out-of-service offenders.

The senate voted unanimously to approve a bill that would bring the state's commercial driver's licensing rules in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations regarding out-of-service ("OOS") offenders. Assembly lawmakers then approved the changes to the bill, Assembly Bill 2144 and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law on August 30th.

Out-of-Service violations are typically issued when inspectors find a driver or vehicle defect so severe that it must be corrected for the driver to operate the vehicle safely. Out-of-service orders often result from hours-of-service (driving too many hours) and commercial drivers license (CDL) violations, as well as other basic safety equipment issues, like the lights and brakes.

California today is better prepared than any other state to take advantage of federal health care reform enacted by Congress. Now voters need to elect an insurance commissioner with the will and expertise to make this a national model for health coverage.

The commissioner will be California's point person to get residents the best coverage possible for the lowest possible price while maintaining a healthy business climate for insurers.

The clear choice on Nov. 2 is Democrat Dave Jones, the Sacramento assemblyman who has served admirably as chairman of both the health and judicial committees in the Assembly.

Jones' opponent, Republican Mike Villines, is a courageous politician by California standards. His principled stand in 2009 to get a balanced budget through the Legislature cost him his position as Assembly minority leader. He would likely do as solid of a job as the current insurance commissioner, Republican Steve Poizner, in fulfilling the basic responsibilities. But Villines is on record as opposing federal health care reform. He wants to use the office to emphasize reducing insurance fraud, a worthy but perennial goal for candidates.

Jones has a long record of working to rein in health insurance premiums. Most recently, he was instrumental in passing the legislation making California the first state to set up a health care exchange for the uninsured. He would do far more than Villines to see that consumers get the greatest benefit possible under federal reforms.

Outside of the governor, the insurance commissioner may have a bigger impact on the lives of Californians than any other elected official. This race is important. And Dave Jones is the right choice.

The Collision Repair Executive Webcast (CREW) will welcome Ron Wagman, Senior Vice President of Operations, Wholesale Parts and Terry Fortner, Vice President of Industry Relations and Market Development, both from LKQ/Keystone Automotive Industries, along with Rob Frayer P.E. Director of Engineering NSF International, the third party, not-for-profit entity responsible for administrating the AQRP program. NSF provides certification to the NSF Automotive Aftermarket Parts Certification Program for rebars, front bumpers, rear step bumpers, absorbers and brackets.

Mr. Wagman and Mr. Fortner will discuss LKQ’s Total Alternative Parts Solution, including the company’s NSF developed program to assure the quality and integrity of replacement collision crash parts. They will also address some of the industry myths about aftermarket parts. Mr. Frayer will provide information about the history of NSF, its automotive parts certification program, program requirements, and the new part approval process.

Safelite Glass Corp. has been fined $52,000 by the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) for allegedly providing continuing education (CE) courses in the state after its provider registration and course certifications had expired, according to information from the TDI.

According to the final consent order, Safelite initially registered as a continuing education provider (for insurance courses) in May 1993, and, as the state of Texas began using Sircon for administration of the CE program, Safelite registered as a Sircon provider from September 2007 through September 2009, with its registration expiring on September 3, 2009. It re-registered as a provider on December 16, 2009.

The Yuba-Sutter office of the California Highway Patrol is asking the public's help in finding the driver of a pickup who struck and killed a pedestrian Sept. 24 north of Marysville.

Carlos Soto Lopez, 64, of Yuba County was killed about 7:30 p.m. on Highway 70 near Ramirez Road in District 10.

The driver of the pickup stopped after striking Lopez, whose cowboy hat came to rest in the road. When a second vehicle, described by a witness as a brown or tan Chrysler, ran over the hat, the pickup driver pulled back onto the road and left the scene, said Officer Jeff Larson, CHP spokesman.

The driver of the Chrysler, believed to be a 1980-90s model, or anyone else with information, is asked to call the CHP at 674-5141 or 879-1900.

The extended cab pickup was a U.S. model from 2000 or later. It may have a lift and oversized tires, Larson said.

Investigators think the pickup driver is from the Marysville, Oroville or Chico area. He likely did not see Lopez and had little or no time to react because the area was dark and there are no street lights.

"The pickup sustained front end damage and may be parked in a garage or getting repaired at a body shop" in one of the three cities, the CHP said.

Lopez lived nearby and frequented the Walnut Tree Bar, known by patrons as Papa's. Bar patrons not already interviewed by investigators are also asked to call the CHP.

"Investigators and the victim's family are determined to close this case," Larson said.

Audatex has decided to remove a newly added feature in its database less than a month after its implementation.

In a letter issued to clients, the company said, "Effective with the October disk, Audatex has removed the September Database Enhancement relating to raw, unprimed bumper covers. This was done to provide sufficient time for our clients, the industry, and Audatex to determine the best way to address this important issue."

In September, Audatex changed its estimating system to offer a new line item that allowed the user to add time to prep a raw, unprimed bumper cover. If the item was selected, the estimate added an additional 20 percent of the refinish time for bumper covers that arrive raw and unprimed. Some car manufacturers, such as Toyota, sell their plastic bumper covers in a raw, unprimed state, which repairers explain, require significant additional labor time to prep compared to a new bumper cover that arrives already primed. Until September, there was no automated process in the Audatex system to account for this additional time.

Toyota is being sued by Allstate in Los Angeles Superior Court saying they have paid $3 million for accidents caused by sudden acceleration.

Allstate said Oct. 1 in its complaint that “Toyota had full knowledge of the numerous complaints regarding its vehicles, that such vehicles were susceptible of sudden unintended acceleration, and thus that such vehicles posed a significant risk of property damage, as well as physical injury to vehicle occupants and other motorists.”

Toyota says that the number of customers expressing concern over acceleration problems has dropped 80% since April.

“Toyota has made significant progress in recent months to help ensure that our customers can have complete confidence in the quality, safety and reliability of their vehicles, and our latest initiatives build on those accomplishments,” said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota’s chief quality officer. He said that Toyota engineers, after examining 4,200 vehicles, were unable to find a single case in which an electronic throttle system glitch would lead to sudden unintended acceleration.

Investigators said the five suspects were caught on camera taking money from an informant from a Hialeah body shop.

According to Hialeah Police, three of the suspects are Allstate adjusters and the other two work for State Farm.

Authorities said these men would help tamper and further damage cars and write up more expensive claims. Then, the suspects would allegedly split the money amongst themselves. "They, in many ways, betrayed their employers, betrayed the colleagues they worked with, they betrayed the people for whom they were filing these claims for and then of course ultimately all of us-- you the consumer," said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.

Poll results recently released by a California insurance organization indicate that half of 800 respondents disagree with the idea that communities should levy fees on out-of-town motorists who cause accidents that require city-funded emergency response services.

An even greater proportion (62 percent) opposed the practice after being informed that auto insurance carriers typically receive the bills for such fees. Although some do, not all insurers will cover accident response fees. OnlineAutoInsurance.com encourages policyholders concerned about these fees to contact their insurers to find out if they're covered.

There has been growing discussion in California in recent months about the appropriateness of these accident response fees. With the economy still sluggish---unemployment rates are still hovering above 12 percent---municipal tax revenue is down, and cities are looking for ways to plug budget holes.

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown has filed a $6.6 million lawsuit against eight car washes owned by members of the Sikder family -- proprietors of the Hollywood restaurant named Koi -- after an investigation revealed a "widespread pattern of worker exploitation," unpaid wages and illegal business practices.

"While Koi served up yellowtail tartare and Kobe beef carpaccio to Hollywood celebrities, the restaurant's owners routinely denied wages, breaks and overtime pay to workers at their unlicensed car washes," Brown said. "Today's lawsuit seeks to end this widespread pattern of worker exploitation."

State Farm has committed to “Fueling the Future” of the collision industry by contributing $70,000 to the Collision Repair Education Foundation. State Farm’s contribution enhances the Education Foundation’s ability to offer grants and scholarships to career and technical schools and colleges and the students attending these schools. The $70,000 contribution from State Farm will go towards the Education Foundation’s Collision Repair Education Campaign (CREC) fund which allows the Foundation to provide annual grants and scholarships to support schools, instructors, and students in collision education.

The GreenLink Shop status, an extension of CCAR’s CCAR-GreenLink® Environmental Compliance Assistance Center and S/P2® Safety and Pollution Prevention E-learning Program, is designed to promote consumer confidence in local automotive repair facilities’ environmental/safety awareness and stewardship.

The new GreenLink Shops are:

The California Automotive Wholesalers’ Association (CAWA) and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) announced September 30 that SB 346 (Kehoe) has been signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

SB 346 was introduced into the California Legislature by Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) in early 2009. At that time the bill sought to limit copper content in brake friction materials and also required at least a $1.00 fee on each axle pad set sold which would be collected by retailers and installers with no guarantee that the fee would not increase. The bill also sought to impose penalties for non compliance upwards of $10,000 per violation. The bill as originally drafted would have banned copper in brake pads without a rational framework for reformulation potentially jeopardizing the safety of the motoring public.

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) is concerned about inequities in the Texas Tax Code. Currently, in the Texas Franchise Tax Code, automotive repair and collision shops owned and operated by new or used car dealerships are taxed at half the rate used to tax independently owned automotive repair businesses doing identical work. The tax code classifies dealership sales as "retail" and allows their service and repair business to be included under that banner. Texas independent repairers are seeking similar treatment.

ASA is asking Texas repairers to contact their state legislators and urge them to help stop further audits of the automotive service industry until this issue is resolved.

Friday, 01 October 2010 19:38

Chrysler and Ford Lead Industry's Big Gains

In sharp contrast to August's dismal year-on-year results September has been a banner month for U.S. auto sales with Chrysler Group surging 61%, Subaru leaping 47%, and Ford jumping 40%, leading double-digit gains for other automakers. GM posted more modest gains of 11% due to downward pressure from discontinued brands.

Chrysler sold 100,077 cars and trucks for the month, up from 62,197 a year earlier. September was sixth straight month of increases and the second month this year in which Chrysler has topped 100,000 vehicles sold.

The Texas  Attorney General  has overruled the Texas Department of Insurance (DOI) in that information contained in a survey of insurers conducted by the DOI be made public. The ruling was in response to a petition by Larry Cernosek of the Houston Auto Body Association, and other members, which was filed under the Texas Freedom of Information Act and the Texas Consumer Bill of Rights.

The Texas DOI and the five major insurers surveyed argued that the documents should be exempt from disclosure requirements because they include insurer's proprietary information, but the Attorney General’s office disagreed, exempting only some items that the insurers deemed trade secrets.

The Attorney General reasoned that even if the DOI told the insurers that their responses would remain confidential, that agreement could not circumvent the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, saying "We note that information is not confidential under the Act simply because the party that submitted the information anticipated or requested that it be kept confidential."

California’s legislative session concluded last week after approving a new measure that, if signed by the governor, would increase the penalties for repair shops that fail to properly restore an airbag that has been deployed in a crash.

CLICK HERE to see the Governor's decision on SB 427 as of September 28.

Senate Bill 427 (Negrete McLeod D-Chino) would impose a fine of $5,000 or up to one year in prison, or both, for any automotive repair dealer that “prepares a written estimate for repairs that includes replacement of a deployed airbag and who fails to repair and fully restore the airbag to original operating condition.”

Tuesday, 28 September 2010 17:15

Gov. Vetos California SB 427

Gov. Schwarzenegger has vetoed SB 427 (Negrete-McLeod). CLICK HERE for discussion of bill.

The governor vetoed Senate Bill 427 Friday, Sept. 24. The legislation proposed by California state Sen. Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, had been introduced to crack down on airbag fraud but it also included numerous confusing amendments to the Business and Professions code, which previously only applied to insurers.

The bill included language that condemns perpetrators of airbag fraud, stating that those who “fail to repair and fully restore the airbag to original operating condition where the customer has paid for the airbag repair as provided in the estimate” can receive up to a $5,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
The language of the bill also included restrictions for invoices, including the following requirements:
•  All work done by an automotive repair dealer, including all warranty work, must be recorded on an invoice and must describe all service work done, parts supplied and crash parts installed.
•  Service work and parts must be listed separately on the repair invoice, which must also state separately the subtotal prices for service work and for parts, not including sales tax, and must state separately the sales tax, if any, applicable to each.
•  If any used, rebuilt or reconditioned parts are installed, the invoice must clearly state that fact.
•  If a part of a component system is composed of new and used, rebuilt or reconditioned parts, that invoice must clearly state that fact.
•  The invoice must include a statement indicating whether any crash parts are original equipment manufacturer crash parts or non-original equipment manufacturer aftermarket crash parts.
•  One copy of the invoice must be given to the customer and one copy must be retained by the automotive repair dealer.
To view the California bill (S.B. 427), visit the Automotive Service Association’s legislative website, www.TakingTheHill.com. Click on the “Track Current Legislation” button, then follow the state legislation link.

Our fourth annual white paper tracking collision repair organizations that generate $20 million or greater annually in collision repair revenue comes on the heels of a slow to moderate recovering economy with an increasing chance of a double‐dip recession, or at least a much slower recovery than forecasted for 2010.

Italy makes amazing race cars (Ferrari), top-tier watches (Bulgari) and luxurious shoes (Gucci) and  they also make some of the finest air compressors on the planet, respected by auto body and mechanical shops throughout the world.

A number of automakers in recent weeks have issued bulletins, launched programs or made announcements that could impact collision repairers —whether  at dealerships or independent shops. Here’s a wrap-up of this recent news from the OEMs.

Hey Toby—We are repairing at 2007 Porsche Cayman and the insurance company wants us to recon the wheel. Do you know if Porsche has a position statement on reconditioned wheels? —Mick from Marina Del Rey.

This summer, Completes Plus, a full-line wholesale parts distributor based in Los Angeles, CA, moved their main warehouse and office space to a larger warehouse just a short distance from the original location.

To view a PDF of this article please CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 23 September 2010 18:09

Aftermarket Parts: Are they the Same? Are they Safe? Is there a Problem?

Written by Lee Amaradio Jr.

What gives me the right to comment on any of the above issues and why would I want to bite the hand that feeds me? If there were no problems with aftermarket crash parts why would I even care?

I am in business to make money, and to stay in business I need to treat my customers fairly and honestly. Part of being in business responsibly is  serving my customers by giving them  good and honest value for their money. If there were no problem with these parts I would embrace them and present them to my customers as an added value. I would be an advocate, not a critic, of  the aftermarket part.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced recently that it had postponed final rule on the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) to late October. The agency had originally planned to finalize rules on the ozone standard by the end of August, but it decided on late October because it wanted to spend more time reviewing public comments on the proposal.

In January of this year, the EPA proposed revisions to the Bush administration’s 2008 ozone standard. The EPA advocates that its proposal would enhance the eight-hour standard created to protect citizens’ health, shifting the requirement from 0.075 parts per million (ppm) to a range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm, as well as create an all-new secondary standard designed to protect environmental resources. The EPA, environmentalists, states and industry went to court over the Bush administration’s rejection of these proposals in March of 2008. The litigation, State of Mississippi v. EPA, is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, awaiting the Obama administration’s final revisions. The proposed restrictions and tightening of the ozone standard has received some opposition from a bipartisan group of seven senators, who urged the EPA not to tighten the ozone standard. In a recent letter to Lisa Jackson, administrator of the EPA, the senators said they “believe that changing the rules at this time will have a significant negative impact on our states’ workers and families and will compound the hardship that many are now facing in these difficult economic times.”

Supporters of the EPA’s proposal  are concerned about delay of the final rule, and they believe that postponing the agency’s final decision could dilute the final rule. To view the seven senators’ letter to the administrator visit  www.TakingTheHill.com.

Volkswagen is intent on becoming the world’s leading automaker by 2018 and that means being the top dog in every segment, including hybrid and electric vehicles according to reports made by Autocar and the Huffington Post.

In fact, the automaker is so serious about its electric car efforts that it recently announced plans to start building its own electric powertrains, and enlisted the help of Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard.

Eberhard is the electric vehicle engineering director at Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Palo Alto, California, and speaking recently with Autocar he predicted that within the next 10 years electric vehicles will have a range of 500 miles or more.

He went on to explain that at the point the further development of fast charging infrastructure will be unnecessary as most drivers rarely drive more than 500 miles in a day.

Volkswagen plans to sell 300,000 electric vehicles a year by 2018, which would translate to 3% of all sales. VW’s hybrid ambitions could lead it to overtake Toyota as the world’s largest automaker within eight years.

Key details of Volkswagen’s strategy include introducing the company’s first hybrid electric vehicle the Toureg 2010, and in 2013 three EVs, likely to be versions of the Jetta, Golf, and the Up.

At ERL, Eberhard’s main focus is the development of the lithium-ion battery packs for the Golf blue-e-motion and E-Up all-electric vehicles—both of which are destined for trials and eventual sale in the U.S.

The batteries being developed at ERL are the 18650-type lithium-ion cells commonly found in laptops and they will also be used for the more premium Audi e-tron electric vehicles as well.

Eberhard explained that the common 18650-type battery is at the forefront of electrical storage technology. There’s also a cost factor; the 18650-type battery, for example, costs about half of that used by the Nissan Leaf.

Incidentally, in addition to electric drive systems, the engineers at ERL are also working on new driver assistance systems and human-machine interface technologies, as well as improving the multimedia functionality and connectivity for the different Volkswagen Group brands.

Some of its latest developments, for example, are the autonomous Audis that competed in the DARPA Challenge as well as the Google Earth functionality for the sat-nav systems featured in the new Audi A8 and A7 models.

Thursday, 23 September 2010 17:32

August Sales Down vs. C4C

Automakers struggled through another disappointing month in August, as weak housing and other economic data discouraged consumers from making big purchases.

Auto sales tumbled from prior-year levels, as expected. Compared with August 2009, when the government’s “cash for clunkers” program fueled a surge in demand, last month’s sales were down 21 percent.
But the selling pace also slowed from the previous month, slipping to 11.47 million cars and light trucks, on an annual basis, from 11.54 million in July.

The selling rate last August was 14.17 million vehicles, with cars accounting for 57.6 percent, according to Autodata Corp.

This August, as gas prices held steady in a sluggish economy, light truck sales accounted for 49.7 percent of the total, up from 42.4 percent a year ago.

Chrysler Group LLC, Hyundai Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. fared best in a difficult market.

Chrysler was the only major automaker to report a sales increase last month, a jump of 6.9 percent, because automaker hardly benefited from the “cash for clunkers” program last summer.

Thursday, 23 September 2010 17:29

Marchionne Targets Chrysler IPO in Q2 of 2011

Chrysler Group LLC will probably hold an initial public offering in the second half of 2011 as investors approved Fiat SpA’s plan to spin off its industrial business September 16 according to reports made by Bloomberg News.

“I don’t think it’s the first part; I think it’s a second part of the year event,” Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of both carmakers, told reporters in Turin today when asked when in 2011 a Chrysler share sale would take place.

Fiat, which acquired a 20 percent stake in Chrysler in June last year, September 16 announced the approval by shareholders to separate CNH Global NV, Iveco and some industrial and marine operations into a new company called Fiat Industrial SpA, leaving Fiat Auto and luxury brands Ferrari and Maserati in the new Fiat SpA.

The separation would allow Marchionne, 58, to focus on carmaking and would give Fiat an entity to facilitate future alliances.

The spinoff, the most sweeping corporate reorganization in Fiat’s 111-year history, will resolve an issue that’s been a “thorn in the side” for Italy’s largest carmaker, Marchionne told shareholders today.

Fiat Industrial, which will start trading in Milan next January, may be valued at 8.38 euros a share, according to the average projection of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. That’s 49 percent more than the 5.64 euro value estimated by the analysts for the new Fiat SpA, which will include auto-making operations and the Ferrari and Maserati luxury brands.

“Fiat Industrial is undervalued by investors and will benefit from a recovery of the capital goods market,” said Gabriele Gambarova of Banca Akros SpA, who is ranked No. 1 among Fiat analysts tracked by Bloomberg and based on relative returns of the stocks they covered in the past year. “Investors will be more cautious on Fiat auto, which will have to invest to complete its commercial offer.”

Before September, Fiat had risen 34 percent since the Chrysler deal and was down 1.6 percent since the spinoff announcement on April 21. Fiat auto may double its trading profit to 1.2 billion euros, according to the business plan presented in April.

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:48

TX-Based Service King Plans National Expansion

Dallas-based Service King plans to embark on an ambitious national expansion led by new president Cathy Bonner that could double revenue over the next five years according to reports in the Dallas Morning News.

The chain of collision-repair centers, founded in 1976 by company chairman Eddie Lennox, recently opened seven shops in Houston and the success of those centers—some were profitable after three months— prompted Lennox to consider the leap outside Texas.

Most of Service King’s 31 shops and 1,000 employees are in the Dallas area. The privately held company, which says it has a 20 percent market share in the area, expects to repair about 70,000 vehicles and earn $150 million in revenue this year.

“We were able to experiment with a lot of things in Houston that might work for us nationally,” said Lennox, 57, a former body-repair man who started Service King in a three-bay tin building in West Dallas.

Bonner, a Dallas native, has no experience with auto repair. But she served as executive director of the Texas Department of Commerce from 1991 to 1994, founded The Women’s Museum in Dallas and has started and managed three marketing and communications firms.

She also is Lennox’s sister-in-law so she knows the Service King culture, Lennox said. Bonner’s primary responsibility will be to develop a strategic plan for growth, determining which markets Service King should enter and overseeing that plan.

“This relates to growth and getting someone who can help us achieve it — and not ex-technicians like myself,” Lennox said.

He believes that planning for major growth requires knowledge that he and his managers don’t have.

“Eddie approached me and convinced me I don’t need to know how to fix a car,” said Bonner, 60, a finalist in 2007 for The Dallas Morning News’ “Texan of the Year” award for her work to pass legislation creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. “I just get to build on their success.”

Bonner said she intends to have a growth strategy plan completed by the first of the year.

“I had a lot of experience identifying new markets and bringing in corporations when I was with the state,” said Bonner, who was part of a team of officials in the early 1990s that helped convince General Motors Corp. to not close its assembly plant in Arlington.

Service King offers several programs that Lennox says are unique— including a computer program developed by vice president Jeff McFadden that allows insurers to monitor and audit the entire repair process.

“We also have some operations programs that [vice president] Danny McKinley put into place that no one else does, and those products really made me more bullish on growth,” Lennox said.

Despite its moves to get larger, Service King has no interest in going public, said Lennox, who holds 80 percent of Service King’s stock along with his wife. Managers throughout the company own the remaining 20 percent. “We’re well capitalized, and we have good banking relationships,” he said. “We envision doubling our revenue in three to five years.”

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:46

Mobile Airbag Company Relies on Autoland Scanners

An essential piece of equipment can make or break any company. If a body shop has problems with a lift or a paint gun, it can slow down their production significantly. That’s why Rod Salas, owner of an airbag mobile service company in Southern California, knows that his scanners have to work on every service call or he’ll lose time and of course, money. That’s also why he said he’s happy to use scanners made by Autoland Scientech, a worldwide leader in diagnostic tools since 1990.

This meeting at Brookside Country Club by the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was the last chapter meeting of 2010. With the end of 2010 fast approaching and new rules taking effect, a major focus of the meeting was to help members gain an understanding of what SCAQMD Rule 1147 is all about and how it could affect them. The deadline for Rule 1147 takes effect January 1, 2011, and will have a major financial impact on many body shop owners.

One of the speakers on the subject was Wayne Barcikowski, a chemical engineer with 20 years at the AQMD, who wrote the Rule. The major concern for shop owners and managers is how permits required by Rule 1147 will impact them financially. Ms. Van Huong N. Phan, 23-year AWMD veteran and senior air quality engineer for the compliance office handled the questions about “Permits.”

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:43

CAA Asks Governor to Veto SB 519

RE: AB 519 (Solorio)-VETO

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

Toyota has reached an out-of-court settlement with relatives of the Saylor family who were killed when the Lexus sedan they were driving sped out of control and crashed, , according to reports made by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Investigators attributed the accident to a mismatched floormat, which trapped the accelerator pedal, and put an international spotlight on the sudden acceleration concerns that later prompted the automaker to recall millions of vehicles.

Toyota confirmed the settlement September 18 in a statement but did not provide the amount involved or any other details.

“Through mutual respect and cooperation we were able to resolve this matter without the need for litigation,” the statement said.

The crash, which happened in August 2009 in Santee, CA,  was dramatically documentend with cell phone evidence that drew international attention. A backseat passenger called 911 to say that the driver, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer named Mark Saylor, was unable to stop the 2009 Lexus E350, which went as fast as 120 miles per hour on a freeway before hitting another vehicle, going airborn and landing in a fiery crash in a ravine.

Mark Saylor, 45; his wife, Cleofe, 45; and their 13-year-old daughter Mahala died, along with Cleofe Saylor’s brother, Chris Lastrella, 39. It was Lastrella who told the 911 operator that the car’s pedal was stuck and ended the call by saying, “Hold on and pray.” The car was on loan from the nearby Bob Baker Lexus dealership while Saylor’s car was being repaired.

The settlement has left out co-defendant Bob Baker Lexus, a move by the automaker that could set the stage for a potentially damaging fight with its own dealers over who is to blame for sudden acceleration incidents.

“Toyota has sought to protect only its own interests. They decided to cut out their own dealer,” said Larry Willis, attorney for Bob Baker Lexus.

The settlement, according to Toyota’s statement, resolves product liability claims by the Saylor and Lastrella families against Toyota and the dealership. The families have separate claims against the dealership that were not covered.

Two months after the crash, Toyota began a recall that eventually covered 5.4 million vehicles globally in which the automaker said the driver-side floormat could trap the accelerator pedal.

It later recalled 4.5 million vehicles in which the pedals themselves were determined to be defective. Some vehicles were covered by both recalls, for a total of about eight million vehicles.

In February, Toyota’s chief executive, Akio Toyoda, apologized to Congress and to the Saylor family, saying he would “do everything in my power to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.”

The recalls hurt Toyota’s sales and damaged its reputation for building high-quality, reliable vehicles. Thousands of complaints poured in to federal regulators from drivers who said their Toyota-made vehicles accelerated suddenly. In April, the government fined Toyota a record $16.4 million for waiting too long to initiate a recall. The complaints are tied to at least 93 deaths.

Toyota is continuing to defend itself against class-action lawsuits filed by Toyota owners and relatives of people who died in crashes alleged to have resulted from sudden acceleration. The company could face billions of dollars in liabilities if it loses the cases.

Preliminary results released in August from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation into the sudden-acceleration complaints revealed that in many of the crashes the vehicles’ on-board data recorders showed no evidence that the drivers had used the brakes.

The findings suggest that some drivers were mistakenly pressing on the accelerator pedal instead of the brake.

To read previously published articles on this subject go to www.autobodynews.com, search “Saylor.”

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:39

CAA Santa Clara Hosts Annual Trade Faire

Every year the CAA Trade Faire provides an opportunity for CAA members, vendors, body shop and dealership personnel to network, learn more about the industry and re-connect with old friends. On September 15, the CAA Santa Clara chapter’s Trade Faire was held at the Holiday Inn Airport in San Jose, Calif., an event that is more than 20 years old and unique to this CAA chapter in the Bay Area.

Dave Mello, the lifetime treasurer for the CAA Santa Clara’s chapter, was very pleased to see a good turnout for this year’s faire. “We had more than 160 members and associates and 38 vendors on hand to make it a great Trade Faire once again,” said Mello, owner of Andersen Behl Body Shop in Santa Clara said.

“It’s a great night, because body shop professionals and vendors alike can network free-form, as opposed to sitting at a dinner and listening to a speaker. This way, people can interact in their own way in an environment without a schedule or an agenda.”

Vendors featuring computers, software, frame equipment, paint, clips and hardware, legal aid, welders, infrared lamps, paint gun cleaners, car rentals, first aid supplies, radiators and more displayed their products and/or services at the CAA Santa Clara Trade Faire. More than $5,000 in prizes was raffled off during the event, Mello said.

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:27

2011 Ford Focus Launches New Airbag Technology

The all-new 2012 Ford Focus will launch exclusive airbag technologies that enhance protection for front seat occupants in the most common frontal and side crashes.

The suite of new innovations includes Ford’s next-generation driver-side airbag with enhanced chest protection technology.

The new airbag uses a reconfigured curve-shaped tether system that pulls in the lower section to create a “pocket” to help lessen the impact of the airbag on the driver’s chest and ribs in frontal crashes.

Ford’s innovative side airbags feature unique shoulder vents that stay open and reduce pressure for smaller occupants who typically benefit from reduced forces. Taller occupants whose shoulders block the vent could benefit from the higher pressures.

Focus also will be Ford’s first car ever to feature front passenger airbags with adaptive venting technology that diverts some of the gas from the airbag inflators through vents outside of the airbags.

The restraints control module — the control center of Ford’s advanced safety systems — adjusts the level of venting based on seat position.

The new passenger airbag is designed to help enhance head and neck protection by better matching deployment force with occupant size.

This innovative system uses a small pyrotechnic device to force open the vent and can provide less pressure in the airbag when it’s sufficient to help protect the occupant.

“This is Ford’s most advanced airbag system we’ve ever equipped a car with, and it is designed to help protect occupants even better in the most common types of crashes,” said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering.

“Each of these airbags uses innovative technologies to help better customize airbag protection to the occupant.”

The new airbag technologies debut as standard equipment on the all-new 2012 Ford Focus, which goes on sale early next year in North America. They will be rolled out to other Ford vehicles in the next few years.

For more information please visit www.ford.com.

CARSTAR held their 2010 National Media Conferences on Tuesday, September 14, to discuss the changes the company is making in order to better compete in the current economy.

Chairman and CEO Dick Cross began the conference call by outlining CARSTAR’s forecast for the coming year. He said that the successful shops are going to need to not only provide extraordinary performance, but also be able to document it and be prepared to show it to customers.

“We think our collision industry is going to change,” said Cross.

The new-car dealer groups in Dallas and Tarrant counties have merged into the Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association according to reports made by the Dallas Morning News.

Dealers voted overwhelmingly to approve the merger, which is significant because the association will represent about 250 dealers in 11 counties with annual sales of more than $10 billion. The new association is the largest dealer group in the state and should have a strong voice in state and national legislative affairs that affect the auto business.

“D-FW is now viewed as a single market, with many of our dealers having franchises in both Dallas and Tarrant county areas,” said Sam Pack, former chairman of the New Car Dealers Association of Metropolitan Dallas and a driving force in the formation of the new group.

Pack, who owns Ford dealerships in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties, and other dealers began considering the merger about nine months ago after Drew Campbell retired as president of the New Car Dealers Association of Metropolitan Dallas after a 25-year tenure.

Lee Chapman, 50, the former president of the Tarrant County dealers association, will head the new association. The primary goals of the new association are largely unchanged — promoting and representing new-car dealers.

“I’m really excited,” said Chapman, who was president of the Tarrant County group for 26 years. “This is one marketplace, and we want to help dealers sell more cars and help consumers have a positive sales experience.” Among other initiatives, the new association intends to call more attention to dealers’ good deeds — “everything they return to the community, from supporting Little League teams to donating to hospitals,” Chapman said.

Fort Worth and Dallas-area dealers will still put on separate new-car shows. With annual sales approaching 400,000 vehicles, dealers in the Dallas-Fort Worth region sell as many vehicles as those in some small states.

“It just made sense to combine two smaller associations into one of the biggest and strongest in the nation,” said Tom Durant, a board member of the former New Car Dealers Association of Greater Tarrant County and owner of Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine.

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:20

ASA Texas Warns COGS Excludes Labor

ASA Texas is warning shops that labor and other services are disallowed in calculating cost of goods sold for tax purposes. All shops are allowed to claim is the actual parts used for the repair. However, because this is such a common “error” in filing among auto repairers, Texas tax authorities are going to target auto repair shops in particular. The Comptroller’s office announced it will audit 29,000 businesses for the 2008 year. It has hired, or plans to hire, almost 500 auditors.

A shop owner in Tomball who was going through a franchise tax audit was unaware of this exclusion and after his CPA did recalculation of his tax liability, discovered it would cost him an additional $7300.
The Texas comptroller website has posted the following message:

“Franchise tax audits for report years 2008 and 2009 are now in full swing, and we’ve noticed that many entities in the service industry are incorrectly electing to use the cost of goods sold deduction to determine margin.

“Section 171.1012 of the Texas Tax Code specifically provides that, in determining the cost of goods sold, the term “goods” means real or tangible personal property sold in the ordinary course of business and does not include services. The Tax Code does not allow a cost of goods sold deduction for entities that provide services such as dry cleaners, law firms, parking facilities, rental services, towing companies, etc.

Franchise Tax Rule 3.588(c)(8) does allow a cost of goods deduction for transactions that contain elements of both a sale of tangible personal property and a service; however, an entity may only subtract as cost of goods sold the costs otherwise allowed in relation to the tangible personal property sold.

For example, an auto body shop offers the service of car repair and in the process of the repair, replaces some of the car’s parts. If the auto body shop elects to use the cost of goods sold to determine margin, the shop can only deduct the cost of the car parts. The labor related to the repair of the car is not allowed as a cost of goods sold.

If an entity that is not eligible for the cost of goods sold deduction elected to use this method for prior years’ reports, the entity must amend the reports. The compensation deduction, however, is not available for the prior years’ reports. The election language in Tax Code Section 171.101(d) does not allow a change in the method of computing margin to a cost of goods sold or compensation deduction after the due date of the report.

These entities that originally elected to use the cost of goods sold method must amend and use the 70 percent method to determine margin or, if total revenue is not more than $10 million, may use the E-Z Computation to determine tax due. The E-Z Computation does not allow a cost of goods sold or compensation deduction in computing margin but instead applies a lower tax rate of 0.575 percent directly to apportioned total revenue.

In future years, entities that do not sell real or tangible personal property in the ordinary course of business may choose the compensation deduction over the 70 percent method or the E-Z computation. The compensation deduction, detailed in Franchise Tax Rule 3.589, includes W-2 wages and cash compensation paid, net distributive income reported to natural persons and employee benefits provided.”

ASA wants to address this interpretation of cost of goods sold by contacting the Ways and Means Committee of the Texas House and our representatives. Contact Charles Parker, Director, ASA Texas at cparker@asatx.org.

The October issue of Consumer Reports ran an article called Are low-cost replacement bumpers safe? in which it stated “some safety experts are concerned about the internal bumper parts: a bumper beam, bumper isolators, foam, crush cans, brackets, and radiator supports. In a frontal crash, those pieces work together to properly transmit the crash pulse, or vibrations from impact energy that moves through the vehicle, to air-bag sensors and away from the passenger compartment to reduce or prevent injury.

“There’s a lot of engineering that goes into making a crash-protection system,” says David Zuby, chief research officer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “You can’t willy-nilly change those parts because the system may not work the way it was designed.”

The article went to say that “Ford reported that its engineers had found alarming differences in two aftermarket parts tested. One bumper bar was made of mild steel, instead of the ultra-high-strength steel that the original Ford part uses. A radiator support was made of plastic instead of the magnesium used in the Ford part. In computer-simulated crash tests, the fakes changed the timing of the crash pulse, which might affect air-bag deployment.

“Differences in material could result in a difference in the timing of the air-bag deployment,” says Mike Warwood, Ford’s parts marketing and remanufacturing manager. “The air bag might deploy earlier than it should or later than it should. Or it might deploy when it shouldn’t or not deploy at all when it should.”

“Ford’s testing follows a demonstration last year by Toby Chess, a master collision-repair instructor, who used a reciprocating saw to easily slice through an aftermarket bumper bar. The saw couldn’t cut through the original automaker bumper bar.”

Now a major automotive aftermarket association, ABPA, has responded to the Consumer Reports article.

Eileen A. Sottile, co-chair of the ABPA Legislation & Regulation Committee, issued the following statement:

“As a publication that purports to provide a “reliable source of information consumers can depend on to help them distinguish hype from fact and good products from bad ones,” Consumer Reports has sorely missed the mark with its piece, “Are low-cost replacement bumpers safe?,” featured in the October 2010 article, “Save on car insurance.”

The aftermarket collision parts industry maintains the highest standards of quality and safety in the parts we provide to the collision repair industry. In doing so, we also ensure that there is an economical parts option available in the marketplace — a benefit that is extremely important to most Americans, whether they are fixing their own vehicle or having work done by a repair facility. The availability of aftermarket parts also helps keep the prices of car companies’ replacement parts lower, allowing for more vehicles to be repaired rather than declared total losses, thus avoiding the financial stress car owners face when they are left to pay the balance due on the loans of their totaled vehicles.

Consumer Reports bases its highly questionable recommendation that consumers “demand that they [aftermarket parts] be replaced with original equipment,” on egregiously unscientific tests and unwarranted criticism from organizations that have a significant financial stake in the outcome of the debate on aftermarket parts: Ford Motor Company’s hypothetical assertions supported only by computer simulations of a couple of parts merely represent one more play by the company to create a monopoly for its own replacement parts; and quotes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety appear to be based on presumption rather than actual research and factual data.

Rather than providing a reliable source of information for consumers, Consumer Reports is doing nothing more than re-reporting unsubstantiated hype from fierce competitors.

I expect this magazine to be held to a higher standard, and hope that Consumer Reports will involve the aftermarket industry in any future reporting on this issue and uphold its responsibility to draw its own unbiased conclusions.”

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:11

Hyundai AL Plant Gains Elantra Production

The 2011 Hyundai Elantra will join its larger sibling, the Sonata, in production at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) starting in late fall 2010. This change, along with the recent move of the Santa Fe to a production facility in Georgia, will further increase Hyundai’s overall U.S. production capacity, which was already producing over half of total U.S. sales volume.

“Hyundai’s philosophy is to build our vehicles where we sell them, and with the addition of the Elantra to our U.S. production mix we now manufacture our three most popular models right here in the U.S.,” said John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America.

The all-new 2011 Elantra sedan will make its public debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show this November, while sales are scheduled to begin early next year.

Sonata is the best-selling vehicle in Hyundai’s U.S. lineup, with sales of 128,484 though the end of August, a 50% increase over the same period last year. Elantra sales through the same period of 90,960 are up 21% over the same period last year.

HMMA has consistently ranked as one of the highest quality plants in Hyundai’s worldwide operations and is an outstanding example of Hyundai’s focused commitment to quality.

This year Sonata was again ranked in the top-three in quality by the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study in the competitive mid-size sedan category. The HMMA-built Sonata was also recently awarded Auto Pacific’s first-ever President’s Award in recognition of its record-setting consumer performance in 48 categories ranging from the basics of comfort and convenience, to performance and environmental friendliness.

More than 1,200,000 vehicles have rolled off the HMMA assembly line since production began on May 20, 2005.

“We’re thrilled to be adding another pillar of the Hyundai lineup to our production mix here at HMMA,” said Ashley Frye, director of production, HMMA. “We’ve been extremely proud to build both Sonata and Santa Fe on our assembly line, both of which have been hugely successful models for Hyundai in the U.S. and we hope to carry that momentum with us as we embark on the new 2011 Elantra.”

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:08

GDOT Confronts Highway Sales Tax ‘Rumors’

State Department of Transportation Policy and Projects Special Assistant Stephanie Carter September 7 in Gainesville advised Kiwanis Club members not to reject the new regional sales tax for transportation until they understand how it works and what it does.

The sales tax referendum goes before the voters in 2012, not this November, and a regional road project list won’t come out until next year. The 10 year, one cent sales tax goes into effect in 2013.

“Until you actually see the project list and what the one penny is going to fund, I think it’s a little short sighted to come out against the penny,” Carter said.

Last week Hall Farm Bureau members voted against the measure, fearing it could cut funding for Hall County projects.

Carter, who reports directly to Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith, said the new Transportation Investment Act would not stop the flow of funding.

“The money that is raised in this region stays in the region,” she said. “I think a lot of folks are afraid that the money raised here will build new interchanges in Atlanta and that’s not the case.”

Gainesville and Hall County are in the Georgia Mountains Region and Carter said monies raised in the region would go back into its infrastructure. Carter added that DOT would continue to spend money for transportation in Gainesville and Hall County.

Carter said 75 percent of the money is going to be spent on regional projects while 25 percent would go back to the region’s county commissioners and mayors.

On November’s General Election ballot this year there is a voter referendum that stretches funding for state transportation projects.

According to Carter Referendum (3) allows GDOT multi-year contracts on highway projects.

“So if a project is going to cost $100-million but it’s going to take three years to build they could fund it in Year One with $30-million, Year Two with $30-million and Year Three with $40-million,” Carter said. “Right now if we have to put aside that entire $100-million that money is tied up in that project even though it takes three years.If we could move to multi-year contracts it would allow us to get more projects out the door in this fiscal year and in the next and the next.”

Thursday, 23 September 2010 16:07

David Maus Chevrolet Launches New Website

David Maus Chevrolet in Florida, currently under construction, is proud to announce the launch of its new website www.DavidMausChevrolet.com.

The new website offers many great features by providing users with up-to-date information on the construction of the facility, interviews with the construction crew on the project, videos on events throughout the construction period and more.

David Maus Chevrolet will be the fifth dealership in the Central Florida area as a part of the Van Tuyl / David Maus Automotive Group. The construction company, RL Haines, is heading the project which will provide over 1,500 construction related jobs. The new Service Department will showcase 37 service bays with three heavy truck lifts and three detail bays. The entire line of Chevrolet vehicles will be available for sale with one of the largest inventories in Orlando.

For more information on the facility or to apply for a position at David Maus Chevrolet please contact the 407-302-8800 or visit www.DavidMausChevrolet.com.

David Maus Toyota Scion is open for sales and service with a location at 1160 Rinehart Road in Sanford, FL.

The all-new 2012 Ford Focus will launch exclusive airbag technologies that enhance protection for front seat occupants in the most common frontal and side crashes.

The suite of new innovations includes Ford's next-generation driver-side airbag with enhanced chest protection technology. The new airbag uses a reconfigured curve-shaped tether system that pulls in the lower section to create a "pocket" to help lessen the impact of the airbag on the driver's chest and ribs in frontal crashes.

Ford's innovative side airbags feature unique shoulder vents that stay open and reduce pressure for smaller occupants who typically benefit from reduced forces. Taller occupants whose shoulders block the vent could benefit from the higher pressures.

Focus also will be Ford's first car ever to feature front passenger airbags with adaptive venting technology that diverts some of the gas from the airbag inflators through vents outside of the airbags. The restraints control module – the control center of Ford's advanced safety systems – adjusts the level of venting based on seat position.

The new passenger airbag is designed to help enhance head and neck protection by better matching deployment force with occupant size. This innovative system uses a small pyrotechnic device to force open the vent and can provide less pressure in the airbag when it's sufficient to help protect the occupant.

"This is Ford's most advanced airbag system we've ever equipped a car with, and it is designed to help protect occupants even better in the most common types of crashes," said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. "Each of these airbags uses innovative technologies to help better customize airbag protection to the occupant."

The new airbag technologies debut as standard equipment on the all-new 2012 Ford Focus, which goes on sale early next year in North America. They will be rolled out to other Ford vehicles in the next few years.

Data drive new airbag design

Ford's new driver-side airbag was designed to enhance chest and rib protection based in part on Ford's biomechanical research. In particular, Ford found this type of enhanced chest protection technology would be especially helpful in more serious crashes.

"While seat belts and airbags provide proven protection for drivers of all ages, elderly drivers remain at higher risk of injury than younger drivers due to the nature of collision forces," said Frank Heitplatz, Ford supervisor of occupant safety integration. "Decades of biomechanical research at Ford continue to spur refinement of the safety technologies in our vehicles to further reduce the risks of severe injuries."

Focus's strength on safety

In addition to the new airbags, the new Focus's vehicle structure provides enhanced crash protection as well as improved vehicle dynamics.

High-strength steels comprise 55 percent of the Focus's body shell, and ultra-high-strength and boron steels make up more than 31 percent of its skeletal structure. These advanced materials help the structure meet crash regulations across world markets, while minimizing the vehicle's weight to help maximize fuel economy.

"High-strength steels were key to delivering the lighter weight and higher strength we needed for structural efficiency," said Shawn Morgans, Ford technical leader in body engineering. "We believe the materials used on the new Focus are setting a new benchmark in the small car segment."

Ford was the first automaker to begin airbag research five decades ago. It fielded an airbag test fleet in 1971, offered a driver-side airbag in 1985 and standardized driver and front passenger airbags in most vehicles by 1993. In recent years, Ford has introduced a variety of crash protection systems – ranging from canopy airbags to knee bolsters – designed to improve occupant protection. Ford has the most Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of any automaker.

For more information please visit ford.com.

Friday, 17 September 2010 22:13

Toyota to Offer Six New Hybrid Models in 2012

Toyota plans to offer six new gas-electric hybrid vehicles worldwide by the end of 2012, plus a plug-in Prius in the United States according to reports made by the New York Times.

In addition, the automaker and Tesla Motors will introduce an all-electric version of the RAV4 S.U.V. at the Los Angeles auto show in November 2010. It, too, will be available sometime in 2012, said John Hanson, Toyota national manager of environmental, safety and quality communications.

To read the full text of this article please click the link below:

http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/16/toyota-to-offer-six-new-hybrid-models-in-2012/

In a legislative move that has split the two California collision repair associations, California lawmakers approved SB 427 (Negrete, McLeod) which redefines the term "crash part" and increases the penalty on the failure to repair and fully restore an airbag to original operating conditions. The bill was supported by the American Insurance Association (AIA). “AIA feels confident in the language and the protections it will offer our members’ policyholders,” said Gibford.

This bill would define and redefine "crash part," "aftermarket crash part," and "original equipment manufacturer crash part," for purposes of the act and the motor vehicle replacement part provisions.

The bill specifies that an automotive repair dealer who prepares a written estimate that includes replacement of a deployed airbag and who fails to repair and fully restore the airbag where the consumer has paid for the repair, as specified, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.

The bill would require the invoice for work done by an automotive repair dealer to describe all service work done, parts supplied, and crash parts installed. The bill would make a statement of legislative intent regarding this requirement.

General Motors plans to recall about 400 idled union workers to its plant at Spring Hill to build four-cylinder engines for its mid-size crossover vehicles, according to reports made by the Associated Press on September 14.

A person briefed about the new jobs provided the employee count to The Associated Press and said the recall is due to increased demand for the four-cylinder engines. The person did not want to be identified because the plan has not been made public.

In addition, GM will announce that it is investing millions in the Spring Hill engine plant to build the next generation of the company's Ecotec four-cylinder engine, the person said. The factory already builds three four-cylinder engines.

GM spokeswoman Sherrie Childers Arb declined comment September 14 about the jobs but said a media advisory about a September 17 announcement at the plant in Tennessee was forthcoming.

The automaker laid off about 2,000 workers at Spring Hill last year and about 800 of those workers have relocated to GM plants in other states.

In the U.S., the engines built at the Spring Hill plant go into the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain midsize crossover vehicles, the Buick LaCrosse luxury sedan and the Buick Regal midsize sedan, all of which are selling well.

UAW Vice President Joe Ashton is scheduled to be in Spring Hill on September 17 to help make the announcement, the source said.

The prospect of GM adding jobs is also welcome news in Maury County, which had a 14.5 percent unemployment rate in July.

Debbie Hargis is the office manager at Bagsby Tractor and Truck Service in Spring Hill, which worked on trucks for a company that hauled vehicles for the GM plant.

She said the jobs are "going to help Spring Hill a great deal. When people get hired on, it creates more of everything for the area." She said "every business in this area has felt the effect" of the layoffs.

The Detroit Free Press first reported GM's decision to expand its engine building at the Spring Hill plant.

GM laid off workers last year when it moved production of its Chevrolet Traverse after a million dollar overhaul of the Spring Hill plant, where GM 20 years earlier started building the Saturn brand.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010 20:37

Finishing the Red Mist, Part Three

Written by Rich Evans

We left off with sanding with the Soft-Sanders™ blocks. I continue to use the same blocks, with my color sand system. I’m going to cut it down with 800, then cut with 1000 followed by 1200, then 1500, 2000, and finally 2500 sand paper. I come over it with the 6 inch DA on the areas I can reach with 3000. That just makes my buffing system a lot easier. So after 3000 (with the help of the 3M five step system that they call Perfect Finish. The 3000 grit sand paper is usually on a hook back, so I’m using a foam disk with the p3000, (PN02085, without the foam backing is PN02075).