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

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.

The number of suspicious auto accidents that were staged or deliberately caused by criminals in Florida has increased dramatically in the past year.

A study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) of questionable claims (QCs) submitted by its insurance company members shows a 58 percent jump from 2008 to 2009.

"South Florida used to be the focal point of these deliberate crashes," said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. "While the Miami and Hialeah areas continue to show increased activity, the criminals have expanded their operation northward and Tampa is now at the epicenter of this crime trend."

Wehrle said the number of questionable claims for all insurance fraud increased 15 percent from 2008 to 2009 in Florida. But the 58 percent jump in the staged/caused accident category shows that criminals are taking advantage of the state's no-fault auto accident coverage.

"Previous industry studies have shown that among the 12 states that have no-fault coverage, Florida had the highest rates of fraud and buildup in both bodily injury (BI) and personal injury protection (PIP). The criminals who are staging and deliberately causing these accidents have been doing so because they can file claims for alleged injuries and collect big payments with little risk of getting caught.

Allstate Insurance Company appointed dozens of exclusive agents in the company’s Southern Region last year. Now, the company is ramping up its recruiting again – looking for at least 60 more Southern Region agency owners this year.

In 2009, more than 50 new agents opened Allstate agencies across the Southern Region.  This year, Allstate hopes to surpass that goal by focusing on professionals that may feel limited in their careers and are looking to start their own business in a recession resilient industry.

“We see a significant opportunity in the current economy to attract mid-career, mid-level managers to own and operate their own business and represent Allstate,” said Jim Conlan, Allstate’s Southern Region recruiting director. “We’re working with business brokers and through our own recruiters to find professionals with financial or sales backgrounds, who are dedicated to customer service.”

Candidates need a minimum of $50,000 of liquid capital to invest in their agency. Even with the hints of an economic recovery underway, some potential applicants are unsure if now is the right time to invest money needed to open a small business.  That’s why recruiters are focusing on the stability of investing in the Allstate brand.

“Allstate is unique among all other insurers because its agents own the economic interest in their business,” said Conlan.  “Allstate agents can sell the economic interest in their agency. No other branded insurer has this option.”

CCAR awarded Kendrick Paint & Body with their “GreenLink Shop” certification for its locations in Augusta and Martinez, Georgia and Aiken, South Carolina.

The GreenLink Shop status, an extension of CCAR’s CCAR-GreenLink® Environmental Compliance Assistance Center and S/P2 (Safety and Pollution Prevention) E-learning Program, aims to promote consumer confidence in local automotive repair facilities’ environmental and safety techniques.

Kendrick Paint & Body, which was founded in 1952, operates 3 facilities in Georgia and South Carolina, all of which received this certification.

“We are excited to be recognized as GreenLink Shops,” said Keith Brown, owner of Kendrick Paint & Body, “The feedback from customers and employees has been all positive, and we see the GreenLink Shop as a reward for our efforts to be environmentally responsible.”

Kendrick’s Operations Manager David Clark said that one of the benefits of going through the GreenLink Shop Program was that the company and employees were able to learn how to dispose of any waste incurred in the shop properly.

“We’re reaching out to a younger generation that is more concerned about the environment,” said Clark. All 3 locations are using waterborne paints to reduce their environmental impact as well as recycling old tires and metal scraps.

Thursday, 24 June 2010 18:15

Georgia Governor Signs Texting Ban

Georgia joins 27 other states in passing laws banning drivers from sending text messages while driving. The governor signed House Bill 23 which prohibits young people under age 18 from texting or using cell phones while driving.

He also signed Senate Bill 360 which prohibits drivers over 18 from texting. These bills become effective July 1, 2010. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 from crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. Research also shows that the worst offenders are the youngest and least experienced drivers: men and women under 20 years of age.

“These laws are a positive step forward in the effort to make our roadways safer,” said Micaela Isler southeast regional manager for PCI. “House Bill 23 aims to assist our least experienced drivers in Georgia to be as safe as possible by banning cell phone use. The use of cell phones while behind the wheel is a significant source of distraction, but it represents one of many distractions that can lead to a crash.

By passing Senate Bill 360 Georgia is sending a strong message that all drivers have a responsibility to exercise good judgment in all of their driving activities. Although news media has focused attention on cell phone use and texting; navigation systems, eating and drinking as well as personal grooming can all serve as distractions that compromise road safety.”

The Georgia Collision Industry Association (GCIA) held its 4th Annual labor rates survey for Georgia in June. This was the first year the association utilized an online survey option as well as a phone method.