Western News

1HomePageMap small w 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in California, NevadaOregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming

The Ripon, CA, Police Department has a history of finding bargains, whether for firearms or vehicles. This time it is using convicts from a nearby prison to paint their police cars for a bargain.

“Some of the correctional facilities have work programs to keep inmates busy, whether it’s auto body, mechanics, or paint,” officer Alex Burgos said. “The labor through the facility is free.” Though labor is free, paint and decals still cost about a $1,000 per vehicle. Still, the department is paying about a $1,000 per car for the paint jobs, instead of about $4,000. Ripon officials aren’t announcing which prison is doing the work, because that facility has asked to remain anonymous.

“They have a set schedule and can only take a certain amount of cars,” Burgos said. “We jumped in line on that.” Four cars are budgeted to be painted this year.

At the April CIC meeting in Oklahoma City, OK, industry trainer and Autobody News columnist Toby Chess brought a quarter panel removed from a vehicle repaired at a “nationally represented corporate body shop.” Chess said the spot welds used to “attach” the quarter panel didn’t penetrate, and no weld-through primer or corrosion protection had been applied. “You could literally just pull the panel off,” said Paul Val, the general manager of Raintree Autobody in Scottsdale, AZ, which did $3,000 in re-repairs to the vehicle. Val said the shop that had done the original work under an insurer direct repair program paid his shop for the rework with a credit card —and remains on the direct repair program. “Someone is going to get killed in one of these cars,” Val said.

Two schools in Arizona and California are prepping the future of the industry.

In Mesa, AZ., the collision repair program at The East Valley Institute of Technology is the state’s only high school-level coursework certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, the independent non-profit based in Leesburg, VA. Since 1983, secondary and post-secondary automotive-training programs in 50 states have been accredited through NATEF standards.

The California Department of Insurance has released its proposed regulations on "standards for repair and use of aftermarket parts." The proposed changes to the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations largely pertain to the specification and use of aftermarket parts, but also include new requirements for adjusting estimates as well as new consumer disclosures and increased insurer responsibilities in the event a defective part is used for a repair.

The first change adds more specific requirements for estimates written by insurers. Current law simply requires insurers to write an estimate that will allow the repairs to be made in "a workmanlike manner."

The newly proposed sections of law would require insurer-written repair estimates to be in accordance with "accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike automotive repairs by an auto body repair shop," and require that "An insurer shall not prepare an estimate that is less favorable to the claimant than the standards, costs, and guidelines provided by the estimating software."

In addition, the changes would mandate that insurers disclose in writing, on any insurer-prepared estimate that specifies aftermarket parts, that they warrant those parts as "like kind, quality, safety, fit, and performance" as OEM parts.

Another new requirement would provide that should an insurer have "implied, actual, or constructive knowledge" that a specified aftermarket parts is not equal to the OEM parts in terms of quality, safety, fit, and performance, the insurer shall immediately cease specifying the use of these parts and shall notify the estimating software provider and request this part be removed from the estimating software.

The insurer would likewise be required to notify the distributor, manufacturer, and, if applicable, any certifying entity.

In addition, the insurer specifying a part later found to be defective would be responsible for any costs associated with removing and replacing the part with either a compliant non-OEM part or an OEM part.

The Department of Insurance held stakeholder meetings to review the proposal in November and January. Additional changes to state regulations regarding labor rate surveys and prevailing rates are also being considered by the department. Revisions to those regulations have not yet been released by the Department.

Caliber Collision employees at each of the company’s 12 locations in the San Diego area are launching a two-week food drive to help ensure supplies are plentiful throughout the summer for those in need through Feeding America – San Diego. Caliber employees are urging its customers and the public to contribute a variety of non-perishable food items at any of its auto body repair facilities during its “Rhythm Restoration Food Drive" through June 29.

The company has pledged to match a $1 donation for every single item of food or clothing contributed. Most of Caliber’s 107 auto body repair centers throughout California, Texas, Arizona and Nevada are simultaneously collecting items for food banks in their local communities.

“We’re very proud that our associates are in the driver’s seat on this valuable effort to make a difference in their local communities,” said David Goldstein, Caliber Collision’s Senior Vice President – Operations. “Our company’s mission is to restore the rhythm of our customers’ lives, and we hope the public will help us do the same for others in need in the San Diego area.”

According to Jennifer Gilmore, Executive Director of Feeding America – San Diego (FASD), in addition to the donated goods, for each $1 cash contribution FASD can provide six meals for local families.

“Caliber Collision’s contribution of cash and volunteer service provides much-needed support during the critical summer period,” Gilmore said. “So many children are able to receive regular meals through their school lunch programs but with school out, their families need help. We are grateful for Caliber’s support to help make sure kids across the San Diego region do not go hungry during the summer.”

Suggested donations include non-perishable food items in cans or plastic bottles. Caliber Collision and Feeding America – San Diego are not able to accept glass, open containers, homemade or expired items.

Donations can be dropped off at any of the following Caliber Collision Centers in San Diego area:
Carlsbad, 6050 Avenida Encinas, 760.602.0055
El Cajon-North Johnson, 332 North Johnson Avenue, 619.440.8008
Escondido, 2040 West Mission Road, 760.741.5474
Kearny Mesa – Dagget, 7515 Dagget Street, 858.569.9633
La Mesa, 8310 Center Dr., 619.337.8260
Miramar, 6598 Miramar Rd., 858.453.3800
Murrieta, 4141 Pear Street, 951.677.3533
National City, 2013 Haffley Avenue, 619.474.8228
Oceanside, 4156 Avenida De La Plata, 760.414.1518
Pacific Beach, 2274 Garnet Ave., 858.274.4133
San Diego –Downtown, 2101 Kettner Blvd., 619.231.6986
San Marcos, 1435 Grand Ave., 760.744.9387

The Amador County District Attorneys Office, in conjunction with the Calaveras County District Attorneys Office,  obtained a “no contest” plea to a single count of insurance fraud from a body shop owner in Valley Springs, CA, as a result of an investigation.

Larry Robbins, owner of Franks Frame and Body Shop, was sentenced to 36 months felony probation, 60 hours of community service, ordered to surrender his Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) license and pay approximately $28,000 in restitution.

The investigation involved post repair inspections of vehicles repaired by Robbin’s shop, Franks Frame and Body Shop, 127 Main Street, Valley Springs, California. Farmers Insurance, SIU Major Operations Unit, conducted post repair inspections on Farmers insured vehicles and supplied the inspection documentation to the Amador County District Attorneys Office and California Bureau of Automotive Repair for investigation. In 2011, The California Attorney General, on behalf of the Bureau of Automotive Repair, filed formal accusations, alleging; fraud, misleading statements and departure from accepted trade standards.

“This case illustrates the cost of fraud for Auto Repair shops and owners. The shop owner has been ordered to surrender his BAR license and pay significant restitution,” stated Sean Zavala, Farmers Director of Special Investigations. “We will assist law enforcement on criminal matters and file our own civil actions when appropriate to deter anyone who submits false insurance claim.  It is our commitment to our policyholders to protect their premium dollars,” Zavala added.

In a separate case, Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the California Highway Patrol Insurance Fraud Task Force served Santa Clara shop owner Dong Suk Choi with an arrest warrant on one felony count of Insurance Fraud.

The investigation involved the re-inspection of one vehicle previously repaired by Choi’s repair shop, Choice Auto Body at 1975 Lafayette Street in Santa Clara, California. The re-inspection was conducted by Farmers Insurance, Major Operations Unit in cooperation with an Investigator from the California Highway Patrol Insurance Fraud Task Force, Golden Gate Division ISU. The Investigators found that Choi had not completed the repairs according to the agreed upon estimates including the repair of items that were written to be replaced in the insurance estimates.

Farmers says it applauds the efforts of the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Offices and  the Amador and Calaveras County District Attorneys Offices and the California, Bureau of Automotive Repair for their ongoing efforts in the fight against insurance fraud.