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Friday, 15 May 2015 00:00

ASA-CO's Learning Circle Focuses on Loaner and Rental Cars

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On Monday, April 20, ASA-CO members met at Lake Arbor Automotive in Westminster, Colorado for a Learning Circle on loaner and rental cars. Dana TePoel, ASA-CO board member and owner of Lake Arbor Automotive, said the 18 automotive service professionals in attendance discussed their varying business models as it pertains to this issue.

"This Learning Circle exceeded all of my expectations, and we all got some really great information out of it. I think it would have been really useful for collision repair facilities since the opportunities in connection with this subject are more prevalent on that side of the industry."

The meeting was conducted by three facilitators with Brian Sump of Avalon Motor Sports and Randy Pickering of Pickering's Auto Service joining TePoel in discussing their business models and this topic. TePoel offers his customers free loaner cars, while Pickering works on a subsidized low-cost rental model, charging a $20 maintenance charge each day of the rental.

Sump owns and operates a separate rental car company from which his shop rents cars. Because his second business is an actual rental car company that provides paid rentals or leases to the general public, he is protected by the Graves Amendment. The differences in business models boil down to a matter of liability and risk.

Shops that do not rent cars through a separate entity are covered under their shop's umbrella coverage up to their maximum amount, but if the renter's negligence leads to a lawsuit exceeding that amount, the courts can come after the shop and the shop owner personally for the difference, whereas rental car companies are not held liable for a renter's negligence during the rental period under the Graves Amendment.

TePoel stated, "Learning Circles are designed as a forum to examine these types of topics, and the room was filled with shop owners trying to ascertain their options and how they want to work. The meetings are informal, and we try to present the bulk of the content within the first hour for those with time constraints, though we usually expand on the topic for another hour or two when people are willing to stay. The idea is to provide enough information for members to investigate further at home and possibly make changes that could have a big impact on their businesses. Events like this teach us best practices and expose potential risks we might be taking - how could that not be helpful to the industry at large?"

Although few collision repair shops participate in ASA-CO, TePoel said he believes their meetings would be useful for the collision repair industry.

He said, "If I had a collision shop, I'd start a rental car company to eliminate exposure to renters' risky and negligent behaviors."

The group discussed how rental and loaner cars impact customer service, the effects on insurance cost, and the liability associated. In terms of problem solving, they explored cars that are returned dirty, smoking in cars, fuel levels upon return, tolls incurred during the rental, and damage to the rental car, including cracked windows.

ASA-CO charges members $15 to attend their Learning Circles, while non-members pay $25, a fee that covers the cost of refreshments.

TePoel noted, "We receive a lot of important, powerful information for just $15 and two hours of your time. ASA-CO offers a lot of benefits to our members, and I'm really happy and proud to be part of such an active, forward-thinking association."

ASA-CO will held another Learning Circle on May 18 to discuss Best Hiring Practices at Dakota Ridge Auto in Littleton, CO.

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