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

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced February 8 that Tenneco, a global vehicle supplier, is expanding its production lines, adding new equipment and increasing its workforce by 350 additional employees at its existing facilities in Hartwell.

“Tenneco is an important player in the automotive industry, and we are pleased they have expanded their presence in Georgia,” Deal said. “Georgia’s comprehensive logistics system and skilled workforce are two of our many key selling assets because they give companies like Tenneco easy, efficient access to their markets as well as a world-class workforce.”

Tenneco is one of the world’s leading designers, manufacturers and distributors of emission and ride control products and systems for the automotive original equipment market and aftermarket. The company is expanding existing lines and installing additional production lines at its Hartwell manufacturing facility, where automotive shock absorbers and struts are produced.

Hart County has been a Georgia Certified Work Ready Community since 2009, indicating that the county has a ready pool of labor specifically trained for a range of positions, including those in the manufacturing industry. Tenneco has called Hart County home since the 1960s, and already employs a mix of more than 750 full and part-time workers at its Hartwell facility.

Toyota Industries Corp. announced plans to open a $350 million automotive parts plant in Jackson County in northeast Georgia, creating 320 jobs, in early February.

The plant will create automotive compressor parts and will be built near a related assembly plant off I-85 in Pendergrass, GA. The automaker expects the plant to be completed in late 2013, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“In opening this new Georgia manufacturing facility, Toyota Industries Corporation sends a very clear message about its confidence in our state’s ability to help them remain competitive in global markets,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a news release.

“Projects such as this underscore Georgia’s record of success in attracting international investment to our state,” Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Courtney Bernardi, director of economic development for the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, expected the plant bolsters the area’s manufacturing base and to pay higher than the county’s average.

Mississippi lawmakers are trying once again to get an online car insurance verification system set up in their state after Gov. Haley Barbour vetoed a similar proposal last session, Online Auto Insurance News reports.

It might be a while before we see whether Gov. Barbour finds the tweaks made by the bill’s authors to be satisfactory. But if the legislation does get signed into law this time around, it may have some uninsured motorists scrambling to find a cheap down payment auto insurance policy.

Having a verification system set up in the state would make it much easier for police and Department of Revenue employees to find out the coverage status of particular drivers. That means uninsured motorists would be that much more likely to get caught and slapped with fines and other penalties.

The verification system would work by aggregating policy information from insurers on all the cars registered in the state. If a registered auto shows up as having no matching insurance policy, state officials would be able to suspend the license or registration and hit the driver with a $300-$500 fine.

Police would also be able to access the database. If an officer were to pull a driver over for a separate infraction and find that there was no matching policy in the database for the car, the motorist could be cited.

A third point at which uninsured motorists could be caught is when they go to register their cars. If the bill’s signed into law, car owners would need to have a valid policy already in place before registering the vehicle.

In each of these scenarios, the information contained in the database would supersede the information on any proof of insurance cards furnished by the driver.

Last session, Barbour vetoed the legislation because of a lack of cost projections and a concern that the Department of Public Safety should not have to worry about catching the owners of uninsured vehicles.

The new bill splits the responsibilities between the Public Safety and Revenue departments, but there does not appear to be much change on the cost side.

Mississippi state law requires that all drivers have liability insurance and keep their insurance card in their vehicles at all times to prove that they are covered. In Mississippi, the minimum liability requirements are $25,000 per person for a single accident, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000 per accident for property damage. You may also see this referred to as 25/50/25.

Manheim Auto Auctions announced the winner of its eighth annual Barbara Cox Anthony Automotive Woman of the Year Award on February 5 at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention. This year’s award went to Rachel Richards, Sonic Automotive’s vice president of retail strategy and chief marketing officer.

According to Auto Remarketing News, Richards was awarded at Northwood University’s annual breakfast during the NADA convention in Las Vegas which was held February 3 through 6, 2012.

The award recognizes Richards for the contributions she has made to both the automotive industry and her Charlotte, N.C. community.

Richards has been with Sonic, a Charlotte-based automotive retailer since 2006. Before her time with the dealer group, Richards served in field, regional management and corporate positions at Ford and Ford Credit.

Richards also reaches out to her community through a number of avenues. Among other volunteering efforts, NADA officials noted that she is a Girl Scout leader and supports Habitat for Humanity.

“I am truly honored to receive this very prestigious award and be recognized for my accomplishments in our field. Upon entering the automotive industry, after my graduation from college, I would never have dreamed that my contributions and body of work would be recognized and honored in this way,” Richards noted, according to Auto Remarketing News.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College, a two-year technical college located in Rome, GA, is considering building another campus in Ringgold. Ringgold, near the Georgia-Tennessee border, is a small town of about 2,500 people.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, college and county officials are considering building the campus on 50 acres owned by Catoosa County across from Rollins Industrial Park in the southwest area of town.

According to the Associated Press, College President Craig McDaniel estimated it would take only a year to 14 months to complete construction once land is available. The technical college's focus is on careers in the automotive, aviation and other commercial industries. City officials speculated that the Ringgold campus would be centered around its automated manufacturing lab, which would train students to work with robotics used in automotive factories.

This campus would be the eighth location for the technical college, with seven locations already in Rome, Calhoun, Rockmart, Rock Spring and Dalton.

For more information please visit www.gntc.edu.

After agreeing to pay in full for procedures and materials previously denied, State Farm has now also agreed to pay for all attorney fees and costs on two claims brought by Ray Gunder on behalf of his customers.

Gunder has a slew of cases on behalf of his customers at Gunder's Auto Center in Lakeland, FL, against the insurance company. In these two cases State Farm agreed to pay a total of $1,493.00 and $2,757.50 for cases filed on behalf of Mickey Brewington and James Locascio, respectively. This brought the total paid for legal fees and court costs to $4,250.50. State Farm also paid in full the parts of the repair estimates in this case that were previously denied. Payment was remitted to Gunder's legal representation on February 2.

“It will be interesting to see how the other three active lawsuits we have filed against State Farm on behalf of our customers turn out,” continued Gunder. “There are an additional 25 more in line behind those which are ripe to be filed for similar issues. We’ll just keep pounding that rock!”