Attendance at the recent NORTHEAST trade show, at the Meadowlands in Secaucus, NJ, was up 20% from last year, which was up from the year before. Some seminars were overflow seating and organizers had to pull in extra chairs for people who were standing.
Heard and seen at the show were some familiar figures in the industry. Several took the mike at the Northeast Leadership forum.
One person we all wanted to hear from was the owner of North State Custom, Greg Coccaro, who surprised a number of attendees with the revelation that he’s back to doing business with Progressive Insurance, despite the long and torturous legal battles between the two. Even though business is relatively slow for shops in the area, his Progressive work has actually picked up. Coccaro was told by a Progressive employee that “Progressive does not have a network of shops in New York any more, so the intense steering they practiced in this area has subsided.” Coccaro added, “I’m now repairing cars for Progressive’s customers once again.” Coccaro still owes some $500,000 in legal fees to defend his shop’s reputation and his own name. He hopes to be able to recover his losses due to the causes of action in his pending lawsuit against Progressive.
Another engaging speaker at the forum was Tony Lombardozzi with Automotive Collision Repair Services in New Hampshire, who repeated his message of self-sufficiency for the industry and his advocacy of independence from insurers through his presidency of the Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence (CCRE). Lombardozzi put it plainly: “The insurer is not a third party to our contract with our customer and should not be involved in the repair process. What an insurer appraiser writes is meaningless. It serves no purpose in the repair process.”
The executive director of show-organizer the Alliance Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ), Charles Bryant, agreed with Lombardozzi’s assessment of insurer involvement. Bryant underscored that repairers not negotiate with insurers.
“Offer them a cup of coffee, talk to them about last night’s hockey game, and direct them to the car they want to write an estimate on,” Bryant said. “But don’t go back there with them and don’t negotiate the repair... You are the expert on how to repair cars, not the insurance company. Write what needs to be done, make a proper and safe repair and bill fairly for your work.”
Both stressed that repairers need to take responsibility for educating customers about the repair process and explain why the estimate the repairer wrote is the most reliable one.
Janet Cheney gave a quick report on a couple of state’s associations that don’t always have the ear of the national trade press. See the Industry News section of www.autobodynews.com for these stories.