Midwestern News

1HomePageMap small mw 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin

Scott Schaefer of Schaefer Autobody Centers in Fenton, MO, wants to build a new shop at 1290 Central Park Drive in O’Fallon, MO. The City Council Community Development Committee approved the zoning variance to make it happen. But O’Fallon Zoning Hearing officer and attorney Douglas C. Gruenke advised against granting the variance, and development director Ted Shekell and city administrator Walter Denton agreed. The site’s zoning is specific to auto sales.

Auto repair firm Nagy’s Collision Specialists has opened its first power sports facility. Formerly operated as B&L Motorsports in Wadsworth, OH, Nagy's Power Sports will service and repair motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, snowmobiles, and golf carts. Former B&L owner Bob Gerberich, who has 56 years in the industry, will stay on board to assist with the shop, while Fred Seckel will use his more than 30 years of power sports industry experience to manage the location.

With the huge number of crashes this winter, auto repair shops in Minnesota are still swamped with weeks-long backlogs. Many repair shops are telling customers they will have to wait four to six weeks before they can even start working on their car or truck. Marwan Kawas is a manager at Heppner’s Auto Body, which has six locations in the east metro area. “This is my 15th year doing this, and this is the worst winter I’ve seen,” Kawas said. He says business is up about 30 percent. “Drivers don’t keep their proper distances when they’re on the roads. Sometimes it’s just inevitable, you know, especially with black ice.”

Kawas says people are often stunned by the cost of repairs. “Sometimes they think it’s just a bumper,” he said. “But when you factor in the price of the part, the paint, the labor, sometimes the little hidden damage, the broken clips…it adds up. You know, even just a bumper can be a $1,000–$1,500 repair. This one is more, actually, because it buckled on the hood, and there’s probably some inner damage as well, that’s probably a good $3,000–4,000 repair,” Kawas said, adding, “If your vehicle is severely damaged, you will likely be able to get help sooner than later. But if you can still drive your car, expect a long wait.” How long? “Weeks out, definitely,” he said. “And you’ll find it’s true across the metro area…we all have the same problem.”

Winter car crashes were up an average 61 percent in Northwest Ottawa County, MI, compared to last season, according to data analysis by the Grand Haven Tribune.

It was one of the best winters ever at Fritz Auto Body in Grand Haven, MI, with a 30 percent increase in business, co-owner Dave Fritz said.

But it wasn’t just the snow that led to dents and dings—the cold left many car owners cracking up.

“What we encountered this year, with the temperature being so much colder and the new cars having urethane bumpers, people would hit the snow banks and the bumpers would crack,” Fritz said. “We definitely saw an increase in the amount of claims on bumpers because of the cold.”

While new bumpers are designed to flex, bitter cold temperatures make them brittle and prone to cracks.

Fritz praised local road crews for keeping the streets in good condition despite the barrage of blizzards, but he noted the high snow banks led to many crashes due to poor visibility when people were pulling out of parking lots or driveways.

“We had a lot of human error because the conditions we had were exceedingly more difficult than they have been in the past,” he said. “It wasn’t just the inexperienced drivers. A lot of experienced drivers got into accidents too.”

Deeper snow also caused more damage when people went off the road, according to Fritz. Damages varied from $300 to $10,000.

Fritz noticed pricier damages occurred when people probably shouldn’t have been on the roads.

“The whiteout days, those are the days that create the high-ticket accidents,” Fritz said. “When there’s a warning to get off the road, there’s a reason for that. Most of the cars that were out in a blizzard have substantially higher damage numbers.”

The City of Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen meeting took an unexpected turn March 13, 2014, when George Wehner, whose special-use permit application for an auto body and repair shop and auto sales business at was up for consideration, issued what could be taken as a threat to city officials.

“You guys need to remember what [Charles Lee] ‘Cookie’ Thornton [did] to Kirkwood City Hall,” Wehner said. In 2008, Thornton gunned down several city officials at Kirkwood City Hall before being shot and killed.

After the meeting, police chief Eric Bennett said Wehner’s comment was noted. He said the department has been on alert since the 2008 Kirkwood shooting for any situations that have the potential to escalate and veer into dangerous territory.

In a telephone message left March 15, 2014, on a voice recorder at the Ste. Genevieve Herald office, Wehner apologized for the Thornton comment. “I was under a lot of stress at the time, and in no way did I mean it as a threat,” Wehner said.

City officials said that Wehner had not (yet) issued an apology to the city at press time.

The Kosciusko County Coroner’s Office has confirmed the identity of the second person who died in a fatal fire at Medina’s Body Repair in Milford, IN, on February 13, 2014.

Investigators say the fire was accidental, and traced the source of the fire to faulty wiring for a ceiling light.

Analu Nunez died from smoke inhalation, according to Kosciusko County coroner Michael Wilson.

Nunez’s fiancé and shop owner Jose Medina has been confirmed as being the other person who died in the fire. Medical examiners determined that he died from smoke inhalation.

The call originally came in around 7:22 a.m. when someone leaving work down the street saw smoke and flames and called 911. When crews arrived at the scene, they saw heavy smoke coming from the front of the body shop. After surveying the scene, crews saw the roof was sagging and the front wall was pushing out, so they fought the fire from the outside.