Southeastern News

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

Mercedes-Benz USA September 8 held a grand-opening ceremony for a new cutting-edge facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Strategically located less than three miles from the Jacksonville airport, the new Southern Region facility centralizes several business units into one complex for more efficient dealer support and correspondingly higher levels of customer satisfaction.

The recently constructed building totaling a combined 415,000 sq. ft., is a leased facility built to accommodate MBUSA's needs. It is located off Interstate 95 at 13470 International Parkway. MBUSA took official occupancy in July with four business units operating from the site including: Sales Operations Southern Regional Office; Parts Distribution Center (PDC); Quality Evaluation Center (QEC); and Learning & Performance Center (LPC). Approximately 160 employees work at the new facility, which incorporates innovative environmental systems and design using the same criteria as LEED certified buildings within each of the four business areas.

"This new facility is an integral part of our commitment to more efficiently and effectively support our dealers so that they in turn can provide the unparalleled ownership experience that our buyers expect from Mercedes-Benz," said Ernst Lieb, president and CEO of MBUSA, who presided over the ceremony. "This facility represents our best thinking in terms of how Mercedes-Benz looks and functions."

The new complex incorporates the company's unique Autohaus design which has been adopted by Mercedes-Benz dealerships across the country. The modern aesthetic concept skillfully incorporates signature design elements in a way that is designed to promote interaction and create an appealing functional environment...

The new Jacksonville facility houses the following business operations: -- SALES OPERATIONS SOUTHERN REGION OFFICE -- The Southern Region MBUSA office supports 102 MBUSA dealerships with sales and fixed operations across 12 states including Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas as well as Puerto Rico. MBUSA has three other regional offices in the U.S.: Parsippany, NJ, Rosemont, IL and Costa Mesa, CA. -- PARTS DISTRIBUTION CENTER -- A new addition to MBUSA's operation in Jacksonville, the Parts Distribution Center (PDC) supports approximately 70 MBUSA dealers in the Southeast with parts supply. The PDC will house about 15 percent of MBUSA overall parts inventory, shipping over 1.3 million lines annually. The company has four other Parts Distribution Centers in U.S.: Carol Stream, IL, Fontana, CA, Fort Worth, TX and Robbinsville, NJ. -- QUALITY EVALUATION CENTER -- With more than 70 personnel from various engineering and logistics disciplines representing a diverse collection of work experience and backgrounds, the Quality Evaluation Center in Jacksonville is one of only two operational units of its kind outside of Germany. The QEC team includes Daimler Quality personnel, placing engineers closer to the market and to the dealers served by MBUSA. This market proximity brings greater knowledge of market-specific issues directly into the quality management process through faster parts evaluation and feedback to Daimler development. Local parts analysis also helps to improve diagnostic tools and technical information while the resulting rapid feedback to dealers increases the diagnostic skills necessary for improved "Fixed First Visit" performance - a key customer satisfaction component. -- LEARNING & PERFORMANCE CENTER -- The Learning & Performance Center is a leading edge training facility for dealership and MBUSA personnel. MBUSA facilitates over 120 classes per year in the Jacksonville Learning & Performance Center, with a total of about a thousand participants from across the Southeastern United States. Classrooms, workshops, a computer lab, a virtual classroom webcast area, a student lounge, offices and a cafeteria are designed in an intelligent and integrated fashion all for the learners' benefit while at the same time providing increased operational effectiveness and efficiencies. MBUSA operates five Learning & Performance Centers in the U.S.: Houston, TX, Itasca, IL, Jacksonville, FL, Montvale, NJ, and Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

"I am extremely pleased that Mercedes-Benz chose Jacksonville for its Southern region headquarters," said Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton. "This is a testament to the favorable business climate we enjoy in our city and our talented workforce. I am proud to have Mercedes-Benz as a member of our business community."

About Mercedes-Benz USA
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), headquartered in Montvale, New Jersey, is responsible for the distribution, marketing and customer service for all Mercedes-Benz and Maybach products in the United States. MBUSA offers drivers the most diverse line-up in the luxury segment with 12 model lines ranging from the sporty C-Class to the flagship S-Class sedans and CL coupes and the SLS AMG supercar.

MBUSA is also responsible for the distribution, marketing and customer service of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Vans in the US. More information on MBUSA and its products can be found at http://www.mbusa.com/ and http://www.mbsprinterusa.com/.

Hyundai Motor America said August 31 it will shift manufacturing of its Santa Fe SUV beginning this fall from its plant in Alabama to one in West Point, Georgia run by Kia Motor Manufacturing, a move aimed at boosting production of Hyundai's popular Sonata sedan according to reports made by the Associated Press.

A St. Petersburg, FL, jury and judge sentenced Brandon Sutton to life in prison for murdering Vinson Phillips, a well known St. Petersburg body shop owner in 2007.

click to read Tampabay.com story

The Georgia Collision Industry Association will send letters out this month to all Georgia Claims Managers, the GA Insurance Commissioner and the GA Attorney General detailing the results of the GCIA labor rates surveys given in July. The GCIA hopes to inform these parties about their analysis of the prevailing competitive price. More information can be found at gacollisionindustry.wordpress.com. The full text of the letter is as follows;

August 9th, 2010
To: Georgia Insurance Company Claims Managers
From: The Georgia Collision Industry Association
RE: Collision Labor/Materials Rates in Atlanta Metro Area

The Georgia Collision Industry Association (GCIA) recently completed their 4th Annual Labor & Materials Rate Survey for Metro Atlanta and we are writing to inform you of the results of the research.

The Survey was conducted by CSi Complete to ensure unbiased data collection.

CSi Complete is a provider of customer satisfaction indexing to collision repair, claims and other services industries and you can learn more information about the company by visiting their website at www.csicomplete.com.

Our goal in conducting this annual survey and sharing the results is twofold:

1. To utilize an impartial company to identify and communicate statistically valid figures representing the average labor rate for repair services offered in the Atlanta Metro area, and

2. To communicate the results of the research to both collision repair facilities, insurance carriers and the appropriate involved in serving the consumer in the repair and claims handling process.

The 2010 survey indicates a 3.15% average increase over 2009 rates, bringing labor rates to $42.00 and Materials to $28.00.

The GCIA encourages all Claims Managers and insurance company executives to thoroughly review the 2010 GCIA Labor Rate Survey. We urge you and your company to join the GCIA in our efforts to alleviate the variances between the actual prevailing rates (as shown in our survey) versus the rates some carriers are currently compensating collision repair shops for materials and labor in Metro Atlanta.

The GCIA has conducted this survey for four (4) consecutive years. No other industry association in the U.S. has collected this amount of accurate data on collision materials and labor rates.

This year, nearly 300 shops participated, and the results clearly demonstrate the actual prevailing rate in the Atlanta marketplace.

It is our intention that the information offered be used to ensure your company is fulfilling its obligation to the policyholder, be reimbursing for the actual prevailing rates in Metro Atlanta.

If you have any questions about the GCIA, or the results of this survey, I would encourage you to contact our Executive Director, Howard Batchelor, at howard@gcia.org.

Respectfully,
Board of Directors
Georgia Collision Industry Association
Georgia Collision Industry Association – www.gcia.org
595 Commerce Park Dr Marietta, Georgia  30060  FAX: (770)590-3881 VOICE: (770)770-367-9816.

ECO-Friendly Auto Center in Oakland Park, FL, received Florida State Green Certification through Certified Green Partners (CGP) on August 5. ECO-Friendly received this certification thanks to processes and techniques they use daily in their shop.

To view a PDF of this article please CLICK HERE.

Florida city officials as well as representatives from suppliers attended ECO-Friendly’s Certification Ceremony at the shop on August 5.

“From day one I had being green in mind,” said Sully Dawson, owner of ECO-Friendly Auto Center.

The auto center had to be audited by Certified Green Partners before receiving this certification. The entire shop and all of its processes were looked into by an auditor from CGP to make sure the shop held up CGP’s standards for certification.

ECO-Friendly recycles just about everything possible around the shop from scrap metals to batteries to office papers.

In response to numerous inquiries regarding the status of the Slander and Tortious Interference case Gunder’s Auto Center has against State Farm; we have filed our appellate brief and State Farm has filed their rebuttal and we are currently awaiting the courts ruling relative to a request for Summary Judgment presented in the matter. We anticipate success in this regard and to move forward to achieving the ultimate goal of “having our day in court."

This entire matter hinges on whether any insurer, including State Farm, can merely target a repairer and have the right to say anything they wish with the intent to harm the repairer and disparage their good name in an effort to interfere with the relationship between the repairer and their customer; so long as the insurer does not breach the legal limit referred to as “Expressed Malice”. It is my understanding that according to State Farm, this means they can say anything they wish about me and my company up to the extent that one is a “murderer” or “rapist” etc.!

Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi, Inc., the U.S. operations of Toyota Auto Body Co., Ltd., will move forward with its plans to provide stamped parts, body weld parts and plastic parts to the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi plant at Blue Springs.

Governor Haley Barbour announced the restart of construction on the $200 million facility in Baldwyn on July 30.

The plant is expected to employ close to 300 people.

A Japanese newspaper reported the work was resuming two weeks ago, but at the time, local industry experts told WTVA it was just a rumor.

The Governor says he expects other suppliers to the Toyota Mississippi plant in Blue Springs to announce resumption of work soon.

The Georgia Collision Industry Association has completed and released the results of its labor rate survey.

To view the results chart in PDF format please CLICK HERE.

The results show an average year on year increase of 3.15% for 2010 over 2009 in five categories: Sheet Metal, Refinish, Mechanical, Frame, and Paint & Material. The 2009 rates had an average increase of less than 1% over 2008.

The largest increase was in the paint and material rate (4.60% over 2009) followed by the frame rate which averaged 4.1% over the prior year. The lowest increase was in the mechanical rate.

The 4th Annual GCIA Labor Rate Survey began on Monday, April 26, 2010. GCIA conducted the survey by mailing a postcard to all Metro Atlanta Shops that included a link to the online survey website. The association then followed up and called all shops in metro Atlanta. A total of 137 shops completed the online version and 154 shops were contacted by telephone for a total of 291 total survey responses.

Shop identities will not be published with the results of this survey and will remain confidential. Names were used to track demographics and ensure that only one survey was cast per Repair Facility location.  No rates were used that may exist between a repair facility and any contracted customer such as a Fleet Account or Insurance DRP Program.

Georgia's infrastructure has not kept pace with their monumental growth over the last three years; Georgia ranks 49th among the 50 states in infrastructure-spending per capita. Its petrol tax—which funds highway, road and bridge maintenance—is the second-lowest in the country. Georgia’s legislature has long been sharply divided between Atlanta and the rest of the state: telling voters in the rural south, for instance, that they will have to pay higher taxes to fund road improvements in the urban north is politically unpalatable. Georgia’s governor Sonny Perdue signed a comprehensive transport bill on June 2nd that was three years in the making, hoping to bridge all of Atlanta together to help strengthen infrastructure statewide.

The bill divides Georgia into 12 regions, and gives each the power to decide on its own transport projects. Voters in each region will decide by referendum whether to approve a one-cent increase in the sales-tax to pay for those regional projects. Atlanta stands to see as much as $790 million through the new tax.

The bill may also help MARTA, Atlanta’s urban-rail system. It is the largest in the country that does not receive any state funding; it relies instead on passenger revenue and a 1% sales tax in the two counties it serves.

Mercedes-Benz USA announced the opening of a new state-of-the-art facility in Jacksonville, Florida that will house four business units including Sales Operations Southern Regional Office; Parts Distribution Center (PDC); Quality Evaluation Center (QEC); and Learning & Performance Center (LPC).

The newly constructed building totaling 415,000 sq. ft. is a leased facility located off of Interstate 95 at 13470 International Parkway. MBUSA plans to take official occupancy in July. Approximately 160 employees are in the new facility, which incorporates innovative environmental systems and design.

A new addition to MBUSA's operation in Jacksonville, the Parts Distribution Center (PDC) supports approximately 70 MBUSA dealers in the Southeast with parts supply. The PDC will house about 15 percent of MBUSA overall parts inventory, shipping over 1.3 million lines annually. MBUSA has four other Parts Distribution Centers in U.S.: Carol Stream, IL, Fontana, CA, Fort Worth, TX and Robbinsville, NJ.

The Learning & Performance Center is a state of the art training facility for dealership and MBUSA personnel. MBUSA facilitates over 120 classes per year in the Jacksonville Learning & Performance Center, with a total of about a thousand participants from across the Southeastern United States. MBUSA operates five Learning & Performance Centers in the U.S.: Houston, TX, Itasca, IL, Jacksonville, FL, Montvale, NJ, and Rancho Cucamonga, CA.