Southeastern News

1HomePageMap small se 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia

Honda is adding the Acura MDX sport utility to the production lineup in Alabama next year, and the move will open up a new export market for the Lincoln plant’s products.

Some of the MDX vehicles made at the plant will be shipped to China, said Tom Shoupe, head of Honda’s Alabama operations.

A small percentage of the plant’s vehicles, now Odyssey minivans, Pilot SUVs and Ridgeline pickups, are exported each year to markets including the Middle East, South America and Central America. Pilots are also shipped to Russia.

The MDX, now produced at a Honda plant in Canada, has been exported to China for several years in small numbers, so that will continue after the production switch. Last year, 485 MDX vehicles were shipped to China, Honda spokesman Ed Miller said.

The SUV is sold in the United States. The MDX move will give Honda more room in Canada to build the popular CR-V SUV. Acura is Honda’s luxury vehicle division, and the MDX will be the first Acura product built in Alabama.

The Boyd Group Inc. announced June 4 the opening of a collision repair center in Orlando, Florida which commenced operations on May 30, 2012 as well as the acquisition of another new location in Jessup, Maryland on May 25, 2012.

Both repair centers will operate under the Gerber Collision & Glass trade name. This brings the total number of U.S. locations in operation to 141 with two additional locations acquired, soon to be in operation.

The new Orlando repair center, originally acquired on March 22, 2012 and previously known as Leading Edge Collision, is approximately 10,000 square feet in size, with 6,500 square feet of production space.

Florida is a market Gerber first entered in January, and this latest center bolsters the number of locations operating in this market to nine locations. Orlando, the fifth largest city in Florida, is considered an attractive market by the company.

The new Jessup repair center, the eighth in Maryland, was previously known as ACI Auto Collision and is approximately 13,000 square feet in size, of which 11,000 square feet is production space.

A law restricting texting while driving was approved by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, and it may have insurance implications for drivers who violate the ban after it takes effect.

Fines for using a hand-held device to text behind the wheel will be $25 for first-time violators, $50 for a second offense and $75 for the third and any subsequent violations. For each violation, the law will also institute a two-point penalty against a driver’s record, which auto insurance companies may be able to view as lawful justification for insurance-rate hikes.

The law goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2012.

“Signing this bill sends a message that drivers need to focus on driving, not on sending a text,” Gov. Bentley said in a statement. “There is nothing so urgent that it is worth risking your life, or the lives of others, by sending a text message while you are driving down the road.”

Anger over the proposed State Farm PartsTrader program revived a sleeping giant in Mississippi, revitalizing the previously dormant Mississippi Collision Repair Association, which met on May 23 for the first time in many years.

“Due to many factors, our association as been inactive for almost eight years,” said Chad Smith, treasurer of the Mississippi Collision Repair Association and co-owner of Smith Bros. Collision Center with two locations in Brookhaven and McComb. “But the new State Farm program has re-ignited our association’s fire!”

The years may have gone by in comfort and complacency, but the controversy and negativity surrounding the State Farm Proposed Parts Procurement Program within its Select Service Program changed all that. More than 100 MCRA members, as well as Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and John Wells of the Mississippi Department of Insurance, came together in Pearl, Miss. to hear what body shop owners from Birmingham, AL had to say about the PartsTrader program. Birmingham is one of the four national test markets where the PartsTrader program is being tested.

Several Birmingham, AL auto body shops have dropped State Farm rather than be forced to use its new PartsTrader procurement software within its Select Service Program. Auto body shops in Birmingham are located in one of four test markets where the pilot PartsTrader program, an online parts ordering/bidding software system developed by a New Zealand firm, is being tested.

Usage of the PartsTrader software has been required by State Farm in four test markets nationwide: Tucson, AZ, Birmingham, AL, Grand Rapids, Mich. and Charlotte, NC. Approximately 10 percent of State Farm Select Service shops are participating in the pilot.

According to a report released by the Automotive Services Association (ASA), 17 Select Service shops in Birmingham, AL, removed themselves from the program prior to any registration or use of the application.

AutoBody America, a Nashville, Tenn.-based operator of collision repair facilities in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas, announced the appointment of Will Johnston to the position of president. Johnston will also continue to serve as chief financial officer while Pat James will remain the company’s chief executive officer.

Johnston is a graduate of Duke University, where he studied economics, business management and marketing. After working in the process design department of Andersen Consulting, he was hired by AutoBody America, Inc., in 1999 to help create a scalable process and technology model. In 2006, he accepted an offer from Pat James to join him as an equity partner and has since been promoted from vice president to chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Johnston grew up and still resides in Nashville with his wife, Irish, and their children, Jake and Harper.

AutoBody America currently has 19 locations throughout Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas with plans to continue accelerating their growth. Interested parties are welcome to e-mail pjames@autobodyamerica.com for further information.