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Thursday, 23 June 2011 15:54

Two Very Different Pennsylvania Collision Associations Serving the Keystone State

Two associations are serving the collision-repair industry in Pennsylvania. They are The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Pennsylvania, (AASP-PA) based in Harrisburg, and, in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Collision Trade Guild (PCTG).

The PCTG, led by Executive Director Ross DiBono, says it represents approximately 700 automotive-industry businesses, including collision shops, in its mission to achieve proper compliance and enforcement of legislation such as The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Physical Damage Appraiser Act and The Pennsylvania Unfair Insurance Practices Act, as well as other consumer-protection laws.

As part of its educating mission, the Guild publicizes consumers’ rights to choose collision repair facilities.

“The decision of where the vehicle is to be repaired is the vehicle owner’s, not an insurance company’s,” the organization stresses on its web site. In addition, “It is the Guild’s purpose to bring accountability to the process of consumer claim handling and settlements in Pennsylvania.”

An affiliate of the national association, Minneapolis, Minn., based AASP, the 1,300-member AASP-PA comprises three divisions: Mechanical, Collision, and Towing.

“Any firm that repairs cars is welcome as a member,” says its executive director, Jerry Schantz, who has been with the association for 21 years. He notes that AASP-PA is also an SCRS member.

The group began in 1955 as the Pennsylvania chapter of the Independent Garage Owners of America. Schantz says the group supported education, technical and management programs for its members; bonding of shops; mechanics’ registration; safety inspection and mechanic’s lien laws; group advertising and insurance; and liaisons with government and industry groups.

In 1972, the association, having merged with the Pennsylvania Auto Body Association, became the Automotive Service Councils of Pennsylvania and, in 1986, it became the Automotive Service Association of PA. This is today’s AASP-PA.

The organization provides a variety of services to its members, including health insurance programs and workers compensation insurance discounts and property and casualty insurance. In addition, the group lobbies at the federal level and in Harrisburg, where the group’s governing body meets four times a year.

A full-time lobbyist, John V. Kulik, has represented the group for 25 years on such issues as safety and emissions inspections, environmental regulations, labor laws and motor-fuel marketing. Among the battles fought and won, notes Schantz: guarding owners against artificial fee caps for emissions tests and ensuring that safety and emissions inspections remained annually required, rather than the proposed biennial program. Members strongly endorse these benefits.

“Our company sees many financial and economic benefits from association programs,” says Chet Elia, owner of Elia Auto Body Shop in Reading, PA. These include rental uniform discounts, garage liability insurance, office forms and many training seminars and programs.

One of these programs is Tech Train—an annual event with 2-1/2 days of classroom training, said Elia, whose family has been an AASP-PA member for more than 30 years. In 1960, his dad, Ralph, founded the company, which has been at the current location since 1965. He and his brother Francis oversee day-to-day operations.

“The technical and business training and the workers comp program are two of the major benefits that we use,” says Ken Lenhart, owner of Lenhart’s Service Center in North Huntingdon. He joined AASP-PA in about 1996. “I had recently bought the business from my father and wanted to learn more about the industry than just repairing automobiles.”

Friendship and camaraderie are also important. “The biggest benefit is rubbing elbows and the exchange of ideas with successful automotive business owners,” Elia says.

Lenhart agrees: “The largest benefit is the relationships and the knowledge from other members,” Lenhart says. “My closest friends and their families are people who I have met through AASP-PA.

“The knowledge that I have gained from other members has allowed me to step out of the box of our family-owned business and to experience the potential of owning an automotive-repair business. I have learned since becoming a member and, being active in the association, how to manage my business—and not allow the business to manage me.”

For Lenhart, association membership is an important legacy as he plans a second location. His grandfather started the business in 1930, and his father assumed control in the late ‘50s. “My son Nicholas has been working with me for the last 10 years or so and working toward being a fourth-generation owner.”

For Schantz, the AASP-PA empowers members such as Elia and Lenhart to protect their businesses and prepare for the future: “Insurance companies and environmental regulations,” he says, “are the largest challenges facing the collision industry.” Contact:

Harrisburg, PA
(717) 564-8400,

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