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

“In the last 17 years, by far, it’s been probably one of the busiest years,” said Wayne Boocher, owner of Boocher’s Body Shop in South Bend, IN. “I hate to say it, but it’s been a great year for people crashing,” he told local media.

“There’s not a shop around that doesn’t have some type of work coming in and out the door.”

There’s been a lot of collisions, he said, not to mention people damaging their cars from potholes.

Damage underneath can also come from snow that has turned rock-hard after melting and freezing again, said Greg Barth, president of Barry’s Seat Cover, Auto Body, and Glass in South Bend.

“This time of year we see more suspension damage than the summer because the snow is so hard and icy now. When you hit it, it’s like hitting a curb, cement, or a small tree,” Barth told the South Bend Tribune.

Today’s cars have a lot of plastic shields underneath, Barth said, which make the car more aerodynamic, while also protecting the car engine from road realities.

“You get a lot of that broken off this time of year because of the snow,” said Barth, adding that accidents change as winter progresses.

“Early in the year, it’s tough for people to drive on snow again,” said Barth. “There’s always a big increase in accidents with the first snow around Thanksgiving, and then people start to drive more cautiously,” he said. “Right now we are seeing more slide-offs, more so than car-to-car accidents. More slide-offs and rear-end collisions where people can’t stop is what’s going on right now.”

Trucks are not immune to weather accidents, noted Mike Mills, vice president of Jefferson Auto Collision Service in Mishawaka, IN.

“We just had a really large Dodge 250 diesel pickup roll in that was a roll-over,” Mills said. “He just lost control on black ice and flipped it over in a ditch.” He said that he has seen vehicles big and small brought in. “There’s really no consistency with anything,” he said, including the type of damage. The only consistent thing is how busy he is, usually a couple of days after a major snowstorm, he said.

People will come in and say that they need an estimate right away, he said. But often there’s four people ahead of them. The snow keeps coming, and so do the repairs.

“We’re always busy in the winter,” Barth said.

“People drive crazy.”

The Collision Center of Dayton in Centerville, OH, is one of the places that is getting a big boost in business due to the winter storms.

Manager, Brad Hamilton, says that the auto body shop is seeing everything from US$100 worth of damage to US$20,000, and that the cold weather makes cars more fragile and more susceptible to damage.

Hamilton says that, for example, a bumper is more likely to bend and dent in the summer but, in the winter, it can shatter and cost you more.

Hamilton also says that the shop has seen a steady flow of business for the past couple months, and he expects that to continue.

“I believe I only have one or two cars in the shop that are non-snow- and ice-related right now. Everything else is definitely related to the weather we’ve been having recently,” says Hamilton.

He recommends customers do their research and reminds them that it is important to go to an auto body shop with a good reputation.

Axalta Coating Systems’ Mount Clemens, MI, facility was presented with the Michigan Values Veterans (MV2) certification at the Michigan Values Veterans conference presented by TMG, Inc. in Troy, MI.

The certification is for the Axalta pledge to hire and retain U.S. veterans. “We are very excited to be one of the first companies involved with the Michigan Values Vets Initiative,” said Virginia Gronley, Axalta learning and development consultant.

“As one of Mount Clemens’ largest employers, we believe in attracting, hiring, and retaining the best talent out there. And with the discipline and focus that many of our veterans have, it’s a great talent pool for us.” MV2 is an economic investment initiative that offers an opportunity to recapitalize the Michigan workforce, while reducing veteran unemployment.

A fire at a Milford auto body shop that left two dead on February 14, 2014, was caused by an electrical malfunction, according to the Kosciusko County Fire Investigation Team. The fire happened in the morning at the Medina’s Body Repair Shop at 310 North Higbee Street in Milford, IN. The identity of a woman found dead has been confirmed by the Kosciusko County Coroner’s Office and a man found on the first floor is presumed to be Jose Cruz Medina. Annalu Nunez, age 25, Medina’s fiance, was found by firefighters on the second floor of the building. The coroner said she died of smoke inhalation.

Police said Nunez and Medina both had the body shop’s address listed as their residence. Police had said the two people who died lived in an apartment above the body shop. Medical examiners of the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center determined the man also died of smoke inhalation. But, authorities are waiting for DNA testing to be completed to confirm a positive identification of Medina. The fire was ruled accidental.

The Kosciusko County Fire Investigation Team sent out a release on February 18, 2014, stating that “the fire originated in the ceiling of a work bay and spread throughout the structure. Evidence found at the scene indicates an electrical malfunction in the wiring supplying power to a ceiling light.”

The fire was called in just after 7:00 a.m. State Route 15 was closed near East Syracuse Street while fire crews—three different departments—battled the flames. Because it is a body shop with presumed oil, gas, and a paint storage area were all potential dangers for the firefighters.

The roof was also sagging in and one wall is bowed. For all of these reasons, emergency workers were at first unable to get inside to check for the residents of an apartment above the northwest corner of the shop.

“They were happy together, and they’re together again now,” said Alex Nunez, Analu’s brother. Analu was a secretary for Medina’s Body Shop. “She was always making somebody happy, her smile. That’s just how she was,” said Alex Nunez.

Cars were coming into the LJI Collision Center on Chagrin Road in Orange Village, OH, two at a time on February 5, 2014. “They just keep coming in, the weather and the salt shortage have made it rough for drivers,” says owner, Jill Strauss. “This winter has been much worse. Cars are just sliding across the roads and need to get towed in. We are working late nights and weekends to catch up.” The banged up bumpers and off-kilter wheels underscore the slick road conditions that have been worsened this year as 44 counties in Ohio have seen a massive salt shortage because of backlogged salt provider, Morton Salt. “We have never had an issue like this in the heart of the winter, and we will plan differently in the future as a result,” says Bill Boag, the head of Shaker Heights Public Works. “I've called the Morton Salt people—and my calls were not returned. As a result of the shortage, we have to be stingy and think outside of the box for next year.” Boag says not only will Shaker Heights order more salt and expand storage options, it will not rely on one vendor.

“We will never go with one contractor again, I would bet,” he said.

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.