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1HomePageMap small se 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia

Mississippi lawmakers are trying once again to get an online car insurance verification system set up in their state after Gov. Haley Barbour vetoed a similar proposal last session, Online Auto Insurance News reports.

It might be a while before we see whether Gov. Barbour finds the tweaks made by the bill’s authors to be satisfactory. But if the legislation does get signed into law this time around, it may have some uninsured motorists scrambling to find a cheap down payment auto insurance policy.

Having a verification system set up in the state would make it much easier for police and Department of Revenue employees to find out the coverage status of particular drivers. That means uninsured motorists would be that much more likely to get caught and slapped with fines and other penalties.

The verification system would work by aggregating policy information from insurers on all the cars registered in the state. If a registered auto shows up as having no matching insurance policy, state officials would be able to suspend the license or registration and hit the driver with a $300-$500 fine.

Police would also be able to access the database. If an officer were to pull a driver over for a separate infraction and find that there was no matching policy in the database for the car, the motorist could be cited.

A third point at which uninsured motorists could be caught is when they go to register their cars. If the bill’s signed into law, car owners would need to have a valid policy already in place before registering the vehicle.

In each of these scenarios, the information contained in the database would supersede the information on any proof of insurance cards furnished by the driver.

Last session, Barbour vetoed the legislation because of a lack of cost projections and a concern that the Department of Public Safety should not have to worry about catching the owners of uninsured vehicles.

The new bill splits the responsibilities between the Public Safety and Revenue departments, but there does not appear to be much change on the cost side.

Mississippi state law requires that all drivers have liability insurance and keep their insurance card in their vehicles at all times to prove that they are covered. In Mississippi, the minimum liability requirements are $25,000 per person for a single accident, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000 per accident for property damage. You may also see this referred to as 25/50/25.

Manheim Auto Auctions announced the winner of its eighth annual Barbara Cox Anthony Automotive Woman of the Year Award on February 5 at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention. This year’s award went to Rachel Richards, Sonic Automotive’s vice president of retail strategy and chief marketing officer.

According to Auto Remarketing News, Richards was awarded at Northwood University’s annual breakfast during the NADA convention in Las Vegas which was held February 3 through 6, 2012.

The award recognizes Richards for the contributions she has made to both the automotive industry and her Charlotte, N.C. community.

Richards has been with Sonic, a Charlotte-based automotive retailer since 2006. Before her time with the dealer group, Richards served in field, regional management and corporate positions at Ford and Ford Credit.

Richards also reaches out to her community through a number of avenues. Among other volunteering efforts, NADA officials noted that she is a Girl Scout leader and supports Habitat for Humanity.

“I am truly honored to receive this very prestigious award and be recognized for my accomplishments in our field. Upon entering the automotive industry, after my graduation from college, I would never have dreamed that my contributions and body of work would be recognized and honored in this way,” Richards noted, according to Auto Remarketing News.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College, a two-year technical college located in Rome, GA, is considering building another campus in Ringgold. Ringgold, near the Georgia-Tennessee border, is a small town of about 2,500 people.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, college and county officials are considering building the campus on 50 acres owned by Catoosa County across from Rollins Industrial Park in the southwest area of town.

According to the Associated Press, College President Craig McDaniel estimated it would take only a year to 14 months to complete construction once land is available. The technical college's focus is on careers in the automotive, aviation and other commercial industries. City officials speculated that the Ringgold campus would be centered around its automated manufacturing lab, which would train students to work with robotics used in automotive factories.

This campus would be the eighth location for the technical college, with seven locations already in Rome, Calhoun, Rockmart, Rock Spring and Dalton.

For more information please visit

After agreeing to pay in full for procedures and materials previously denied, State Farm has now also agreed to pay for all attorney fees and costs on two claims brought by Ray Gunder on behalf of his customers.

Gunder has a slew of cases on behalf of his customers at Gunder's Auto Center in Lakeland, FL, against the insurance company. In these two cases State Farm agreed to pay a total of $1,493.00 and $2,757.50 for cases filed on behalf of Mickey Brewington and James Locascio, respectively. This brought the total paid for legal fees and court costs to $4,250.50. State Farm also paid in full the parts of the repair estimates in this case that were previously denied. Payment was remitted to Gunder's legal representation on February 2.

“It will be interesting to see how the other three active lawsuits we have filed against State Farm on behalf of our customers turn out,” continued Gunder. “There are an additional 25 more in line behind those which are ripe to be filed for similar issues. We’ll just keep pounding that rock!”

Upon State Farm’s October 10th, 2011 written denial to provide consideration for a plethora of recommended and necessary repair procedures and materials, Ray Gunder owner of the 44 year old Gunder’s Auto Center instructed his legal counsel, Attorney Brent Geohagan, to prepare the necessary steps to file a lawsuit against the nationwide insurer at the request of and authorization by his customer.

The lawsuit was prepared and filed on October 25th along with a Civil Remedy Notice (CRN) which was accepted by the courts on December 16th, 2011. State Farm’s legal counsel responded in a letter to Gunder’s Attorney dated January 19th, 2012 stating, in part, “at all times State Farm acted in good faith and fairly and honestly toward its insured, with due regard for its insured’s interest.”

Furthermore the correspondence states, in part,  “State Farm has decided to exercise its rights under Florida law to avoid unnecessary litigation. Accordingly, enclosed is a check made payable to you and Raymond Gunder in the amount of $1090.70—which is the amount demanded in the CRN, plus statutory interest. This amount is paid to ensure that any alleged violations are cured in accordance with the statute of Florida law and to preclude unnecessary litigation. Again, State Farm’s payment should not be construed as an admission of any wrongdoing or liability on the part of State  Farm who denies any liability, as well as the standing of Mr. Gunder to pursue any claims, but exercise of its right under Florida law to avoid protracted, vexatious litigation.”

On receiving the news from his attorney, Ray Gunder said, “I am elated that State Farm has chosen to step up and pay what was due our customer and that State Farm elected to settle rather than proceed with a long drawn-out and costly litigation. The word “vexation” means harassing; and/or annoying as if the settlement was settled merely as a nuisance claim. I’ve never once found where an insurer has ever overpaid a claim and they didn’t in this matter either.  They knew what they owed and why and that they would lose if it went in front of jury. They also knew, they would surely incur additional and significant legal costs and interest just as they have in the past. I don’t care what they say their motivation was as long as they pay us so we can pay our team-members for every drop of sweat they drop in the repair of our customer’s vehicles.”

“It will be interesting to see how the other three active lawsuits we have filed against State Farm on behalf of our customers turn out,” continued Gunder. “There are an additional 25 more in line behind those which are ripe to be filed for similar issues. We’ll just keep pounding that rock!”

Eddie Quintela, the shop owner from Delray Beach, FL, who wanted to know why GEICO was charging his customers a 10% deductible on their domestic OEM parts and other labor operations, regardless of fault, and in addition to regular deductible and/or applicable betterments, has been vindicated. Quintela was finally able to get GEICO to remove the deductible off one of his customer’s estimates.

Quintela, who owns Collision Concepts Inc., asked why GEICO was apparently assessing this fee in Palm Beach county but not in nearby Polk county; and why an insured driving a foreign made vehicle was not deducted 10% for OEM parts, but one driving a vehicle made in the United States was made to pay 10% extra for their parts. Other labor operations were defined as wet sand and buff and all clips and bolts. GEICO claimed it was customary in his market, while Quintela disagreed with proof from surveying other shops in the area. Collision Concepts is not a DRP for the insurer.

“Just want to say thank you to Geico for paying what is fair and reasonable to repair our mutual customer’s vehicle,” said Quintela, “It is a good start to what I hope is a new and improved relationship between Geico and all collision repair facilities.”

To view the full text of the email exchanges between Quintela and GEICO please see Autobody News January 2012 Edition or, search ‘Quintela’.

ABRA Auto Body & Glass is forging ahead with its growth plans by announcing the opening of a full service collision center in Warner Robins, Georgia.

The newest state-of-the-art facility is located at 581 Carl Vinson Parkway in Warner Robins which is 90 miles southeast of Atlanta. The opening increases the total number of ABRA repair centers to 115 in 12 states.

Tim Adelmann, ABRA’s Executive Vice President of Business Development said, “This is an exciting time at ABRA. Our long-term growth plans are taking shape and we’re looking forward to serving the Warner Robins community. We built this repair center to make it convenient for vehicle owners and insurance partners to find a cutting-edge repair center in their neighborhood.”

The repair center is equipped with all the latest industry technology to maintain high standards and assure top quality repairs. Staff technicians have extensive experience and receive rigorous ongoing industry training.

Duane Rouse, ABRA’s Chief Executive Officer said, “Our increased presence in the Georgia market is part of the strategy to accelerate our national growth in 2012.”

The GCIA held their first meeting of 2012 on January 19 at the MAADA Headquarters in Atlanta.

The meeting’s speaker was Dave Gruskos, President of Reliable Automotive Equipment, a New Jersey company that provides repair equipment along with training. Reliable Automotive Equipment’s intention is to support new technology and provide their customers with the correct resources to repair vehicles consistent with manufacturers approved methods and procedures.

Recently, Dave presented at a well-received course during the 2011 SCRS Repairer Driven Education at SEMA. Dave discussed the new repair procedure when working with Aluminum and high strength steel to the 50 or so attendees at the GCIA meeting.

One thing discussed during the GCIA meeting was that heat is the enemy to high strength steel. Some manufacturer’s do not want techs welding at all on these vehicles and have developed ways to rivet and apply adhesives to perform the repair. Dave also talked about self-piercing rivets and flow-form rivets that have to be punched out, not drilled. Then adhesives are used in conjunction with the rivets to create a solid repair.

The equipment and training investment needed to perform these repairs is well over $100,000, not to mention the expensive rivets and adhesives. Dave also reminded everyone to follow the OE recommended repair procedures when working with these vehicles and use OEM parts. Many times the warranties are voided if salvage or A/M parts are used.

Attendees were captivated by the part of Dave’s presentation concerning air bag reaction time. Air bag reaction timing is measured in milliseconds and the timing is critical to occupant safety. Dave had a couple of videos showing the effects of a slowed reaction in air bag timing. The results were shocking; the air bag actually deployed late, the occupant’s head (actually a melon) hit the steering wheel and then the air bag deployed. The melon absolutely exploded. If this would have been a real person, there would have been serious injuries or even death.

For more information about Dave and Reliable Automotive Equipment please visit

In other news, the GCIA will be performing their 6th Annual GCIA Labor Rate survey beginning on March 5. CSi Complete will again perform the survey. This year the group will survey the rate for repairing high strength steels. Since there are different repair procedures and equipment that must be used, the group wants to know what shops are charging for this type of repair. Please visit

Boyd Group Income Fund announced December 21 that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Master Collision Repair, Inc., which owns a total of eight collision repair centers in the Tampa, Florida market area under the trade name Master Collision Repair. The acquisition is expected to be immediately beneficial to the Fund's earnings and cash flows.

"The acquisition of Master is very strategic as it gives us an industry-leading platform from which to grow in the attractive Florida market, further demonstrating our commitment to expanding our business," said Brock Bulbuck, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Boyd Group. "MCR's business model and customer base are similar to Boyd's, which should result in a smooth integration with our existing business. Further, we assess that there is a tremendous opportunity for accretive add-on growth in Florida, building from the foundation and base of MCR. The acquisition of Master also further solidifies Boyd's leading industry position and enhances our opportunity to capitalize on the trend of U.S. insurance companies consolidating Direct Repair Program volumes and showing increased preference for dealing with large multi-location operators. The Boyd Group, currently the largest multi- location collision repair operator in North America in terms of annual sales and number of locations, continues to look for opportunities to grow its operation. We remain focused on successful execution and integration of acquisitions to increase our profitability and drive value for our unitholders."

The transaction, valued at approximately $11.5 to 12.0 million subject to working capital adjustments, was completed on January 4, 2012. Funding for the transaction was completed through a combination of cash, third party financing and a seller note. The Fund will not be issuing any new equity to fund the transaction and, therefore, the transaction will not result in equity dilution to unitholders.

MCR is a leading provider of automotive collision repair services in the Tampa Bay area, a market in west central Florida. With eight operating locations and additional locations under consideration, MCR generated sales of approximately $20 million in the 12 months ended October 31, 2011. The Fund forecasts that MCR will add annual Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization of approximately $2.0 - $2.5 million to its consolidated EBITDA, including synergies. Upon completion of the acquisition, the Boyd Group will operate a total of 175 locations spanning 14 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces.

To view the Boyd Group's expected North American coverage after the acquisition of Master, please visit:

ABRA Auto Body & Glass, a Minnesota-based multiple-shop operation with locations in 12 U.S. states, announced on January 6 the opening of a state-of-the-art repair center in Roswell, Georgia.

The new facility is located at 740 Holcomb Bridge Road and increases the total number of ABRA repair centers to 113.

Charlie Drake, Vice President of ABRA's Georgia market said, "We are looking forward to servicing customers in the Roswell community. Our mission is to be the best auto body & glass company in America. Opening this center is another important step toward achieving that goal."

The new repair facility is equipped with all the latest technology to maintain high standards and assure top quality repairs. Staff technicians have extensive experience and receive rigorous ongoing industry training.

Duane Rouse, ABRA’s Chief Executive Officer said, “The opening of the Roswell center strengthens our brand in the Georgia market. It’s part of our overall strategy to meet the growing needs of vehicle owners and insurance partners throughout the region.”

For more information please visit