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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

The Ohio Court of Appeals has upheld class certification in a suit alleging that the arbitration clause in a Cleveland-area dealership group’s sales agreement was unconscionable and unenforceable, according to Eric Freedman writing in Automotive News.

The 2-1 ruling against Ganley Chevrolet and Ganley Automotive Stores came in a spot delivery-related dispute that began in March 2001, after Jeffrey and Stacy Felix purchased a 2000 Chevy Blazer.

Ganley has asked the appellate court for reconsideration and, if that’s unsuccessful, may seek state Supreme Court review, says dealership lawyer Steven Dever of Lakewood, Ohio.

The plaintiffs contend that Ganley told them they were approved for 0 percent financing and let them take home the Blazer. But a few days later, Ganley told them GMAC would approve only 1.9 percent financing, which they accepted. More than a month later, they were told GMAC had rejected them. The dealership then found a bank that would provide a 9.4 percent loan, but the Felixes refused to sign a new agreement at that rate, the decision said. The suit alleges “bait-and-switch tactics,” violation of the state Consumer Sales Practices Act, misrepresentation, and emotional distress. It includes individual and class-action claims and challenges the validity of the arbitration provision in the sales agreement. A lower-court judge rejected Ganley’s request for arbitration and approved class-action status on behalf of all consumers whose sales agreement with any Ganley store had the same provision. Ganley Automotive Stores has 34 franchises in northern Ohio.

The judge found the provision ambiguous and misleading and awarded $200 in damages to each of the “thousands of members” of the class. It covers customers who signed such agreements from two years before the lawsuit was filed in June 2001 until the company changed the provision in 2007, said plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Schlachet of Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

However, only a “handful” of those customers went to arbitration, Dever said. He added: “How can you quantify the harm when people had no complaint? The analysis is fundamentally flawed.” The appeals court held that class-action status was appropriate under the consumer protection law.

Appeals Judge Mary Kilbane said the trial judge, who handled the case for 11 years, had “conducted a rigorous analysis into whether the prerequisites for class certification have been satisfied.

Alpine Glass of Minneapolis, MN, has been awarded an arbitration award against AAA Insurance Co. for $149,500.57. The award represents 100 percent of the amount sought through arbitration for short pays from the insurer. Mike Reid, president of Alpine Glass, says the company won this arbitration because the insurer was unable to prove Alpine had unfair billing practices.

“It’s sad to see glass companies failing as a result of being desperate and accepting reimbursements that are ridiculously below what is fair and reasonable,” says Reid. “Glass companies are losing out by not fighting for a fair price. We have shown time and time again that our prices are fair and reasonable.”

According to court documents, “Alpine asserts, as assignee of its customers, that it is entitled to the full amount billed for glass repair and replacement work governed by the terms of the AAA insurance policy. The claims are from July 6, 2006, through May 9, 2012.”

“AAA did not conduct a survey of the ‘area where the car is to be repaired,’” writes arbitrator David T. Magnuson in the arbitration award. “The short-pays of Alpine’s invoices was systematic and consistent, but not based upon written estimates, competitive bids or an agreement. AAA did not comply [with] the terms of the policy in processing Alpine’s claims.”

“Alpine will continue to fight against insurers who short pay our invoices and, if necessary, we will continue to file for arbitration in order to be paid what is right,” he adds.

In July 2012, Alpine won a six-figure award against Liberty Mutual for short pays. Additional wins include six other awards from Illinois Farmers, Allstate, American Family, USAA, Integrity and Guide One.

According to the arbitration award, “The dispute arose as a result of claimant Alpine Glass’s insurance policy with respondent wherein claimant pays for glass repair and replacement work, get as assignment for each individual claim, and then submits the claims to respondent AAA Insurance Co. A third-party administrator, in turn, pays pursuant to the insurance policy what they deem to be the amount charged by a majority of the repair market for glass repair and replacement claims.”

The recent award is Alpine’s eighth within the last two years; the total of the awards is now approaching $3 million. Alpine Glass has been victorious in all of its arbitration cases. A representative for AAA had not responded to request for comment at press time.

Key industry vendors featuring hands-on demonstrations showcasing the latest technology, tools, parts and more are on the schedule for the 5th Annual Automotive Service Association of Illinois (ASA-Illinois) Chicago Automotive Networking (C.A.N.) Conference which was held Friday, September 20 through Sunday, September 22, 2013 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, IL.

The 2013 exhibitor line-up included AES Wave, ATI, Automotive Seminars, Auto Vitals, Inc., BOSCH, Combined Worksite Solutions, DELPHI, DemandForce, Fox Valley Fire & Safety, Heil Insurance, Herb Kuhn Equipment Sales, IEPA, Jasper Engines, KUKUI, LKQ, Mitchell 1, NAPA Auto Parts, Quality Oil, Snap-on and WorldPac.

“We are very excited about the vendors we had joining us this year at the C.A.N. Conference,” said Dave Walter, President of ASA-Illinois. “People from all over the United States attended C.A.N., and we think this conference was be the best we’ve ever had with the vendors, instructors and classes we featured this year.”

A new element added to the 2013 C.A.N. Conference was live interviews and streaming video of vendors, instructors and attendees from the tradeshow floor.  This provided conference participants with a unique opportunity to perform equipment demonstrations, share education highlights and conference experiences live from the show. The C.A.N. Conference is open to shop owners, service writers, advanced and intermediate technicians.

For additional information regarding the conference, please visit the conference website at www.asacanconference.com. Or, contact Sharon Ozimek and Deb Bullwinkel, co-executive directors of ASA-Illinois, via email at info@asaillinois.org or by phone at (877) 272-4445, (773) 919-3875 or (630) 430-3832.

Its own Cleveland-based division headquarters was the site of the last Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes A-Plus™ University EcoLean™ Suite of Training Course Offerings. Featuring the ‘Achieving Service Excellence’ course, training was held August 21, 2013, in Warrensville Heights, OH.

The ‘Achieving Service Excellence’ program is designed for shop owners, production managers, customer service representatives, and estimators to provide them with the skills, knowledge, and tools necessary to improve their collision center’s quality, production, and output… by focusing on the right types of customer service.

“Lean collision repair shops— and those that utilize the right methods of customer service—are able to reduce internal costs and raise their level of CSI and output quality. This two-fold result often helps them gain a competitive advantage in their respective markets,” says Steve Feltovich, Manager of Business Consulting Services for Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes.
The ‘Achieving Service Excellence’ course discussed the following topics:
● How to become more profitable with a customer-focused strategy
● How to establish a proven method for providing each customer with value
● How to build a strong brand based on customer service excellence
● How to improve efficiency and effectiveness of your customer service staff
● Identifying service excellence professionals in and out of your organization
● Explain driving factors behind the experiential service economy
To register online for an upcoming Cleveland A-Plus University EcoLean ‘Achieving Service Excellence’ course, go to http://www.sherwin-automotive.com/customer-programs-services/a-plus-network/calendar-of-events/.
For more information on the A-Plus Network, call 800-798-5872 or go to http://www.sherwin-automotive.com/en/Markets/Collision-Repair/A-Plus-Network.aspx.

Several car dealerships have filed an antitrust class action against four Japanese automobile parts suppliers for allegedly rigging bids for lighting equipment sold to major car companies.

Mitsuba Corp., Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Ichikoh Industries Ltd. and Stanley Electric Co. are being sued in the class action of Martens Cars of Washington Inc. et al. v. Koito Manufacturing Co. Ltd. et al., which the plaintiff car dealers filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

In one of the world’s largest antitrust price-fixing actions, a group of auto parts manufacturers continues to face claims of bid rigging and price fixing in a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) following a Michigan federal judge’s refusal to dismiss federal antitrust claims.

Direct and indirect purchasers in the putative class action of In re Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation accuse the manufacturers of conspiring to fix the prices of wire harness systems in automobiles. The allegations track a U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) investigation into the auto industry, which has already resulted in guilty pleas involving the manipulation of wire harness pricing during secret meetings.