Local 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.
Porsche is expected to move its North American headquarters, and hundreds of jobs the plant provides the northern Georgia suburb it currently calls home, from Sandy Springs to the old Ford plant site near the Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta.
Porsche is expected to build offices where the plant was demolished and a test track similar to its Porsche Silverstone facility in England.
Fulton County Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards said Hapeville’s mayor and city council have been working hard to fill the plant site and it makes good economic sense for Porsche, with the site’s proximity to the airport and interstate.
“This is just the first step,” Edwards said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “South Fulton has always been misrepresented as a bunch of poor black folks and poor white folks. Other people are finding out that it’s a diamond in the rough.”
BASF Automotive Refinish announced the completion of its annual ColorSource Conference, a three-day interactive conference for single line distributors of BASF refinish paints and coatings. During the conference held April 27 – 30 in Clearwater Beach, FL at the Sand Pearl Resort, BASF re-launched the ColorSource PREMIER Program and shared annual objectives in addition to networking and strategic activities.
“Gathering all ColorSource PREMIER partners together enables collaboration and development of strategic initiatives for continued market growth,” stated Denise Kingstrom, Strategic Accounts Manager for BASF Automotive Refinish. “It provides an opportunity outside of our day-to-day activities to recognize industry progress, and share best practices.”
ColorSource PREMIER distributors are single‐line BASF distributors that benefit from a unique association with BASF, allowing them a competitive edge. BASF ColorSource PREMIER members distribute only BASF refinish paint products, and are recognized by the company as important strategic partners in the aftermarket automotive refinish industry.
To learn more about becoming a ColorSource PREMIER distributor, please contact Denise Kingstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-632-2420.
To learn about BASF refinish products visit us at: www.basfrefinish.com.
Alabama state laws have scrap yard owner David Hickman dealing with frustrated customers when he tells them that he can’t take their junk cars without a valid title. “Lots of times customers want to argue with us when we tell them they have to have it,” he said to al.com. “But that’s the law, we can’t take a car without title.”
As of 2010, people selling cars to scrap have had to have the title in order to sell. This has caused some friction as owners of junk cars often don’t have an official title in their name, either because it’s been lost or because the car was signed over to them by a previous owner, Hickman said.
The requirement has all but killed the auto recycling part of the scrap business, according to Hickman. Hickman isn't the only one feeling the pain; the law has affected every link in the recycling food chain.
Materials from junk cars feed low-level parts dealers and car crushers, which feed auto-shredding operations like Hickman’s. Scrap metal generated by the shredders also feeds mills and manufacturers like SSAB in north Mobile County and Huron Valley Steel Corp. in Anniston.
The Associated Press has reported that the Florida House approved a bill on May 4 that makes it more difficult for injured plaintiffs to win product liability damages from auto makers and other manufacturers.
The measure was approved by a vote of 80-35 and will be sent to Republican Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.
The bill, which the pro-business Scott is expected to sign, neutralizes a 2001 Florida Supreme Court decision against Ford that said evidence of the primary cause of a crash, such as driver error or drunkenness, cannot be introduced in product liability cases.
According to the new law, juries would have to "consider the fault of all persons who contributed to an accident when apportioning damages in a products liability action."
"Not giving the jury all the details, including a critical piece of information about the driver's condition, is unfair and absurd," said Barney Bishop III, president of Associated Industries of Florida, the state's lobby for big business.
"Correcting this inequity will now open the doors to automotive manufacturing companies that previously had not considered Florida as a base of operation," Bishop added.
The legislation on the "crashworthiness doctrine" was the focus of a lobbying duel between trial lawyers who represent injured parties and business interests led by Ford Motor Co.
Under that doctrine, if, for example, "an airbag fails to deploy during an initial collision and the driver subsequently collides with the windshield, the manufacturer may be liable for damages attributable to the second collision caused by the defective airbag," according to a staff analysis.
Democrats have argued the bill would shift medical costs for seriously-injured crash victims to taxpayers and that manufacturers should be held accountable for their mistakes.
"See how much they paid to make sure this happens," state Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami, said in debate, referring to Ford's and other business interests' campaign contributions to Republican lawmakers.
"What this bill says is, if you don't put on a seatbelt, it's your fault," Steinberg added. "But if the seat belt doesn't work, it's not their fault."
But state Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, said the "doomsday scenario" that deserving plaintiffs would go empty-pocketed from the courthouse was unfounded.
"Judges can still make rulings about quality and weight (of evidence)," he said. "We shouldn't shield relevant evidence from juries."
The law overrules the decision in the case of Karen D'Amario, whose then-teenage son was badly burned and lost three limbs when the car he was riding in crashed into a tree and exploded. The driver was killed.
D'Amario alleged her son's injuries were due mostly to the explosion caused by a defective relay switch on a fuel pump. The jury sided with Ford, which argued the switch was fine and blamed the fire on the collision because it ruptured the car's oil pan.
The justices ruled that the jury was confused by evidence that the driver was drunk and speeding, instead of focusing on the product liability allegation. The opinion reversed the jury's verdict and said such evidence should be excluded from future cases that allege "enhanced" injuries.