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

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.

Hyundai Motor Co. will invest $173 million in expanding and modifying an engine plant in Alabama starting in 2012, the state said on May 16.

The expansion, which is expected to be completed in the fall of 2012, will allow the plant to make the engine for the small Elantra sedan being produced at the automaker's Montgomery, AL, plant.

This would boost production capacity for the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Sorrento models manufactured at the Kia Motors Corp. assembly plant at West Point, Ga.

"The enhancements to the engine plant will not only increase our engine capacity by 300,000 units per year, it will also provide us the opportunity to implement new manufacturing technologies," Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama LLC CEO Deuk Lim said during a news conference May 16 according to Automotive News.

Language in Florida House Bill 5005, entitled "Deregulations of Professions and Occupations," that would repeal Florida's law requiring the registration of motor vehicle repair shops, the Motor Vehicle Repair Advisory Council, and the regulation of motor vehicle repair has been omitted in a budget conference report.

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) organized a grassroots effort in Florida to support the current shop registration law. Florida repair shops contacted their legislators in support of keeping the shop registration statute.

The Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act was created to assist consumers with matters relating to motor vehicle repair shops. The Motor Vehicle Repair Advisory Council was established to advise and assist the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in carrying out and reviewing the rules relating to the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act. The law applies to dealers of new and used cars, trucks and motorcycles; garages; service stations; self-employed persons; truck stops; and paint, body, brake, muffler, transmission, mobile repair and glass shops.

If the bill had been passed as was originally drafted, motor vehicle repair facilities would be deregulated. Before 1993, there were approximately 5,500 consumer complaints per year related to automotive repair. Resolutions for these complaints went through the state court system, a two- to three-year expensive process. During fiscal year 2009-2010, there were only 1,743 complaints for the year, a 70 percent decrease since the start of the program. With the Florida population increasing 35 percent during that time, the effective decrease in complaints was actually closer to 80 percent.

The Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act is self-funded by the automotive service industry, and helps to offset much of the cost for the call center for all of the motor vehicle related programs. The annual cost of the program for 90 percent of the shops is $50 per year.

There are more than 22,000 auto repair shops in Florida. The program as part of the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act is effective, and successfully arbitrates nearly 70 percent of all complaints within 60 days. ASA supports the Florida legislature's decision to delete these provisions from House Bill 5005.