Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine
As he has for the previous 30 years, Sam Mikhail of Prestige Auto Body attended the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ)’s annual membership meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel of Clark in late October.
The Right to Repair Coalition announced October 21 that it has collected 106,658 voter signatures after just 19 days of effort, well exceeding the 68,911 required for the initiative to appear on the 2012 ballot in Massachusetts.
According to the Right to Repair Coalition, the voter initiative would, for the first time, allow consumers to access all of the non-proprietary repair information required to have their vehicles repaired where they choose, at a new car dealership or an independent shop. The proposed law would level the playing field between the big car manufacturers' dealerships and independent, neighborhood repair facilities, allowing the latter to finally be able to access the same non-proprietary automobile diagnostic and repair information that is currently only available to the manufacturers’ dealers and their new car dealerships.
“It's time that car owners have the right to get our vehicles repaired wherever we choose,” said Jeff McLeod of Marshfield, one of the signers of the ballot petition. “The growing support for this issue shows how important it is for consumers, especially in a difficult economy.”
A bill to ban texting while driving, amended last week to make it a primary offense, passed the House November 7 and won concurrence in the Senate November 8 by a vote of 45-5. It now awaits the governor’s signature before becoming law, according to The Harrisburg Times Herald.
Gov. Corbett is expected to sign the bill, pending a final review, Gary Miller, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said November 8.
Pennsylvania joins 34 states and the District of Columbia that have banned texting while driving. Of those, 31 enforce the ban as a primary offense, meaning police can pull over a motorist observed texting while driving.
Senate Bill 314 bans reading, writing or sending a text message while driving. A provision to ban hand-held cell phone use for calls was previously stripped from the bill. The bill initially called for texting to be a secondary offense—a motorist could only be ticketed following an accident or if stopped for a primary offense—but an amendment making texting a primary offense, sponsored by state Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-153, passed in the House Oct. 25 by a vote of 128-69. The full bill with the amendment attached passed the next day in the House 164-29. The final House vote on the bill November 7 was a near-unanimous 188-7.
Shapiro, who has sponsored several bills to ban the use of hand-held cell phones, called S.B. 314 “a big win for safety in Pennsylvania.” “After seven years of fighting we finally passed a ban on texting while driving in Pennsylvania and made it a primary offense,” Shapiro said. “This is the strongest bill possible.”
A new law in NJ (N.J.S.A.39:13-2.1) amends the insurance coverage requirements for damage to property and for liability arising from bodily injury which an auto body repair facility must maintain for a full service license. The law reduces the minimum amount of garage keepers’ liability insurance that a shop must maintain from $300,000 to $50,000.
Full service licensed auto body facilities must still maintain insurance coverage for damage to property and for liability arising from bodily injury, including, but not limited to: eligible garage liability or equivalent commercial general liability insurance in a minimum amount of $300,000 or a letter of credit in the amount of $300,000; Garage keepers’ liability insurance in a minimum amount of $50,000 or a letter of credit in the amount of $50,000. Limited full service license applicants and licensees must also comply with these requirements.
“This will make the law fair to the shops by not forcing a small shop to purchase more insurance than it needs,” said Charles Bryant of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey, which proposed and supported the change.
New York State’s Suffolk County suffered the highest insured property loss among the 191 counties affected by Hurricane Irene, according to the latest estimate and reports made by Insurance Journal.
New Jersey, New York and North Carolina were the top three states with sustained insured property damage topping $500 million from Irene. Virginia and Maryland completed the top five. The estimate was prepared by insurance data provider Verisk Analytics and released on Oct. 17. Among the individual counties affected by Irene, Suffolk County, New York, was followed by Dare County, North Carolina—with more than $200 million of insured property damage in each—ranked first and second by insured damage. Completing the top five worst-hit counties from an insured property damage standpoint—with more than $150 million in damages in each—are Nassau County, New York; Monmouth County, New Jersey; and Worcester County, Maryland.
Overall, eight counties had estimated insured property damage in excess of $100 million.
Verisk Analytics’s estimate, called Verisk Catastrophe Index, was prepared for the District of Columbia and the 13 states and 191 counties within these states that were affected by Hurricane Irene.
Following flooding and damage done by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, body shops and dealerships on the east coast were not prepared to have to deal with heavy rain storms. In northeast Pennsylvania and western New York state heavy rain drenched an already inundated area with more water the week of September 26.
During Hurricane Irene, rushing water ripped the bay doors off the service department at Maroon Kia in Wayne, NJ. The water was so powerful it washed two front-end alignment machines, each weighing an estimated 2,800 pounds, from the service bays into the nearby Pompton River. About 40 to 50 new and used vehicles were destroyed by the floodwaters, according to a report in Automotive News.
The dealership’s building that houses the new-car showroom and service department had severe cracks in the walls and ceilings following Irene. The dealership’s used-car lot was littered with holes—one about 15 feet long, 10 feet wide and 6 feet deep.
The National Automobile Dealers Association says it estimates that 10 percent of the dealerships in states affected by the recent storms would be unable to operate due to storm-related damage, according to Automotive News.
Maroon Kia sustained major damage and waterlogged vehicles. Other dealerships said the only impact came from distracted customers who prepared for the storm rather than shopping for vehicles.
Following Hurricane Irene, Station Auto Body in Newark, DE, was left under 3-1/2 feet of water, according to owner Rob Amadio. Luckily, the shop was able to get out from under the flood waters and returned to normal service shortly after the hurricane passed through. Amadio said they did not experience any recurring flooding in the storms at the end of September.
McBride Auto Body in Woodland Park, NJ, also sustained flood damage due to Hurricane Irene, and owner Joseph Carioti III took advantage of the mandatory cleanup as an opportunity to renovate some parts of his shop. Most of the flooding damage occured in the office area of the building, since the shop floor is bare concrete, but parts of the business were under 4-feet of water after Hurricane Irene blew through.
Thankfully not all of the cars were flooded during the storm, but the business did lose some tools that got damaged by all the floodwater. McBride’s office area is now better than before Hurricane Irene hit, he told Autobody News.
The North American arm of Nissan Motors announced September 29 that the all-electric Nissan Leaf is expanding its availability in the U.S.
Starting September 29, the company will be taking orders for the 2012 model year Leaf from consumers in Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York.
“A prioritized ordering phase” will be in place for customers in these states who have previously placed a reservation for the Nissan Leaf, says the company.
On September 26, the company says it will open to the general public a new reservation process for the all-electric car.
And by the end of this year, Nissan hopes to take actual consumer orders for the 2012 Nissan Leaf in seven more states including—Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart has fined Allstate Insurance Co. and its subsidiary Encompass Insurance Co. a total of $50,000 for violations of Delaware insurance law.
The fines are contained in two separate consent orders, signed by Stewart this month.
The Allstate consent order asserts that the company violated insurance law by failing to provide defensive driving discounts to qualifying policyholders.
The Encompass consent order asserts the company violated the law by imposing an accident surcharge on policyholders involved in accidents even though they were not the party at fault. In all, 3,645 Delaware policyholders were impacted.
Allstate and Encompass cited computer errors and programming oversight as the cause of the violations and have said the problems have been fixed. Stewart wrote the orders in a way that would allow her to increase the fines up to $100,000 on each company if the problems re-emerge.
Stewart said she believes both companies did a good job of notifying and refunding all monies owed to policyholders, which totaled $848,355.
However, Stewart said she remains concerned about the effect these types of mistakes have on highway safety efforts, especially her department’s defensive driving program.
“One of my goals is to improve our state’s highway safety by getting more Delaware drivers into our defensive driving courses. What is more, I am committed to making sure that drivers who complete an approved defensive driving course get the discount to which they are lawfully entitled,” Stewart said.
Four New York collision repair facilities have received recognition from the Coordinating Committee For Automotive Repair (CCAR) in its GreenLink Shop program, the organization announced.
The newly-recognized shops are:
Carubba Collision, Buffalo, N.Y.
Carubba Collision, Hamburg, N.Y.
Carubba Collision, Tonawanda, N.Y.
Carubba Collision, Wheatfield, N.Y.
“We are proud to recognize the newest recipients of the GreenLink Shop designation, bringing our total to 143 shops since the program’s introduction in January 2010,” said Daren Fristoe, CCAR president and chief operating officer. “We are seeing more and more auto repair facilities incorporate environmental and safety stewardship in their business and marketing plans, and we look forward to greater levels of awareness in the coming months.”
All four shops being recognized are participants in the GEICO Auto Repair Xpress (ARX) program. CCAR and GEICO are partnering to promote the GreenLink Shop designation for GEICO’s ARX facilities across the United States.
The GreenLink Shop status, which serves to promote consumer confidence in local automotive repair facilities’ environmental/safety awareness and stewardship, is an extension of CCAR’s CCAR-GreenLink Environmental Compliance Assistance Center and S/P2 Safety and Pollution Prevention E-learning Program.
Repair facilities pursuing GreenLink Shop status must maintain high standards in environmental, health and safety (EHS) practices in four categorie. The CCAR initiative recognizes auto service facilities and collision repair shops, with separate criteria for each type of business.
Insurance Journal reported that a former northeastern Pennsylvania insurance executive has been sentenced to 5 1/2 to 16 1/2 years in state prison in what prosecutors said was a pyramid scheme worth at least $7 million. Brian Murray, 68, former head of Murray Insurance Agency Inc., was arrested in July, 2010 by agents from the state attorney general’s insurance fraud section. He pleaded no contest in June to felony counts of criminal conspiracy, theft by deception and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds. Murray was sentenced in Lackawanna County Court.
Prosecutors said he and others took premiums from new clients to conceal the thefts from others and never procured the insurance the customers thought they were paying for. Moses Taylor Hospital, Mount Airy Casino Resort and the University of Scranton were among the alleged victims of Murphy’s fraud.
Some of the fraud was uncovered after Pennsylvania Manufacturers Insurance and Travelers Insurance conducted audits of Murray’s accounts.
Allstate Corp. lost $500 million on Hurricane Irene, the largest publicly traded home and auto insurer in the United States said September 15, much less than it lost from tornadoes earlier this year.
In total, Allstate said its July and August disaster losses came to $865 million before tax. The company did not break out the source of the other losses besides Irene.
In April and May, Allstate lost $2 billion because of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. That nearly equaled its disaster losses for all of 2010.
Industry estimates on the damage caused by Irene have varied widely, in part because most of Irene’s damage was from federally insured flooding and not privately insured wind effects.
Some estimates suggest the total privately insured loss from the storm was less than $2 billion.
Allstate began releasing select monthly disaster data earlier this year after pressure from analysts, who wanted more clarity on the company’s catastrophe exposure.
After Hurricane Irene came through the New Jersey area at the end of August, the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ) decided to reach out to its members affected by Hurricane Irene, offering to help in any way possible, according to a recent statement from the organization.
“The damage done in New Jersey, particularly the northern part of our state, has been devastating for several of our members,” says AASP/NJ Jeff McDowell. “We are contacting our members to let them know that AASP/NJ is here for them and willing to help in any way we can.”
The AASP/NJ was urged to help their members affected by this storm by former AASP/NJ President Glenn Villacari of Parkway Auto Body in Nutley, NJ.
“Glenn contacted our office and suggested that we reach out to our members,” adds AASP/NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant. “He even offered his own personal assistance to other shop owners who might need help cleaning out the muck and debris from their shops.”
New Jersey officials issued a statement at a packed community hearing August 29 assuring residents that efforts by Ford to gain ownership over a section of a state park where the car company dumped toxic waste are off the table.
The news follows a long-running grassroots effort and popular petition on Change.org to clean up the toxic waste left by Ford at Ringwood State Park in the 1960s and 1970s.
The state's statement represents a major shift in the local effort to clean-up the contamination of Ringwood State Park, a campaign that has received national attention in recent weeks and was the subject of an HBO documentary that aired last month.
More than 200 people packed the Ringwood Library for the Environmental Protect Agency hearing on Ringwood site clean-up on August 23. Members of the Ramapough tribe, a community severely affected by Ford's toxic dumping, delivered nearly 70,000 petition signatures to both EPA and Ford representatives.
Edison Wetlands Association, the New Jersey group that has been leading the campaign to strengthen the clean-up effort for seven years, launched the petition on Change.org following rumors Ford was attempting to gain control over the site of Peter's Mine, one of the most contaminated areas of Ringwood State Park, before the EPA had finalized plans to remove the toxic waste. The EPA is currently considering seven options for site clean-up, ranging from completely removing toxic material to the more controversial option of capping affected areas.
Pennsylvania has a long way to go to meet national best practices for highway safety. The risk on the road is real: 1,256 people died in fatal car accidents in 2009.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering three bills that supporters believe will make the roads safer for all drivers. One proposal is a bill that would allow municipal police to use radar to catch drivers who speed. Another proposal would allow red light cameras state-wide. And, once again, the state is trying to enact a ban on talking or texting on cell phones while driving.