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
The Ohio Automobile Dealers Association is pushing legislation that it says will amend the state dealer franchise law to more explicitly ban factory-owned stores. Association leaders contend that the existing Ohio law should have prevented Tesla from getting licenses for its stores in Cincinnati and Columbus, according to an article in Automotive News.
“The legislation reinforces what we’ve always believed the laws to be: that a manufacturer cannot hold a dealer’s license to sell vehicles at retail,” said Sara Bruce, the association vice president of legal affairs. “If there was any misunderstanding of what the law is or what the definition of a new motor dealer is, this certainly does clarify it.”
A Tesla executive says that the electric vehicle maker stores in Ohio comply with current state law and that the company properly applied for and received the licenses. “The Tesla approach doesn’t hurt existing dealerships,” said Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla vice president of business development.
“We’re not out to eviscerate the dealer business model,” O’Connell told Automotive News. “We’re out there simply to introduce a new technology in the manner we think is most effective.”
While the legislative battle plays out, the dealers association and some of its members also are deciding whether to appeal the dismissal of their lawsuit against Tesla and the Ohio agencies that issue dealer licenses.
A court magistrate dismissed that lawsuit on February 6, 2014, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.
Tesla executives and representatives from the Ohio dealers association testified last week on the proposed legislation at Ohio Senate committee hearings. Previous efforts by the dealers association to amend the statute failed late last year.
James Chen, Tesla vice president of regulatory affairs, told senators that passage of the bill would limit consumer choice, stifle inter-brand competition, and allow Ohio dealers to establish a monopoly that current law does not allow.
Joe Cannon, vice president of government relations for the Ohio dealers association, told senators that the Tesla store licensing opens the door for all manufacturers—both emerging and existing—to follow the same path. “That puts dealership employment and the substantial investments dealers have made in their communities at risk,” he said.
Insurers, prosecutors, and lawmakers from both parties argued that loose Minnesota laws encourage insurance scammers as the coalition made a case for 11 legislative measures they say will crack down on costly fraud. The proposals headed to the legislature for consideration in the upcoming session represent a rare area of partisan consensus around the Minnesota no-fault insurance laws. They were honed through a working group that drew in factions from the medical, insurance, and trial lawyer communities.
“It is not a victimless crime. Virtually everyone in the state of Minnesota pays the price for insurance fraud,” said Mark Kulda of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, who appeared at a news conference to announce the anti-fraud package.
The bills would close perceived loopholes in claims processing, information sharing, investigations, and fraud prosecutions. While the type of fraud varies, some of it involves people using minor car accidents to gain access to prescription medication they later resell. In other cases, unscrupulous contractors prey on storm victims with home-insurance claims for work never performed.
Among the proposed steps:
—Allow the Minnesota commerce commissioner to impose civil penalties for acts of fraud, which is seen as easier than obtaining criminal convictions.
—Limit access to auto accident records that can be used by schemers to solicit victims unknowingly used to perpetrate fraud.
—Give insurance companies liability protection when they exchange claims data with law enforcement that can be analyzed to spot fraud rings.
As states including New York and Florida stiffen their insurance laws, advocates of the new measures say people who engage in fraud are looking for weak spots.
Tim Lynch, government relations director at the industry-backed National Insurance Crime Bureau, said fraud schemes have migrated to Minnesota.
Terry Beswick, an auto body parts retailer, repair man, and new Clinton, IA, business owner, has established himself as an auto body mechanic in Fulton, IA, but, his newest creation, the “It’s a Life Saver” device, is something he calls his best idea yet.
Beswick said, “I spend a lot of time thinking about things that can help people and save them money, and a lot of people have told me this is the best idea I’ve had.”
The “It’s a Life Saver” device is similar in purpose to a car alarm, which is designed to alert the owner of criminal mischief to a vehicle. By taking that concept, Beswick created, essentially, an alarm for the house that is triggered by a small remote button, just like a vehicle alarm. Beswick designed it to be activated in emergency situations, including medical crisis or home intrusion scenarios in which getting to a phone to dial 911 is not easily accessible. When activated, the apparatus sounds an alarm that can be heard within approximately one block of the home, alerting neighbors that trouble is abound.
“People have car alarms, so I started thinking why don’t houses have similar alarms?” Beswick said. “This is different than a security system too because those are hundreds of dollars plus annual fees that you have to pay. This is a one time cost of US$250 plus a US$50 installation fee.”
Not only does Beswick offer the device at the one-time flat rate, he also guarantees that, if it does indeed save a life, a full refund will be rewarded to the victim.
“I figure if this thing saves your life, you’ve already had a pretty rotten day so why not put 250 bucks back in your pocket?” he added.
While the new store on the corner of South Second Street and Fourth Avenue South is designed to promote the alarm, he also obtained the active corner location to help boost activity at his Fulton-based auto body shop.
In addition to selling the device, he also will offer auto body parts for people interested in car restoration, or who just need to replace a part on their car.
“My store is mainly going to be focused on letting people know about my shop and for the do-it-yourself guys who like to fix up cars,” Beswick said.
“We settled on a plea and she and her husband will be at least paying a little back,” says Lynette Hackworth, office manager for A2 Auto Glass based in Washtenaw County, MI. Oral and Janice Molden were sentenced to probation this month for allegedly embezzling from the automotive glass company. They have been ordered to pay a combined total of US$189,881 in fines. “We’re glad for it to be over,” said Hackworth. “It took way too long and it’s a shame this ever happened. It’s a very sad situation and cost the business a lot of money in attorneys’ fees. Our company is much healthier now and we’re glad to move on.” The couple was accused of embezzling the money over a three-year period. Janice Molden was a bookkeeper for the company and Oral Molden did computer work there. Janice Molden was sentenced to five years of probation and has been ordered to pay US$166,440 in fines, according to a report. Her husband was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay US$23,441 in fines. Plea deals in the case were reached in October 2013 with the sentencing taking place in February 2014.
Chicago, IL police say a man who allegedly tried to steal a woman’s car got a big surprise when she handed over the keys, then shut him inside her garage. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that 21-year-old Andre Bacon is charged with attempted vehicular hijacking and theft and was ordered held Sunday, February 16, 2014, in lieu of US$75,000 bail. Police say Bacon demanded that she give him the keys to her 2012 Acura MDX, which was parked in her garage. She did, but then closed the door behind her and called police.
The 1Collision Network, a Midwest chain of independently-owned collision repair businesses, has announced the addition of two Wilson Auto Collision centers to its family. With these additions, 1Collision now has 19 facilities throughout Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The Wilson Auto Collision centers are owned by Kevin Wilson, who has been in business for 12 years. “I was impressed with the 1Collision value proposition, with many programs designed to enhance our success and planned business growth,” said Wilson. “I also see great value in affiliating and networking with other high-performing, successful business owners.” 1Collision Network president, Jim Keller, commented, “We are proud to welcome Kevin and his organization as our newest 1Collision partner. I first met Kevin at the MSO Symposium at NACE and knew from our first conversation that he was a high-quality business owner, serious about his business, in touch with industry trends, and thriving in the marketplace because of his successful qualities. Visiting his businesses verified the commitment Kevin and his staff have to service excellence.”
Todd Liston says that he’s fixing double the usual number of cars this year at Auto Body Specialists in Rockford, IL. “Every aspect of vehicle accidents has gone up from sliding off the road, which is definitely there. The snow banks are so high that people are not even able to see around the intersection sometimes and they pull out and get hit that way,” said Liston. Aside from car accidents, local mechanics say they’re running into another problem: finding enough car parts. State Farm Insurance reports a 20 percent jump in their car insurance claims from December 2012 to the same time last year. That includes car accidents and roadside assistance from drivers sliding off the road. “We’re seeing a lot more multiple-vehicle accidents, a lot more accidents in the ditch, and a lot more rollovers.” Gwen Brooks says she’s filing about three claims per day, compared to three claims per week last winter. Liston says that appointments at his shop are being pushed back about a month because of so many weather-related accidents. And manufacturers are running low on parts because of so many weather-related accidents.
Bill Wright, an auto dealer and philanthropist in Kalamazoo, MI, died suddenly in Fort Myers, FL, on Dec. 28. He was 55. A family member, quoted by local news, said the cause of death was believed to be heart failure.
Wright sold his stake in the Seelye-Wright Automotive Group in October, of which he had been a partner since 1989. The group owns and operates six dealerships in western Michigan and has since shortened its name to the Seelye Automotive Group. He was known in western Michigan for his slogan “Yes We Can,” which he would use to end every commercial and emblazoned billboards in the area.
He also founded the Wright for Kids foundation, which raises money to help abused and neglected children in the Kalamazoo area.
His business partner, Mike Seelye , says in a statement, “Obviously I have a long history with him. We have worked together and been partners for 30-plus years. So it’s shocking to me and a sad situation. It’s hard to believe that a guy who was as big as life as him is dead.”
On Tuesday, December 10, a jury verdict was returned for $200,000 against State Farm Insurance Company and in favor of a man who had been employed by State Farm for 25 years (Dennis L. Brady v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Hamilton County Circuit Court).
The plaintiff’s attorney, Mike Stephenson, said his client, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball (1964), was satisfied with the outcome.
“Unfortunately, although the case took only two days to try, it was at significant expense to the plaintiff, who had been willing to settle for a reasonable amount,” Stephenson said.
According to the complaint, Stephenson’s client was in a car accident in 2007 and thereafter made an underinsured motorist claim under his policy; he requested that State Farm, his insurer as well as his employer, allow him to arbitrate the matter and not be required to take the matter to a jury.
“This request was denied,” Stephenson said, “and so we filed a civil case and let a jury decide the damages.”
Structural work on a $45 million transportation-training center will begin soon at Chicago’s Olive Harvey College. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined City Colleges Chancellor Cheryl Hyman to break ground on the $45 million project. The Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Center will be at Olive-Harvey College and will be the first of its kind in Illinois. It is designed to prepare students for more than 100,000 jobs expected in the Chicago area over the next decade. The construction project itself will create 150 jobs. The center will have space for training students in automotive technology and training, collision repair, diesel engine technology and aviation mechanics. It will also have an area for supply chain management, including a warehouse and simulation labs; and taxi, truck driver and forklift training. Gov. Pat Quinn announced that $4.6 million from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program for structural work. The building should be completed by fall 2015. The center is being funded by $31 million in state funds, $13 million from the City Colleges of Chicago and $1 million from the Illinois Community College.