Thursday, 20 September 2012 09:45

The Collision Associations Serving Ohio Shops

by David M. Brown

In Ohio collision-repair facilities and vendors are represented by two associations: the Choice Autobody Repair Association and ASA-Ohio.

In 2005, CARA, a nonprofit collision repair association, was formed in Cadiz in eastern Ohio. CARA represents approximately 50 body shops in various cities throughout the state. Members include former members from the disbanded Ohio Collision Repair Association and the Ohio Bodyshop Owners Association.

“There were five shop owners who felt it was necessary to help educate consumers on their rights concerning collision repairs, which led to the formation of CARA,” says Rick Finney, president of the association and owner of Finney Automotive Inc. and Finney Tire LLC, both in Cadiz.

Finney felt that “too many companies in the insurance industry were steering consumers to specified repair facilities. Consumers needed to be made aware that they have the right to have their vehicle repaired at the shop of their choice.”

“CARA does a great deal of consumer awareness but has no interest in promoting its own members shops through the association,” he says, adding: “We believe a well-educated consumer will chose the shop that is in their best interest.”

For CARA membership, a shop owner or manager must directly work in the collision repair industry. Membership dues are $300 annually for basic shop ownership. CARA is affiliated with the Automotive Education and Policy Institute, U.S. Alliance of Collision Professionals, The Society of Collision Repair Specialists and The Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence.

CARA offers its members AMI training through corporate sponsor, BASF, as well as legal documents and consumer informational brochures, all at no charge. Finney notes that he also negotiates with vendors for purchasing discounts available to association members; some include rebates to members for purchases made through associate, or vendor, members. CARA also sponsors conventions, seminars and phone consultation to those needing information or problem resolution.

Although CARA does not have a lobbyist, Finney has met on many occasions with the Ohio Department of Insurance, as well as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection on behalf of consumers and CARA members.

He notes that the association is focusing on a number of insurance-industry issues: underpayment of claims, suppression of labor rates, unrealistic reimbursements on paint materials, OEM parts, steering and overall control issues.

Assisting Finney are CARA board members Dave Weber, Dawn Hilty, Dave Aman, Vickie Westfall and Rob Alexander.

Alexander is the manager at Brown Body & Paint Center, which has been a member for four years. The Toledo-based 86-year-old dealer’s body shop has been in the current location since 1989.

“CARA empowers customers to choose the repair facility and not let an insurer (the fox guarding the hen house) decide,” he says.

CARA also stresses that “body shops are our businesses—regardless how large or how small—and we don’t belong to an insurance company,” Alexander says.

“As owners and managers, we are responsible for their existence and we are the ones who set pricing because every one of us has a unique set of expenses and or overhead that is not always applicable to all shops,” he adds. “We deserve to get paid, so charge enough to make a profit!”

One of his customers, who was the benefactor of quality repair and good service at the shop, told him that it’s clear to consumers that body shops and insurance companies are fighting over what he called “surplus”—that body shop profit is an expense for insurance companies and the discounts and or missed shop billing opportunities are additional profit for insurers.

“Even an outsider can see the inappropriate methods of business being practiced by insurance companies,” Alexander says. “But, because of my association affiliations, I was able to help my customer make a choice that was best for him and his family.”

The larger ASA-Ohio is based in Columbus and is an affiliate member of Colleyville, Texas-based Automotive Service Association (ASA), which serves the automotive service/repair industry internationally through education, representation and member services. With 300-plus members statewide, the Ohio group has been associated with the national organization, and its predecessors, since 1955.

That year, the organization was established as the Independent Garage Owners of Ohio, Inc. and was affiliated with what was then known as the Independent Garage Owners of America, Inc. (IGOA). This became ASC (Automotive Service Counsel) which eventually merged with other organizations to become the ASA.

One ASA-Ohio member, Ron Nagy, AAM, owner of Nagy’s Collision Centers, Orrville, is the chairman of ASA’s national board of directors and is serving his second year as chairman of NACE, Oct. 10–13, in New Orleans.

The ASA-Ohio Board of Directors is elected annually from the designated region by the regional membership to represent each discipline—collision and mechanical. These are Mark Boutwell, AAM, Boutwell Collision Center (Findlay); Joseph Brinkman, Brinkman Service Center (Minster); Dennis Sterwerf, AAM, Fairfield Auto & Truck Service; Jeremiah Friesner, Jeremiah’s Automotive Service (Heath); Jeff Eggleston, Jeff’s Automotive Repair (New Carlisle); and Dane Patterson, Jasper Engines & Transmissions (Columbus).

Six members become officers on the Executive Committee by voting members of the board from a ballot presented by the Nominating Committee. These are President/Chairman Joe Sanfillipo, III, USA Collision Centers (Harrison and Cincinnati); Immediate Past President Daniel Torbeck, Torbeck’s Auto Repair (Cincinnati); President-Elect Jamie Chilcoat, AAM, C & C Tire of Harrison; Mechanical Division Chairman Matt Overbeck, Overbeck Auto Services Inc. (Cincinnati); Treasurer Frank Eich, Southside Automotive Inc. (Youngstown); and Assistant Treasurer Joseph Brinkman, Brinkman Service Center (Minster).

While ASA-Ohio does not hold an annual conference, the board meets quarterly. “Our quarterly board meetings generally contain training sessions that are hosted by our associate members and are open to all members to attend,” Sanfillipo says. “We try to move the meetings to a different region every quarter to allow all members a chance to attend a meeting close to home.”

ASA-Ohio provides education/ training, state representation and small-business solutions at a preferred rate. The organization retains a legislative and regulatory consulting firm to monitor and act on automotive-related issues, he explains.

The group is closely monitoring the State Farm parts procurement program with Parts Trader. “Our members have great concern on how this could adversely affect their businesses,” he says.

EPA 6H rule
EPA 6H rule is another important issue for the Ohioans. “Many shop owners don’t fully understand the rule and how it intersects with the Ohio EPA laws,” he says, noting that board member Sterwerf, a former board member of ASA’s national board of directors, is working closely with the Ohio EPA, the U.S. EPA and the membership.

Shop licensing is also of concern. “This hot-button issue affects both our mechanical and collision members,” Sanfillipo says. “Our members not only want to create a standard for our technicians and shop owners; we want to raise the standard in the industry and level the playing field for anyone wanting to do auto repair in Ohio.”

Repeated requests to the U.S. Alliance of Collision Professionals, Cincinnati, for information were unsuccessful.