Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin
A car was on fire outside of Mark’s Auto Body on Alpine Road in Eau Claire, WI, where it was being stored for the winter. A section of Alpine Road was closed off to traffic as a result.
Township Fire crews say they’re not sure why the car started on fire, but say it has a fuel leak, and keeps reigniting. Foul play is not suspected.
There is minimal damage to the building, but the car has been deemed a total loss.
The Township Fire Department along with the Eau Claire Sheriff’s Department responded. The call came in just before 8:45 p.m. on March 14, 2014.
Mark’s Auto Body plans to be open during normal business hours.
Michigan Democrat John Dingell, an ardent advocate of the auto industry who has held his seat in Congress since 1955—longer than any other person in history—said that he will retire from the House of Representatives, a senior House Democratic aide said.
Dingell first entered Congress to finish his late father’s term, and went on to serve nearly six decades.
“I’m not going to be carried out feet first,” Dingell, 87, told The Detroit News. “I don’t want people to say I stayed too long.”
Dingell said that he will not seek re-election in November 2014.
In his heyday, Dingell wielded power as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and has shaped major laws for cleaner air and water, protecting endangered species, and providing health care for poor children.
Dingell also expressed disappointment with Congress.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” he told The Detroit News. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”
The newest Andy’s Auto Body location in Wood River, IL, is going to be like a “new car dealership without new cars,” as manager Chuck Tucker told writer Nathan Grimm. The shop will have all the trimmings of a new car dealership, including a full auto body shop and a full mechanical department. The location will also feature between 30 and 50 used cars for sale, according to owner Mark Anderson. Anderson said that the 13,000-square-foot building, just a block from three existing new car dealerships with another on the way, was prime real estate for his business. “There’s a lot of dealerships right there, which will help us develop customers,” Anderson said, noting, “Four dealerships, but none have a body shop.”
Customers of the body shop’s Alton Square Mall location will notice a similar, if not new and improved, showroom, Tucker said. The waiting area will still have the leather chairs and 70-inch television that customers are accustomed to, but the Wood River location will also have WiFi technology, a gourmet coffee bar, a fireplace, and a computer for guests who may need to get work done while they’re waiting.
Although it’s a new location, Tucker said the staff will be seasoned veterans in the automotive field, some with more than 30 years of experience.
It’s an exciting new venture for the body shop, but it’s also a nice new start for the building, which has sat empty for years. Wood River mayor Fred Ufert said the building hasn’t been occupied for around eight years, since Federico Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep moved to its new location. Ufert said the city is “glad to see that building used.”
“It’s a good deal for them and a good deal for the city,” Ufert said. “We’re thrilled that they’re here.”
It was a quick turnaround for the building, too, as Tucker said the doors opened on March 14, 2014. The business had a grand opening March 22, 2014, and McKay Auto Parts had a barbecue at both the Wood River and Alton Square Mall locations. Despite all the newness, Tucker said one thing won’t change—Andy’s Auto Body’s commitment to running a “reputable, locally owned business.”
Andy McDonald, assistant professor for the Waubonsee Community College Auto Body Repair program in Sugar Grove, IL, described a tradition of excellence to the Kane County Chronicle.
McDonald talked about strong finishes at state and national competitions, and said high-caliber students find work soon after school. Since 2008, Waubonsee students have earned four first-place awards, seven second-place awards, and two third-place awards in state SkillsUSA competitions. Several students have advanced to the National SkillsUSA completion in Kansas City, MO, earning second-, fourth-, and eight-place awards.
A lot of that was accomplished with older training technology, but now the school has been endowed with a $50,000 Ultimate Collision Education Makeover grant from the Collision Repair Education Foundation.
Waubonsee was among four schools nationally to receive the award in 2013.
As a result, the school will add a new paint room, a new paint booth, and a new frame rack, which was donated by Spanesi Body Shop Technology of Naperville, IL.
A North Aurora-based Sherwin Williams store will donate paint for the interior of the program’s building.
The equipment is worth tens of thousands of dollars, and McDonald said it will provide a boost, allowing students to work with state-of-the-art machinery that they would encounter when they are employed. “It’s more real-world,” McDonald said.
For instance, with the older technology, there were 1980s-style spray booths, and paint might have to dry overnight. But with newer technology, McDonald said, cars can be “baked” for 30 minutes. He said it also helps mistakes get corrected more quickly.
He said the old equipment wasn’t bad, but “it was just old equipment. Now, it’s going to be better.”
Sue Murray, the assistant vice president of career and technical education at Waubonsee Community College, said it was the second year the school had applied for the grant. She said it’s an opportunity to put a wish list together. She said I-CAR seeks the donations.
She said the donations will improve an already-successful and popular program. She said having such a program is a positive for Waubonsee.
“It is always full,” she said, adding that there are few such programs in the state. She said because such programs need equipment that can be pricey and require plenty of space, “schools don’t go into it lightly.”
At Waubonsee, she said, it’s a big help to have a program experience such accolades.
“It has a very good reputation,” she said.
Darrel DeGreves, the store manager at Sherwin Williams in North Aurora, said his store’s donations will be between 20 and 40 gallons of “Moonlight White” paint for the interior of the building.
“It’s really needed,” he said. “The building was originally a horse barn, and they’ve converted it into an auto center.” He said he is happy to help. He said he is familiar with the program and is impressed by those who are in it. “The kids are good kids,” he said.
Waubonsee’s auto body repair program is approved by the Illinois Community College Board and certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). It is taught in accordance with National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) standards and follows I-CAR guidelines.
Waubonsee’s auto body repair program gives students real hands-on experience making both structural and non-structural repairs on a variety of vehicles. Students develop skills in the areas of frame repair and straightening, sheet metal repair, welding, plastic component repair, refinishing, and both solvent-based and waterborne painting. Students repair an average of 78 cars each year. The auto body repair program is headquartered in the Auto Body Building, an 18,000 square foot facility on the south side of Waubonsee’s Sugar Grove Campus. This facility houses three spray booths, two prep stations, a modern classroom, and a computer lab.
Waubonsee’s facilities and program are compliant with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and have been certified so by the Illinois Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Students earn personal EPA certification which is a requirement for those working in the field. Students have trained on a mechanical frame measurement system and two computerized systems. Other equipment includes three frame machines, a state-of-the-art waterborne paint system, and six resistance and MIG welders.
Three-C Body Shops is seeking recovery of short-pays, fees, and court costs from State Farm Insurance for the insurer’s repeated underpayments for services generally rendered and charged to their customers when their vehicles have been deemed to be total losses.
Currently, there are approximately 89 active lawsuits between Three-C’s and State Farm that began in November 2012. Generally the suits stem from total-loss billings, whereas Three-C Body Shop is seeking an estimated $296,807.93, of which State Farm has agreed to pay only $31,565.03, leaving an unpaid and contested amount to date of $265,242.90. Similar lawsuits will likely be filed.
Bob Juniper, second generation owner and president of the 58-year-old, family-owned company is no stranger to controversy or to taking on the challenges the collision industry presents. He was one of the first shop owners in the nation to ‘put his money where his mouth is’ by his hard-charging and often controversial local television and radio consumer awareness ads and commercials regarding direct repair programs (DRPs).
Juniper said, “When a vehicle becomes a total loss, we cease normal repair-related activities and change to another mode of operation, and, as such, charges for such activities are assessed that may or may not be consistent with a repair.
Such charges may be processes including but not limited to clean-up from fluid leaks, relocating a disabled vehicle, storage, protection, research, documentation, administrative activities, parts handling, and others. We have closely studied the high cost of handling and processing total loss vehicles.
In the Columbus, OH, area, insurers understand and pay for such charges—all but one, that is. State Farm continues to be ‘the odd-man-out’ in settling such claims fairly.
We must be paid for our efforts and liabilities associated with the handling involved in total losses as such activities are not ‘the cost of doing business.’ We have decided to let the courts decide who is right and who is wrong. Our efforts to work things out with State Farm directly were unsuccessful. I believe the facts will show that the money is owed. We look forward to sharing the results of these cases with the collision repair industry.”
Todd A. Fichtenberg, one of Three-C’s attorneys of the law firm Skinner & Associates, LLC of Columbus, OH, stated: “Ohio lacks the statutory provisions that have made those like Ray Gunder in Florida so successful in the recovery of fees and costs. Without that statutory framework, we are using Ohio’s existing laws and good faith arguments for the extension of those laws in an effort to recover Three-C’s fees and costs”.
Three-C Body shops was founded in 1956 and currently has six locations including two satellite locations (inspection-estimating, drop-off, and delivery), which help feed their four repair production locations in and around the Columbus market area. The company does $10 million-plus in annual sales.
The Iowa Collision Repair Association (ICRA) held the fourth annual Midwest Auto Body Show on March 20, 2014, in Altoona, IA. The 2014 theme was “The Future Is Now” and was free to Midwest collision industry members.
Paul Massie, Ford Motor Company's powertrain and collision product marketing manager, offered a video presentation webinar about the high-strength, military-grade aluminum alloy included in the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup and conducted a Q&A session.
Iowa senator Brad Zaun and ICRA lobbyist Scott Weiser brought the collision industry up to date on 2014 legislative activities.
Pete Tagliapietra of NuGen IT moderated an “Insurer Mandate– Parts Procurement” panel discussion.
A presentation titled “Information Technology and the Future of Collision Repair” was given during lunch.
After lunch, free “Training in the Round” education sessions were held on the trade show floor, which featured more than 65 vendor display booths.
Michigan House Bill 5339, introduced on February 19, 2014, seeks to amend the Michigan Insurance Code of 1956 to restrict insurance companies from numerous actions that irk collision repair facility operators. The broadly-worded bill has not yet been scheduled for hearings.
A proposed bill in Minnesota, House File 2690 (HF 2690), seeks to amend Minnesota Statutes 2012, section 72B.092, subdivision 1 to include more stringent prohibitions against insurance company requirements placed upon repair facilities. Introduced by representatives Joe Atkins, Greg Davids, Joe Hoppe, Debra Hilstrom, Jim Davnie, and Melissa Hortman on March 3, 2014, HF 2690 changes two subsections of the existing law, including provisions the repair industry supported and were added into the law in 2007.
The first amendment adds a prohibition against insurance companies and their representatives from requiring that a vehicle be presented “… at a particular motor vehicle repair shop designated by the insurer” in addition to the existing ban against drive-in claim centers.
According to Judell Anderson, executive director of Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, Minnesota (AASP-MN), whose organization supports the bill, this amendment seeks to expand the existing prohibition on requiring that vehicle owners present their cars at a drive-in because insurers have adapted to the existing prohibition by requiring vehicle owners to take their vehicles to a specific repair facility for inspection.
“We’ve heard from our members that insurance companies now tell people to go to a specific repair facility to get their vehicle inspected,” said Anderson. “In many cases, the insurer will actually have staff onsite at the body shop one or two days a week, essentially running a drive-in claim center in the repair facility. This section is really about combating insurance company steering.”
The second amendment adds a section to the existing law that expands upon the types of requirements that insurance companies may not place upon repair facilities. The added section states that insurance company representatives shall not specify or require any motor vehicle repair shop to use specific vendors, distributors, manufacturers, suppliers, business platforms, or internal processes to carry out vehicle repairs for an insured or claimant. This expands upon another subsection that was added into the existing law in 2007 that says insurance company representative shall not specify the use of a particular vendor for the procurement of parts or other materials necessary for the satisfactory repair of the vehicle. This clause does not require the insurer to pay more than a reasonable market price for parts of like kind and quality in adjusting a claim
In October 2013, AASP-MN filed a formal complaint with the Minnesota Department of Commerce requesting administrative and/or legal action to prevent State Farm from requiring that collision repair shops that participate in the State Farm direct repair program use the PartsTrader parts procurement system based upon the existing section of the law.
According to Anderson, the addition of the new section should help address numerous concerns AASP-MN members have with increasing insurance company requirements for specific vendors and business processes beyond the existing law that prohibits that activity for parts and materials.
A multi-jurisdictional task force conducted raids in Wayne and Oakland counties on the morning of February 28, 2014, on suspicion of a theft and fraud ring involving automobiles.
The investigation reportedly stemmed from a stolen automobile that lead investigators to raid the Somerset Collision Shop in Detroit, MI, according to reports in the Detroit News.
“The raids were conducted with auto theft teams from Highland Park and Hazel Park in conjunction with the Action Auto Theft squad and a number of other assisting agencies,” said the Hamtramck Police Department in a press release.
“The raids were successful with multiple arrests and the recovery of stolen property. Somerset Collision in Detroit was the primary focus of the raids.”
This isn’t the first time Somerset has been raided by authorities, according to the Detroit News writer Tom Greenwood.
In March 2007, the office of the Michigan Attorney General announced the arrests of three individuals in connection with a Detroit-based organized crime operation that allegedly stole millions of dollars in insurance fraud.
The arrests came after authorities raided three Detroit-area body shops that were all owned by the same family. Among the body shops raided in 2007 were the Somerset Auto Body Shop in Detroit.
Other businesses owned by the family were Bojax Auto Collision, Dynamic Collision, the Collision Connection, Ultimate Collision, and Foreign and Domestic Collision.
According to the Attorney General, in 2007 the businesses were owned, operated, and managed by an Orchard Lake man and his mother and brother, both of whom lived in West Bloomfield, MI.
The defendants all received probation.
The Attorney General office was unable to confirm or deny that the same family still owned the Somerset Collision Shop or were involved in the recent raid.
Heritage Collision and Frame, a 30-year-old, family-owned collision and repair shop in Ypsilanti, MI, is expanding its operations into Scio Township, just beyond the Ann Arbor, MI, border. Heritage Collision and Frame—which originated in Garden City, MI, but has called Ypsilanti its home for the last 10 years—recently purchased a specially-zoned property at 6550 Jackson Road. The facility is located about a mile west of Zeeb Road. The 6,672-square-foot building had been on the market since November 2013, but, up until that time, it was occupied simultaneously by a trucking company and a paving company.
Grant Hatchard, the late owner of Grant’s Automotive, owned the building and operated out of the facility before his wife took ownership following his death in 2011. Charlie Koenn, the selling agent, said that the building was sold to Heritage for just less than its US$240,000 listing price, but it was a sought-after property because of its unique zoning. “It’s zoned for outside storage and auto repair, and there are plenty of businesses around that would like a building like that,” Koenn said.