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Twenty-five influential members of the automotive recycling industry have been honored by Locator UpFront, a bi-monthly publication by the John Holmes Publishing Company of Whiting, Iowa. 

California State Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) has introduced SB 1492, groundbreaking legislation that would make the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) responsible for conducting an annual survey of body shop labor rates for the purpose of establishing prevailing rates in different parts of the state. 

Battle lines are being drawn in California over Assembly Bill 1852, a measure that would have the effect of legally sanctioning certified aftermarket crash parts by declaring that, once certified, they are of like kind and quality to OEM. Such sanctioning would presumably cut off consumers from taking legal action against their insurers for mandating the use of aftermarket parts in collision repairs. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2006 17:00

CAA warns that insurers to cap storage charges

The California Autobody Association (CAA) will be holding its own Legislative Day this year on March 29 at the Capitol in Sacramento. All body shops are invited to attend a short update session and participate in scheduled meetings with their legislators. Further information will be available at www.calautobody.com

Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi has issued a Cease and Desist (C&D) Order on The Global Healings Society of Puyallup, Washington, following an investigation by the California Department of Insurance (CDI) Investigation Division. The Order demands The Global Healings Society to cease and desist transacting any and all insurance business in California. 

For the second year in a row, the White House budget request eliminates the federal investment in career and technical education authorized by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) expressed disappointment with President Bush's budget request and will work with the Congress and administration to seek restoration of Perkins funds during the appropriations process. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2006 17:00

Proponents now say AB 303 is moving forward

The Lazarus bill - AB 303 - appears to be making a miraculous recovery. Last month, the legislation was declared to be on life support, alive in committee as a technicality for "emergency purposes" only. Despite new statements to the contrary, there is still no written documentation regarding the renewed status of the legislation. 

At first glance, it's hard to fathom what Eliyahu Goldratt, a 58-year-old Israel-born physicist, has to offer the collision industry. But more than 20 years after Goldratt authored (along with Jeff Cox) a "business novel" entitled "The Goal," his theory of process improvement is increasingly being discussed within many shop "20 groups" and implemented by a growing number of collision repair businesses. 

    The meeting between the California Autobody Association (CAA) and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner was the focus of Legislative Day at the Capitol on March 27. The four main points that the CAA executive committee covered with the Commissioner and his department were discussed. The points included consumer choice and steering, capping of paint and material costs, auto body labor rates and surveys, and enforcement of laws and regulations.

Results are in for LKQ Corporation's (Nasdaq: LKQX) fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2005, with revenue of $143.9 million for the quarter and $547.4 million for the year. Net income was $8.3 million for the quarter and $30.9 million for the year, representing growth over 2004 of approximately 64% and 50%, respectively. 

The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, has issued a long-awaited opinion on the Texas insurer-owned shop law. HB 1131 put a halt to insurer-owned shops in the state of Texas. Texas state Senator John Carona along with a strong grassroots effort on the part of collision repairers across the state assured the passage of the bill in June 2003.  

Yohannes "John" Mesfine feels like he has been through hell and back - compliments of the California Department of Insurance (DOI) and the San Mateo County DA's office. Mesfine, owner of Mesfine Auto Body & Paint in Redwood City, California, was arrested in February 2005 and charged with insurance fraud in a sting operation run by the Department of Insurance. 

The second shoe has finally dropped in the saga of AB 303 - legislation that would allow insurance programs like Progressive's "Concierge" to "step into the shoes of the insured." Amendments have been issued by the proponents of the bill to address the complaints made during the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee hearing last year. 

California State Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) introduced last month SB 1492, groundbreaking legislation that would make the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) responsible for conducting an annual survey of body shop labor rates for the purpose of establishing prevailing rates in different parts of the state. 

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition of Michael E. Avery, et al in their suit against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. After almost 10 years of dueling between Avery, et al and State Farm, the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to the national aftermarket parts class action lawsuit March 6. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new standards to the existing standards that limit workplace exposure to hexavalent chromium. It has been determined by OSHA that the current level of hexavalent chromium that workers are exposed to puts workers at a significant health risk. 

For anyone in this industry who started out hustling sales - whether that means collision repair jobs, cans of paint or tools and equipment - pulling back from a focus on growth in gross sales can be a challenge. Increasing the top line, after all, is often a key ingredient in increasing the bottom line. More sales equals more profit, right? 

The hail storm that struck Central Texas on April 21 is expected to exceed $100 million in insured losses. Baseball-size hail pounded the city of San Marcos smashing vehicles at car dealerships and shopping malls. 

Representatives from the vehicle manufacturers, steelmakers, vehicle dismantlers, vehicle shredders, environmental community, states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached agreement on a statement of principles detailing the elements of a national program for recovering mercury switches from scrap cars and light trucks before they are shredded for recycling. The parties are now working to complete a formal agreement. 

Allstate has filed a Notice of Appeal with reference to the recent decision in Allstate Insurance Company, et al. v. Greg Abbott, et al. issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The court held that specific provisions preventing insurer-owned shops from doing business in the state of Texas were constitutional. 

"State Farm does not think it is reasonable to pay more for repairs than our competitors," stated George Avery, State Farm Claim Consultant, speaking to over 200 attendees at April's Collision Industry Conference in Portland, Oregon. Avery offered a 30-minute high-level overview of the changes the industry can expect from State Farm.  

3i Group Plc and funds advised by Euroventures Management AB, incl. Sjätte AP-fonden, have entered into an agreement to sell all of the shares in Alignment Systems AB, parent of Car-O-Liner and Josam subsidiaries, to FSN Capital Limited Partnership II. 

California collision repair industry professionals took matters into their own hands to impede the progress of AB 1852, the CAPA-sponsored non-OEM parts bill. Members of the California Auto Association (CAA) and several individual shop owners met in Sacramento with legislators to discuss the various legislative issues facing the auto body industry. 

Sunday, 30 April 2006 17:00

New BAR signage requirement

The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) recently amended its signage regulation, altering the required design to include the BAR website address. Automotive Repair Dealers (ARDs) must comply with the new design requirement by June 30, 2006. 

An anti-steering bill has been introduced in the Arizona legislature by a last minute tactic know as a "strike everything" amendment. HB 2385, which started its life as a bill concerning eminent domain (the taking of private property by the state) was changed on March 24 to a transportation bill dealing with consumers' rights to select their own repair facilities for auto body repair claims. 

If there was one key message at a recent gathering of auto recyclers from around the country it was that shops and insurers want an easy and reliable way to know exactly what to expect when sourcing used parts. 

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi's (R-Wyo.) Health Insurance Marketplace Moderniza-tion and Affordability Act, S. 1955, failed to advance after being just five votes short of a motion to invoke cloture.

"Despite the attempts by the car companies and their car dealerships to kill "The Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, HR 2048," motoring consumers and the independent auto repair industry won the first round in a 14 to 13 vote in the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection," stated David Parde, president, the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE). 

The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, which represents two brands of private passenger auto insurance, Progressive Direct and Drive® Insurance from Progressive, has opened its third Houston-area Concierge Service Center. 

Five of the nation's largest auto insurers began airing an expensive TV advertising campaign in order to mislead Californians, mostly in rural parts of the state, about the effects of Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi's proposed Good Driver pricing reforms, according to the non-profit non-partisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). 

A lot of hard work could go down the drain in Sacramento because the California Senate Appropriations Committee has placed a bill that deals with resolving collision repair disputes between insurance companies and their customers, SB 1492, in the "suspense file." Action on this bill is suspended while the fiscal impact of this and other new legislation is determined. Hearings are currently being held to decide which bills will be released from the suspense file. 

Effective May 17, the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) adopted a new regulation that will add flexibility to the process under which additional repairs may be authorized. The new regulation [Title 16 CCR3353(f)] permits the customer to designate another person to authorize additional parts and labor written estimated price. 

Darrell Amberson, AAM, Lehman's Garage, Bloomington, Minnesota, has been re-elected as Collision Division director of the Automotive Service Association (ASA). As such, Amberson serves on ASA's board of directors and chairs the ASA Collision Division Operations Committee. The position of Collision Division director is a two-year term. Jerry Burns, AAM, Automotive Impressions Inc., Rio Rancho, N.M., has been chosen to serve assistant division director. 

Allstate and Audatex, a Solera Company, (formerly ADP Claims Services Group) have entered an agreement for Audatex to provide mobile estimating tools and valuation services to Allstate. Under the agreement, Audatex will continue to provide Allstate's auto adjusters with PenPro® software and Autosource® valuation services. 

Former NFL quarterback and Hall of Fame member Troy Aikman will be the NACE 2006 keynote speaker. DuPont Performance Coatings is the sponsor of the Aikman ap-pearance on Thursday morning, November 2 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. 

Hiring a new employee can be tricky business. One West Coast shop owner found that out recently when within two days he suddenly found himself down three technicians. Before he could even get a 'help wanted' ad place, a man came in looking for work. 

Here's your assignment: Pretend you have 45 seconds to talk about your business in front of a group of people you'd love to have as customers. Could you tell them something that's unique about your business, something that no other shop in your area could or is likely to tell them? 

Friday, 30 June 2006 17:00

Central Texas hailstorms were costly

The hailstorms that pounded central Texas this spring were costly. The final tally for insured losses reached $160 million. The city of San Marcos bore the brunt of the storm. Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged as well hundreds of new and used cars, some of them totaled. 

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has instituted an asset freeze and temporary restraining order against the owner of a Houston auto auction, seeking an accounting for millions of dollars in fees fraudulently assessed against those who participated in auctions to purchase vehicles. 

With the opening of the first Concierge Program service center in California, located in San Diego, Progressive Insurance has created a furor over what type of collision repair activities require registration with the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) and reopened the question of whether an insurer can stand in the shoes of its insured in negotiating and authorizing collision repairs. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing recently to discuss "The McCarran-Ferguson Act: Implications of Repealing the Insurers' Antitrust Exemption." According to Senator Arlen Specter, R-Pa., committee chairman, this is the first hearing on McCarran-Ferguson by the full committee since 1989. 

In response to concerns of collision repairers raised at the annual National Industry Issues Forum (NIIF), hosted by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), Mitchell International has issued an open invitation to the collision repair industry to come see how the company develops, verifies, and maintains labor times. In a press release, Mitchell said it looks forward to demonstrating complete transparency to collision repairers, SCRS association leaders and members, along with collision repair industry press and analysts, so all can understand how the company derives and maintains its labor times database. 

Supporters and detractors continue to vie for position as the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee prepares to hold a markup for the Motor Vehicle Right to Repair Act (HR 2048). This legislation, which is expected to be considered this year, will make it mandatory for automobile manufacturers to disclose to car buyers and independent repair shops the information needed to repair or maintain their vehicles. 

The redesigned Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon, both equipped with standard side air bags, earn top ratings of good in side crash tests that simulate an impact from an SUV or pickup truck. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (Institute) recently conducted side tests of eight large family cars. The Buick Lucerne and Hyundai Azera, also equipped with standard side air bags, earn the second highest rating of acceptable. 

Farmers Insurance Exchange and Mid Century Insurance Company have sued two California body shops and their owners, accusing them of taking part in a scheme designed to defraud Farmers and its policyholders. 

Mark Cantrell, co-owner and general manager of McLeod Autobody in Kirkland, Washington, recommends that shop owners look for ways to save their employees just three-tenths of an hour each day. 

Give some thoughtful people who are knowledgeable about the collision repair industry a chance to shine up a crystal ball and look into the future, and you're likely to hear some interesting things. 

During the 1980s and 1990s, association and seminar leaders frequently pointed to changes in vehicle technology that were putting a dent in the collision repair market. Daytime running lights, the third brake light and anti-lock braking systems (if drivers used them properly), they'd say, were among the key factors pulling accident frequency down. 

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company will replace existing Select Service and Service First® programs in designated market with its newly revamped Select Service program, recently tested in markets in California, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. Select Service, an auto damage repair program currently in a limited number of locations, was introduced by State Farm in 2001. 

U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate negotiators agreed to renew the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act (S.250) for another six years. Despite President George W. Bush's proposal to leave the program unfunded in his next two fiscal year budget proposals, House and Senate conferees agreed to renew the Perkins Act. 

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs has been holding hearings to discuss legislation introduced by Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D), and John Sununu (R-N.H). The legislation could impact who regulates the insurance industry, which is currently controlled by the states. 

One of the ways some shops are coping with what they are finding is decreasing profits in collision repair work is adding services beyond body work: mechanical work, detailing, and spray-on bed liners. 

Thursday, 31 August 2006 17:00

OSHA issues final rule on APFs

New Assigned Protection Factors (APFs) for respiratory protection programs are being incorporated into the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) respiratory protection standard. 

Rod Enlow joked that in mid-2005 as he became chairman of I-CAR's board of directors, it looked like it was going to be a fairly smooth and calm year for the training organization. The destructive forces of hurricanes Katrina and Rita turned out to be just one of the issues that ended up buffeting I-CAR during what Enlow now calls a challenging but successful year. 

Two northern California body shops have stepped up to the plate in an effort to stop illegal steering in the state. Competitors G&C Autobody and Dibble's Autobody have joined together in a lawsuit against GEICO (defendant) for steering customers away from their shops and not conducting the proper labor rate surveys to establish reasonable hourly rates. 

It's an altogether too common story in the auto body world - a $5,100 difference of opinion between the shop owner and the insurance company on how to properly repair a vehicle which led to an epic, one- year battle. 

The California Department of Insurance (DOI) has taken the first steps toward eliminating a long-standing thorn in the side of the collision industry - capping paint costs. In late August, the DOI held a workshop, chaired by staff members Deputy Insurance Commissioner Woody Girion and Tony Cignarale to discuss capping paint costs by insurance companies. 

State Farm's new Select Service DRP program, industry anti-fraud measures and estimating issues highlighted the discussion at the Collision Industry Conference, held in August at San Jose, California. CIC was held in conjunction with I-CAR's annual international conference - Getting Revved Up For Training. A power packed agenda filled the day for over 200 attendees.