Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia
According to the legal team for Gunder’s Auto Center in their well-known battle with State Farm Insurance, limited documentation surrendered by State Farm in response to a court’s discovery order revealed the results of the insurer’s infamous labor rate survey have been altered.
While the nation’s largest private auto insurer has not provided all the information demanded in the court’s order; the information they did provide is seen by many as the proverbial “smoking gun” and a strong indicator of an even more pervasive nationwide practice.
In review of surrendered documents it was found that response to State Farm’s labor rate survey submitted by Gunder’s Auto Center, along with other local competitors, had been altered by State Farm’s Estimatics Team Manager, Robert “Bob” Davis in an apparent effort to skew the results to best serve the insurer by lowering rates and allowances.
Ray Gunder states: “I am confident this is not an isolated instance and that this is the likely the reason they have failed to supply us all the surveys and other information as ordered by the court. For years, across the entire country, monies have been withheld from repairers under the guise of the so-called survey and “Prevailing Competitive Pricing” by State Farm and all those insurers who follow their lead. Such deceit and unethical business practices have earned State Farm many Billions of dollars in unjust profits. Billions that the consumer never received benefit of through proper and thorough repairs.”
Kia Motors America is ramping up its U.S. production at the manufacturer’s West Point, Georgia, plant. The plant will increase output from the current 300,000 vehicles per year to 360,000 beginning this September.
In a public statement made June 2 President and CEO of Kia Motors America, Ahn Byung-mo, said, "Kia is experiencing unprecedented growth in the U.S., led by the best-selling Sorento. And with demand for the critically acclaimed Optima currently outpacing supply we are proud to add the popular sedan as the second Kia vehicle on the production line."
In anticipation of the increase, Kia has just hired 1,000 new U.S. worker. Byung-mo hopes this expansion will keep up with the high demand for Kia’s Optima sedan and Sorento SUV, best-sellers for the brand. Kia’s Georgia plant will begin producing both models exclusively.
In April of this year Gunder’s Auto Center received notice whereas the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a lower court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of State Farm Insurance in Gunder’s claim of slander and tortious interference with a business relationship against the nation’s largest personal auto insurer.
Ray Gunder stated; “after considerable thought, counsel and discussion with family and close friends, and as a result of recent activities on other pending cases against State Farm I decided to proceed with submitting what is referred to as a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court requesting their review and opinion of the lower court’s ruling. As we continue to ‘pound that rock’ I see we are standing on a substantial amount of gravel… and as I’ve said before, we’re all-in and we’re too close to quit now and will continue until we either prevail or exhaust all opportunities to do so!"
A copy of the court’s prior ruling may be found at: http://www.courtlistener.com/ca11/26Fy/gunders-auto-center-v-state-farm/
This week, a prior Collision Industry Legal Fund contributor sent yet another check for another $2,500 aimed at assisting body shop owner Ray Gunder in his ongoing battle with State Farm Insurance Company. The donation came with a simple note:
“Ray, Thank you for everything you do! You’re the BEST!”
The Collision Industry Fund was established last year to provide financial assistance to Gunder’s Auto Center in Lakeland, Fla., which has been involved in a lawsuit against State Farm for slander and tortious interference, as well as the failure to pay for certain repair procedures. “This mirrors this same contributor’s record donation they provided last year! We remain extremely grateful and thankful for the donation and support” stated Ray Gunder. I’m thankful for all the financial support we’ve received from people we don’t even know from across the country. I’m humbled at the support we’ve received and encouraged to continue on with our efforts to level the playing field.
According to Barrett Smith with Auto Damage Experts; “This fight isn’t just about Gunder’s and our customers, or just about State Farm; it’s about repairers and their customers across the country that face the same issues of abuse daily from many insurers. State Farm has and continues to stall and delay and outspend us but so far, and by the grace of God, we have reached a point I believe will come to a positive outcome sooner than later."
To mail a donation to the fund, make the check out to "The Collision Industry Legal Fund" and send to: Brent Geohagan, Attorney at Law, 3001 Bartow Rd., Lakeland, FL 33803.
Crossroads Chevrolet-Cadillac in Joplin, MO, served as as a collection point for community donations of clothing, food, water and other supplies for those hit hard by the May 22 tornado.
A cluster of General Motors franchise dealers in and near Joplin recently weathered quite a storm and are continuing to pick up the pieces and do the best they can to support their local community in healng. The dealers also recently broke out their checkbooks and more to help the community recover from the single deadliest tornado in national history.
Crossroads Chevrolet-Cadillac was spared by the killer twister, but the automaker said the storm’s wicked winds touched the lives of “nearly everyone working there.”
Dealership owner Dan Auffenberg explained on the Faces of GM blog that on the day after the tornado struck May 22, nine or 10 employees showed up for work. Aufffenberg immediately recognized the severity of the situation and sent them home, saying, “You don’t need to be here. You need to be home helping your families,” according to Auto Remarketing News.
As of that point, five employees of Crossroads had lost their homes to the storm, and the service manager’s wife had lost her mother.
Jackie Cooper Imports, an Oklahoma dealership specializing in luxury import cars, hosted their grand reopening celebration on June 16 at the dealership's location in Tulsa, OK. The dealership has been serving the Tulsa market since August of 1991 and hosted this reopening to celebrate the dealership’s remodel and new building addition.
The Georgia Collision Industry Association (GCIA) conducted their 5th annual labor rates surveys for body shops in the metro Atlanta area earlier this year.
Volkswagen is jumping into the U.S. auto market by opening a new plant in Chattanooga, TN.
At the grand opening of the plant on May 24, the German automaker presented the 2012 Passat as the key to building U.S. sales to 1 million units by 2018. The $1 billion plant has been producing cars since April.
The new Passat will go on sale in Q3 of 2011 for $20,000 a car. That's about $7,000 cheaper than current models built in Germany and close to the prices of such competitors' models as the Ford Fusion, the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord and the Hyundai Sonata.
Jonathan Browning, president and chief executive officer of Volkswagen Group of America, said the automaker wants to make German engineering more accessible to North American buyers.
"The Passats produced here in Chattanooga will be a key enabler to our growth, allowing us to compete in the core of the midsize sedan segment," Browning told reporters before the unveiling of the plant, according to the Associated Press.
US sales were mixed in May for the three models produced by Mercedes-Benz at its Vance, AL, auto factory.
Sales of the M-Class SUV totaled 1,928, a 15 percent slide from May 2010, the German automaker said June 1, according to the Birmingham News.
But sales rose 237 percent, to 873, for the R-Class crossover. Sales also rose 8.6 percent to 1,885 for the GL-Class full-size SUV.
Overall, a total of 18,886 Mercedes-brand vehicles were sold in the United States during May, a 2 percent rise from a year ago.
Kia Motors Corp. said June 2 it will increase the production capacity of its West Point, GA, assembly plant by 20%, to help the company keep up with demand for its vehicles, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Korean car maker says it will begin expansion projects at its Georgia factory that will raise its total annual capacity to 360,000 vehicles by the beginning of next year. The boost follows an announcement earlier this year at the New York International Auto Show that the automaker would begin producing its Optima mid-size sedan at the US plant.
The planned expansion includes the plant’s stamping, welding, paint and general assembly shops. The expansion will make room for the 2012 Optima to join the company’s Sorento crossover utility vehicle which is already built at the plant.
Kia and its parent company Hyundai, who have long fought to be taken seriously by rivals and consumers in the US, have hit their stride with efficient attractive and desirable vehicles that appear to be bargains compared with competitors’ products. The company has also been able to step ahead of other foreign automakers due to the shortages of Japanese vehicles resulting from the March earthquake and tsunami in that country.