Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia
Sarasota County fire officials are investigating what caused a fire at an auto body repair shop in Venice, FL, on December 7 that caused extensive damage to the building, sent smoke through adjacent neighborhoods and disrupted traffic during the morning commute. No one was injured in the fire.
The fire was in an industrial park on James Street, east of the U.S. 41 Bypass. Twenty firefighting units from Venice, Sarasota County and Nokomis responded.
Firefighters arrived at 7:03 a.m. to see smoke coming from the building. First responders were on the scene within seven minutes. At least 45 firefighters started a defensive attack from the outside of the auto body and cabinet shops.
Within minutes the building was fully involved, according to county fire officials. Battalion chief Glenn Snyder said the fire was out within 90 minutes.
Fire officials said there was a woodworking shop in the rear, and an auto body shop in front. Many of the vehicles in the repair shop's parking area, some with for sale signs on them, suffered damage in the fire.
Traffic was re-routed around the area for the majority of the morning.
The assistant chief says they did not have to worry about search and rescue because of the time of day.
“The main concern of the incident commander was to first confine the fire to make sure it did not spread to the adjacent buildings and to actually locate the seed of the fire, and then begin the extinguishment,” the assistant chief said.
No one was injured. There is no estimation of the damages to the two buildings at this time, but they appear to be destroyed.
The State Fire Marshal will continue with the investigation.
Eddie Quintela wants to know why GEICO is charging his customers a 10% deductible on their domestic OEM parts, regardless of fault, and in addition to regular deductible and/or applicable betterments.
After more than 15 years in Cullman, AL, auto parts supplier Keystone Automotive celebrated the grand opening of a new facility December 6 on Golf Course Road. The new, 60,000-square-foot location replaces their older, smaller site at Cherokee Avenue, according to the Cullman Times.
The expansion included a $3 million investment in equipment and construction, which retained 41 jobs in Cullman County.
John Fowler, with Keystone, said the expansion has been in the works for several years, as the company planned for sustained growth in the area.
“We’ve been working and trying for two years to move and relocate, so this is a long time coming,” he said. “Without the help of the economic development office and local officials, this might not have been possible.”
Cullman County Commission Chairman James Graves praised Keystone’s commitment to the community since opening in 1993.
“Keystone has really been a stable, quiet entity in the community,” he said. “After hearing about the expansion I was excited to see it come together. We’re so proud to have such a quality company in Cullman County.”
“With 40 employees, Keystone makes a significant impact, in areas like sales tax for the community,” he said. “They’ve been a great corporate citizen and we look forward to the next 20 years.”
Cullman Mayor Max Townson said Keystone exemplifies the diversity present in the industrial climate of the city and county.
“We’ve very proud of Keystone, and its an asset for this community,” he said. “I also want to thank the economic development office and development boards, because they all played a role in attracting and keeping Keystone in Cullman.”
Keystone is an after market supplier of auto parts, serving areas across Alabama and the southeast.
Daniel Anderson was named as Florida’s lead insurance fraud investigator earlier this month by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, according to Claims Journal.
Anderson will take over as the director of the state’s Division of Insurance Fraud, where he will oversee 155 sworn law enforcement officers, managers and administrators. He will also supervise 48 non-sworn civilian support staff. The division made over 1,000 fraud-related arrests in the last year.
Anderson comes to the division after a 25-year career with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration where he most recently served as an associated special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York Field Division overseeing more than 800 employees.
He also served as an instructor at the DEA Academy, group supervisor at the DEA’s Norfolk, Virginia office, and unit chief of operations management at the DEA headquarters.
Mercedes-Benz said December 2 that its Alabama plant has produced its 1.5 millionth vehicle, according to the Birmingham News.
The automaker said the milestone vehicle produced at the Vance factory was a silver ML 350 SUV for a customer in Encino, CA.
"We are extremely proud of this significant milestone," Markus Schaefer, CEO of the Alabama plant, said in a statement. "This year has been both challenging and rewarding for our team members, who live and work here in Alabama to help us achieve our goal of delivering superior products to our global customers."
The first M-Class rolled off the assembly line in Vance on Feb. 14, 1997. The plant employs 2,800 people, a figure that will rise to 4,200 as Mercedes invests another $2 billion in the operation and begins production of new models.
Collex Collision Experts, a multi-shop operation with facilities in Michigan and Florida, was awarded CSi Complete’s “Clearly Elite” award for customer satisfaction at the 2011 SEMA Show.
“CSi Complete is blessed to have many outstanding customers, but Collex Collision is most deserving of our 2011 Clearly Elite customer of the year award,” said David Merrell, vice president of sales and service for CSi Complete. “Collex Collision Experts is a valued partner and an exceptional customer service organization.”
Merrell went on to say that the MSO won the award as a result of the company’s continuously high customer service indexing (CSI) and its community involvement.
“It’s a true pleasure to be in an industry that allows me to not just serve people, but give me the opportunity to get to know people’s needs on a much more personal level, always building effective healthy relationships,” said Amanda Gottschling, CSR at Collex in Clinton Township, MI.
Collex serves its surrounding communities by always giving back. Founders of the Wheels of HOPE Outreach program, Collex gives cars to families in need. They’re also platinum sponsors and partners with Safe Haven 4 Kids of Michigan, a program to help abused children.
For more information visit www.collex.com.
The National Auto Body Council (NABC) announced the winners of the 16th annual Pride Awards on November 2 at the 2011 SEMA Show. The NABC began bestowing the awards on deserving individuals in the collision repair industry to further their mission to create positive public awareness of the collision repair industry.
Jessica Anderson, a student of collision repair at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, was the only student to receive a Pride Award this year. Anderson is a Skills USA participant who decided she wanted to use her collision training to help people in her community. She observed plenty of students in need of affordable, reliable transportation and saw plenty of cars in the area just waiting to be fixed. Utilizing the resources at her school, she brought a car in need of repair to the mechanical department of her school, then she and her team of dedicated students and instructors finished the collision repair work. That project went to a fulltime criminal justice student with a family of four, previously without transportation. This is to be the first in series of reconstructed vehicles that will be donated to Wiregrass Georgia Technical College students recommended by their instructors. Jessica is working with instructor Mark Tilson to procure more cars and expand the program into the community.
Other Pride Award winners included Jordan Hendler, Joe Gloar, Derek Willemson and Richard Henegar Jr. for heroic efforts in their individual communities. More information about each award winner can be found at www.autobodycouncil.org.
Daimler will further expand its U.S. plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama: as of 2015, an entirely new Mercedes-Benz model will roll off the production line as its fifth product. The plant has been the traditional production site of the brand's M-, GL-, and R-Class SUVs and will also build the C-Class for the North American market beginning 2014. For the production of the new model, Daimler will additionally invest US$ 350 million, and will create some 400 further jobs at the plant.
Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Daimler Board of Management and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars: "This new model from the Tuscaloosa plant is an important element of our growth strategy. It is one of the ten additional models which we will introduce within the next four years alone across all segments." Referring to the Tuscaloosa plant's role within the global production network of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Zetsche added: "At the same time, we are systematically broadening our manufacturing footprint in the NAFTA region."
Robert Bentley, Governor of the State of Alabama: "Since the time Mercedes-Benz chose Tuscaloosa County for its first US assembly plant 18 years ago, the company has proven to be an outstanding partner for the state. We join MBUSI in celebrating this milestone, and welcome the hundreds of jobs this announcement brings to Alabama."
A mid-year update reveals that the "Auto Angels" are on target for this year’s Christmas giveaway of reconditioned vehicles to needy recipients.
“Thanks to the support of many sponsors and the collision repairers involved in this program, thus far we have five vehicles which will be ready at the end of July," said David Stewart of Stewart’s Auto Repair in Winterhaven, Fla.
These include a:
• 2001 Ford Escort four-door
• 1999 Neon four-door
• 2002 Chrysler Voyager van
• 2001 Grand Marquis
• 1991 Nissan Pathfinder SUV
The National Auto Body Council (NABC) changed the lives of five Florida families on Oct. 7 at the NACE convention in Orlando by giving them each a newly refurbished vehicle through Recycled Rides, a national initiative that refurbishes donated vehicles and gives them to families in need and organizations dedicated to assisting others.
The Florida Autobody Collision Alliance contributed to the success of this program this year. With NACE being held in Orlando, Cathy Mills executive director was contacted to assist in the coordinating for this year’s program. What an absolute honor and privilege to have been involved in such a program where the gifting of these cars to these so deserved families would change their lives forever. These families where using public transportation and spending anywhere from 3-6 hours a day on buses. Going to the everyday places/appointments you and I take for granted. Grocery shopping, doctors appointments, and work.
The program works with charities in specific geographic areas to find qualified recipients that need a vehicle on which they can depend to continue leading productive lives.
Marenza Guyos and her four-year-old daughter from Jacksonville, Fla., received their vehicle in conjunction with the charity Community Connections located in the same city.