Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming
Toyota has reached an out-of-court settlement with relatives of the Saylor family who were killed when the Lexus sedan they were driving sped out of control and crashed, , according to reports made by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Investigators attributed the accident to a mismatched floormat, which trapped the accelerator pedal, and put an international spotlight on the sudden acceleration concerns that later prompted the automaker to recall millions of vehicles.
Toyota confirmed the settlement September 18 in a statement but did not provide the amount involved or any other details.
“Through mutual respect and cooperation we were able to resolve this matter without the need for litigation,” the statement said.
The crash, which happened in August 2009 in Santee, CA, was dramatically documentend with cell phone evidence that drew international attention. A backseat passenger called 911 to say that the driver, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer named Mark Saylor, was unable to stop the 2009 Lexus E350, which went as fast as 120 miles per hour on a freeway before hitting another vehicle, going airborn and landing in a fiery crash in a ravine.
Mark Saylor, 45; his wife, Cleofe, 45; and their 13-year-old daughter Mahala died, along with Cleofe Saylor’s brother, Chris Lastrella, 39. It was Lastrella who told the 911 operator that the car’s pedal was stuck and ended the call by saying, “Hold on and pray.” The car was on loan from the nearby Bob Baker Lexus dealership while Saylor’s car was being repaired.
The settlement has left out co-defendant Bob Baker Lexus, a move by the automaker that could set the stage for a potentially damaging fight with its own dealers over who is to blame for sudden acceleration incidents.
“Toyota has sought to protect only its own interests. They decided to cut out their own dealer,” said Larry Willis, attorney for Bob Baker Lexus.
The settlement, according to Toyota’s statement, resolves product liability claims by the Saylor and Lastrella families against Toyota and the dealership. The families have separate claims against the dealership that were not covered.
Two months after the crash, Toyota began a recall that eventually covered 5.4 million vehicles globally in which the automaker said the driver-side floormat could trap the accelerator pedal.
It later recalled 4.5 million vehicles in which the pedals themselves were determined to be defective. Some vehicles were covered by both recalls, for a total of about eight million vehicles.
In February, Toyota’s chief executive, Akio Toyoda, apologized to Congress and to the Saylor family, saying he would “do everything in my power to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.”
The recalls hurt Toyota’s sales and damaged its reputation for building high-quality, reliable vehicles. Thousands of complaints poured in to federal regulators from drivers who said their Toyota-made vehicles accelerated suddenly. In April, the government fined Toyota a record $16.4 million for waiting too long to initiate a recall. The complaints are tied to at least 93 deaths.
Toyota is continuing to defend itself against class-action lawsuits filed by Toyota owners and relatives of people who died in crashes alleged to have resulted from sudden acceleration. The company could face billions of dollars in liabilities if it loses the cases.
Preliminary results released in August from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation into the sudden-acceleration complaints revealed that in many of the crashes the vehicles’ on-board data recorders showed no evidence that the drivers had used the brakes.
The findings suggest that some drivers were mistakenly pressing on the accelerator pedal instead of the brake.
To read previously published articles on this subject go to www.autobodynews.com, search “Saylor.”
Every year the CAA Trade Faire provides an opportunity for CAA members, vendors, body shop and dealership personnel to network, learn more about the industry and re-connect with old friends. On September 15, the CAA Santa Clara chapter’s Trade Faire was held at the Holiday Inn Airport in San Jose, Calif., an event that is more than 20 years old and unique to this CAA chapter in the Bay Area.
Dave Mello, the lifetime treasurer for the CAA Santa Clara’s chapter, was very pleased to see a good turnout for this year’s faire. “We had more than 160 members and associates and 38 vendors on hand to make it a great Trade Faire once again,” said Mello, owner of Andersen Behl Body Shop in Santa Clara said.
“It’s a great night, because body shop professionals and vendors alike can network free-form, as opposed to sitting at a dinner and listening to a speaker. This way, people can interact in their own way in an environment without a schedule or an agenda.”
Vendors featuring computers, software, frame equipment, paint, clips and hardware, legal aid, welders, infrared lamps, paint gun cleaners, car rentals, first aid supplies, radiators and more displayed their products and/or services at the CAA Santa Clara Trade Faire. More than $5,000 in prizes was raffled off during the event, Mello said.
In a legislative move that has split the two California collision repair associations, California lawmakers approved SB 427 (Negrete, McLeod) which redefines the term "crash part" and increases the penalty on the failure to repair and fully restore an airbag to original operating conditions. The bill was supported by the American Insurance Association (AIA). “AIA feels confident in the language and the protections it will offer our members’ policyholders,” said Gibford.
This bill would define and redefine "crash part," "aftermarket crash part," and "original equipment manufacturer crash part," for purposes of the act and the motor vehicle replacement part provisions.
The bill specifies that an automotive repair dealer who prepares a written estimate that includes replacement of a deployed airbag and who fails to repair and fully restore the airbag where the consumer has paid for the repair, as specified, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.
The bill would require the invoice for work done by an automotive repair dealer to describe all service work done, parts supplied, and crash parts installed. The bill would make a statement of legislative intent regarding this requirement.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a measure August 30 allowing tens of thousands more Californians with environmentally friendly cars to drive solo in carpool lanes according to reports made by the LA Times and 10 News San Diego.
Lawmakers worked late into the night August 30, the second to last day of the 2009-10 legislative session. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took some action of his own, signing into law a measure expanding the list of environmentally friendly cars that qualify for permits to use carpool lanes.
The measure will allow up to 40,000 more California motorists to drive solo in the special lanes. It also extends the lifespan of existing permits for hybrid and electric vehicles. The bill, SB 535 by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by General Motors, would provide thousands of permits for new models of fuel-efficient cars.
The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Inc. (AIAM) supports passage of a bill by the California legislature to reduce copper dust from vehicle brake pads that can wash into urban watersheds. AIAM members worked closely with California lawmakers, industry organizations, municipal water agencies and environmental groups on SB 346 to find an approach to brake pad reformulation that protects the environment without compromising public safety.
“We believe SB 346 provides a balanced approach to achieving California’s environmental goals while maintaining vehicle brake safety,” said Michael J. Stanton, president and CEO of AIAM.
“Brake dust” can contain copper and other materials and is created by friction when the brakes are applied. SB 346, authored by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), sets limits on the amount of copper used in brake pads starting in 2021. By 2025 there will be a virtual ban of the mineral. Owners of vehicles designed with brake pads containing copper will have access to replacement parts for the life of their cars.
“The bill establishes a challenging goal that we and our suppliers are committed to meeting,” said Stanton. “We thank Senator Kehoe for all that she has done to bring the various parties together on this bill.”
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is considering a recent court decision a victory for consumers, as a lawsuit that attempted to stop the Commissioner from protecting Californians in connection with the Executive Life Insurance Co. was dismissed by the Court, according to reports made by Insurance Journal.
Last year, the Commissioner denied a request for permission to buy a California insurance company from a foreign company whose owner is the defendant in a multi-billion dollar lawsuit brought by Commissioner Poizner.
The sale would have siphoned money out of the United States while a federal court is in the process of determining how much that owner, French company Artemis S.A., ought to pay in compensation for previous fraud, according to the Commissioner. The proposed seller in the transaction, Artemis subsidiary Aurora S.A., subsequently sued the Commissioner for denying the transaction. A court rejected that lawsuit.
“It’s my job to protect policyholders, and when I saw the harm this transaction could cause to former Executive Life Insurance Co. policyholders, I refused to allow it,” said Commissioner Poizner.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woolard rejected the lawsuit against Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, ruling that Commissioner Poizner acted properly when he denied approval of a sale transaction that had the potential to cause harm to former policyholders of Executive Life Insurance Co.
The suit is part of the on-going fallout resulting from the failure of Executive Life in 1991 and the massive fraud that was committed by French companies and companies owned by the French government in the subsequent insolvency proceeding.
The lawsuit concerned an attempt by Reassure America Life Insurance Co., a subsidiary of insurance giant Swiss Re, to purchase Aurora National Life Assurance Co. Aurora National is the life insurance company that was set up in 1992 to take over insurance policies from the insolvent Executive Life.
When it was established in 1992, Aurora National was purportedly owned by a consortium of French and Swiss companies. In 1999, the Commissioner learned that the ownership of Aurora National was a fraud and the true owner was a French government-owned bank, in violation of California and federal law.
The Commissioner sued in federal court in Los Angeles and recovered more than $700 million to date for former Executive Life policyholders. The lawsuit is still pending against one of the defendants, French company Artemis S.A.
While the Commissioner’s fraud lawsuit is pending against Artemis, Reassure America filed for permission to buy Aurora National from Aurora S.A. The timing of the sale would get Artemis’s share of the sale money to France, out of the reach of the Commissioner before he could obtain a judgment against Artemis in federal court. Artemis’ share of the sale will be paid to former Executive Life policyholders if the Commissioner wins his suit against Artemis.
The Commissioner denied the application on the grounds that the sale would harm former Executive Life policyholders and Reassure America demonstrated a lack of integrity in attempting to conclude the sale now, when it knew that harm would occur to its own policyholders.
Judge Woolard agreed, ruling that it was not an abuse of discretion for the Commissioner to consider the interests of Executive Life policyholders in his decision.
The San Diego chapter of the California Autobody Association met July 27 at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse in San Diego. The chapter was able to discuss the BAR code of regulations with guest speaker Peter Vann as well as David Jones’ campaign for CA Insurance Commissioner.
Peter Vann gave a presentation about codes and regulations pertaining to the use of aftermarket parts versus OEM parts and how to properly fill out estimation forms to coincide with insurance company standards. Vann also discussed the BAR equipment requirements for auto body shops, specifically equipment used for structural repair purposes.
The San Diego CAA held a fundraiser to benefit Jones at Parkway Bowl in El Cajon on August 13. PAW PAC is supporting Dave Jones’ campaign for CA Insurance Commissioner.
Dave Jones will be interviewed in the October issue of Autobody News.
Drew Ford in La Mesa, CA, held a free extrication demonstration and seminar on late model cars on August 5. I-CAR Instructor and Welding Specialist Toby Chess led the demonstration after giving a one-hour seminar on how to efficiently and safely cut through damaged and mangled late model and hybrid vehicles.
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Drew Ford put on the seminar for free in their collision center for any firefighters, EMTs, police and first responders that wanted to attend. The seminar was given free of charge thanks to seminar sponsors; State Farm Insurance, DuPont, Auto Club of Southern California, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, West Autowrecking, Ken Industries and the California Autobody Association.
“It’s self-serving; I know this training is necessary,” said Ted Stein, Ford Service Manager at Drew Ford, “These guys need to know how to cut apart new cars.”
Firefighters made up most of the crowd; the event had about 50 confirmed guests who had made reservation prior to the meeting but late comers without reservations were welcomed. San Diego area Fire Departments in attendance ranged from Campo to Elfin Forest.
“It’s hard to get vehicles in this condition to work with,” said Jack Glassford, an Elfin Forest Fire Department Volunteer. Glassford also said the types of vehicles advertised to be at the seminar were a real selling point for him to attend.
“My captain told me I should head down,” said Matt Faddis, a Viejas Firefighter.
The wrecked vehicles were donated from State Farm Insurance, Auto Club of Southern California and West Autowrecking. Several late model vehicles as well as two hybrids were available for attendees to practice cutting on.
“The structure of todays cars are radically different than anything you’ve probably dealt with,” said Ted Stein. Stein introduced Chess’ presentation and thanked firefighters who turned out to learn about new techniques in the industry.
Toby Chess’ presentation focused on how to work with high strength steel and some new electrical components found in late model cars, especially hybrid vehicles.
“Most of these guys have never had the opportunity to work on late model cars,” said Chess, who said he has taught more than 2,000 firefighters the techniques to quickly and safely work with new technologies found in late model cars in the last year and a half.
CDs of Chess’ PowerPoint were provided to attendees after the seminar. Chess’ presentation went over into how to completely cut power in newer vehicles, how to avoid the electrical components around a hybrid car’s battery and how to find the weakest spots on the frames of vehicles made with high strength steel.
“We put a lot of effort into this and we’re happy with the turnout,” said Larry Houk, Drew Ford Collision Center Manager and local CAA chapter president.
While all attendees seemed to understand the seriousness of the material Drew Ford also wanted to make it a fun night by providing a buffet-style dinner and raffle at the end of the night.
All extrication equipment was provided by Holmatro Rescue Equipment. More information can be found at www.holmatro-usa.com.
The Nevada Collision Industry Association (NCIA) was founded in 2004 to promote the interests of those involved in the business of repairing both mechanical and collision-related damage.
Autobody News talked with several of the members and officers to get a better idea of the issues facing repairers in Nevada.
“Although we don’t have separate collision and mechanical repair divisions, we try to represent the entirety of the industry, including paint companies, wreckers, glass companies and even those businesses that sell support services such as estimating software,” says Kurtis Rosborough, chairman of the NCIA and owner of Certified Autobody Center in southwest Las Vegas.
The NCIA holds quarterly meetings to discuss and take action regarding the direction of the association as well as schedules fund-raising events to supplement dues. In addition, the group regularly informs members of any new requirements by federal, state or local governments such as by the EPA and OSHA. Regular I-CAR training sessions are held, and guest speakers also appear at times.