Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming
Fix Auto USA has announced the addition of five franchise locations. The new locations represent Fix Auto’s expansion in the San Diego market to eight locations, and the expansion of its presence in Southern California. Fix Auto USA, which added a franchise model to network membership in January 2011, currently has 39 franchise locations operating in three states: California, Colorado and Oregon.
The new Fix Auto locations include:
· Fix Auto El Cajon, formerly East County Auto Collision
· Fix Auto Escondido, previously Henson and Son
· Fix Auto La Mesa, operated at Drew Collision Repair Center
· Fix Auto Mira Mesa, formerly Miramar Collision Center
· Fix Auto National City, previously owned by Ball Auto Group
Greg Carter, owner of Fix Auto National City, Fix Auto Santee and Fix Auto Mission Valley said the power of a larger network, powered by independent owners played a big role in his decision to franchise.
The Poway City Council granted permission in a 4-1 decision at a meeting May 3 to allow a new auto body center to set up shop in the business park, located in the south of the city.
Representatives from other Poway repair shops opposed granting Chrome Collision Auto Body Repair a permit to open up at 13175 Gregg Street, saying a repair shop there gives an unfair advantage and that they had been told they couldn’t run their businesses in that area.
Competition among auto body repair shops had been a controversial at City Council meetings before. An August deal to relocate Toyota of Poway across the street on Poway Road included an auto body repair shop.
That plan allows the dealership to use city-owned land rent free as long as it generates at least $3 million in revenue over the term of a 15-year lease. Auto body representatives at those hearings said that was an unfair government subsidy.
Several council members pointed out that this was different, as the city was not subsidizing Chrome Collision.
City officials said using property in the business park for auto body repairs is allowed as long as vehicles are stored and repairs are done indoors, which Councilman John Mullin noted could increase costs for the shop.
Councilman Jim Cunningham, who ultimately opposed granting the permit, wanted the city to look into whether other such shops had been denied permission to open shops in the business park. That desire failed to gain support on the dais.
Some council members, including Dave Grosch and Cunningham, worried that the the shop would be inconsistent with the character Poway wants for the business park, noting that large technological firms would be more desirable. Mayor Don Higginson said the use conformed to city regulations and that Poway needed to conform with the demands of the market to avoid leaving lots vacant.
Montana's House Bill 265, signed into law by Gov. Schweitzer on April 28, gives heightened authority to estimating systems, requiring every operation and all costs identified by the estimating systems to be considered by insurers. The bill means that insurers cannot pick and choose which operations or costs they wish to accept or deny.
Bill 265 is formally titled: An Act Providing That An Insurance Company May Not Unilaterally Disregard A Repair Operation Or Cost Identified By An Estimating System That The Insurer And An Automobile Body Repair Business Or Location Have Agreed To Utilize In Determining The Cost Of Repair
The bill was sponsored and supported by the Montana Collision Repair Specialists. Said Bruce Halcro, president of MCRS and owner of Capital Collision Center in Helena, "Montana shops rallied to the cause and made multiple contacts to our state legislators when asked by the association. We are very proud of all our members in Montana. They made the difference."
Writing in support of the legislation in February, Denny Menhollt, owner of Denny Menholt Chevrolet, in Billings (and a body shop owner), said: "HB265 is written to support a safe and economically sound collision repair. Insurers require usage of a database provider that identifies repair procedures. Many times, insurers then disallow or refuse to pay for these required procedures leaving the potential for unsafe repairs. Repairers then complete the required procedures, leaving no choice by to charge the consumer co-pay in addition to their deductible."
Menholt also expressed support for HB264, a bill to allow all Montana businesses as well as consumers to file a complaint with the state auditor's office if they see code violations that negatively impact consumers. The bill would provide a mechanism to seek code enforcement.
The bill was opposed by insurance lobby groups, but not necessarily by independent insurers. Ed Melcher, an independent insurance agent in Billings, supported the bill, saying: " HB265 would help eliminate the potential for consumers having to pay additional monies above their deductible." Melcher also supported HB 264.
Sgt. Edward Flak II returned from his third tour in Afghanistan on April 22 to find his '94 Mustang GT missing from his garage.
The 26-year-old Marine from Temecula, CA, had purchased the car second hand from a friend about 4 years ago and couldn't afford to repair the vehicle between his tours to the Middle East.
"When he left, the first thing he said about money was save money so I can get my car done when I get back," Flak's wife, Krissy told 10 News San Diego.
Unbeknownst to Flak, Krissy and Janet and Jim Bird of Bird Family Tire and Auto in Temecula decided to repair the car for him while he was gone.
The Birds' daughter attends school with the Flak's daughter and the subject of refinishing Flak's Mustang came up one day. Krissy had been getting quotes of upwards of $10,000 to repair the Mustang while Flak was overseas.
The crew at Bird Family Tire and Auto repaired the car's engine and Bob and Shelley Kantin of Precision Paint and Body Works signed on to do the refinishing through a mutual contact with Jim Bird.
An estimated 9 percent of California drivers talk or text on their cell phone while driving — despite state laws that prohibit such actions, a recent study has shown.
In the first-ever survey of its kind, the California Office of Traffic Safety found that an estimated 9 percent of California drivers talk or text on their cell phone while driving. Officials also announced that, with approximately 55 percent of law enforcement agencies reporting in, at least 20,455 were cited for handheld cell phone use and texting during the first two weeks of a Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign.
“This study is highly significant for California,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. “It gives us a base to measure against in years to come as we combat this serious threat to safety on our roadways.”
The observational study had researchers fan out to more than 130 intersections in 17 counties to observe whether drivers had a phone to their ear, were wearing a Bluetooth or headset device, were manipulating a handheld device, or were talking while holding a phone in their hand but not to their ear. Of the 5,413 drivers observed across the state:
Authorities are asking the public for help in finding a man suspected of fatally shooting his former boss at a San Diego auto repair shop the victim owned and operated on April 19.
A customer of the business who was dropping off her car came across the body of Jalal "Joe" Abou around 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot of his shop, Joe's Auto Repair, located on 1930 Rosecrans Street.
Abou's body was found next to a silver Toyota with the driver side door still open.
Witnesses reported hearing gunshots at the location at around 7:15 a.m. Nicolas Rosales, 47, a former mechanic at Joe's Auto Repair on Rosecrans Street, allegedly shot 63-year-old Abou to death at the garage around 7:30 a.m. that morning, according to San Diego police.
Officers arrived to find the victim lying in a parking lot at the garage with several Good Samaritans trying to revive him with CPR, homicide Lt. Ernie Herbert said. Paramedics took over the lifesaving attempt before pronouncing the man dead at the scene.
California Senate Bill 869 was passed in committee (9-0) on April 25. The bill modifies the state's Business and Professions Code saying that a repairer who "fails to repair and fully restore the airbag to its original operating condition," where the customer has paid for the airbag as provided in the estimate, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $5,000 or by one year in prison, or both. Existing law caps penalties at $1,000, by imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or by both fine and imprisonment.
It is already fraudulent and a violation of the Automotive Repair Act to state on an invoice that an auto repair shop will repair or replace a part if it fails to do so. This bill strengthens the existing penalties on that violation specifically for airbags which are being replaced.
The Senate analysis of the measure suggests that possibly in the future some consideration should be given to strengthening the law even further. The analysis asks, "Should there be a requirement to repair or replace a deployed airbag?" Currently, there are no statutes requiring that an auto repair shop replace a deployed air bag, but the analysis suggests a law requiring that any vehicle entering an auto repair shop which has a deployed airbag must leave that repair shop in good working order.
A previous bill SB 427, tabled in 2009 would have established the same misdemeanor with the same penalties for a violation as this bill and would have additionally required the parts invoice for any replacement airbag installed to be attached to the final repair invoice. That bill was vetoed by the Governor, citing that it was duplicative of existing law and, therefore, added very little additional benefit to consumers.
The California Autobody Association (CAA) and the California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA) opposed the 2009 measure citing the same administrative issues acknowledged by the Governor.
The CAA and the CNCDA support this new measure. The CNCDA states that it has had an interest in curbing the nefarious practice of parts switching and, therefore, support this bill since it narrowly targets the most egregious example of such conduct.
see previous story here
The Collision Repair Association of California met in late February with the Commissioner of the California Department of Insurance, David Jones and Teresa Campbell, Senior Staff Counsel, and Deputy Commissioner, Geoffrey Margolis.
In February this year, California Senator Noreen Evans introduced legislation expanding the Insurance Commissioner’s restitution authority which at present is only allowed in limited circumstances. Simply put, SB 631 would grant explicit authority to the state Insurance Commissioner to order restitution as part of an administrative enforcement action against an insurance company. The new powers could be used to punish broker-agents and other licensees in all instances where the Commissioner finds any violation of the California Insurance Code.
The expanded authority would protect consumers from what Senator Evans described as the “David and Goliath” dynamics that can occur when a consumer seeks repayment of monetary losses or out-of-pocket costs associated with wrongful insurance company conduct.
SB 631 would allow the Commissioner to “impose upon an insurer, licensee, or other entity or person subject to the commissioner’s authority specified remedies, either by way of settlement or following a hearing, whenever the commissioner finds that there has been a violation of an applicable insurance provision.”
The California Autobody Association (CAA) held its Quarterly Delegates meeting in Sacramento on March 11 and 12.