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Tuesday, 01 June 2010 20:44

California Autobody Association --- 43 Years of Representation

The largest state collision association in the U.S., the California Autobody Association (CAA), formed in 1967 by merging two organizations in Glendale and Long Beach, making it the first group to represent the industry throughout all of California. Now, at age 43 and based in Sacramento, the CAA represents 1,000 members in 18 chapters from San Diego to Eureka.

“Some of our members do have mechanical facilities, and we have dealership body shops as members, but primarily, most members are independent collision repair shops,” explains David McClune, executive director and chief operating officer for the association.

Six state board members represent the CAA executive committee. The 2010 president is Gigi Walker, owner of Walker’s Auto Body in Concord. She notes: “An association is a place for knowledge, camaraderie and keeping up to date with legal issues facing an industry—and the CAA is fulfilling all of those roles admirably.”

McClune explains that the organization has been consistently involved in the issues facing the country’s most populous state—for cars and people.

In the ‘70s, the CAA was involved when the Bureau of Automotive Repairswas started in 1972. BAR oversees automotive repair operations in the state.

Six years later, the CAA wrote the California Motorists Bill of Rights — providing a template for other states, and, when I-CAR was formed in 1979, Gorden Holcomb, a long-time CAA member, represented the association.
The CAA started an industry trade show in 1980—the largest collision expo in the country before NACE began four years later. The Collision Industry Conference also started in 1984; former CAA state president, Al Estorga, helped with the CIC formation.
In 1991, CAA formed CARPAC, a political action committee supporting candidates supporting the industry. Five years later, the BAR created a committee to create auto-body repair standards. This group comprised CAA members, insurance representatives and BAR officials.
Later, in 1999, CAA helped reverse a State Board of Equalization position regarding a sales tax on “new part paint labor”—a savings of thousands of dollars for every shop in California, McClune says. He adds: “The CAA has sponsored numerous legislative bills over the years that have improved the collision repair industry and consumers’ rights.”
The organization provides a variety of benefits, says Ted Stein, service director/manager at Drew Ford in San Diego, where he is a member of the city’s CAA chapter.
“CAA offers everything from member benefits to the best lobbyist in Sacramento [Jack Molodanof], who keeps a watchful eye on the bills that affect our industry,” says Stein, who has served on the state board for CAA. “I am very proud to be a current member.” He believes that the personal friendships generated from volunteering with CAA are one of many membership perks. “I have made great, really great, friendships that will last a lifetime, up and down the state that would have never happened if not for the CAA,” he says.
Stein adds: “These are people that I can call at any time for advice or just to bounce something off of them. I have referred customers to other members when they have relocated out of the area, and the same has happened for us. It’s the best ‘fraternity’ that you could be in.”
Gigi Walker, CAA’s current president, believes that the services the CAA chapters offer the community is another benefit of membership. A participant in the collision repair industry for 30 years, she started as an auto painter and has owned Walker’s Auto Body in Concord since 1988.
From 1998 to 1999, she was the past president of the East Bay Autobody Association, which joined the CAA as a chapter in 2001. “The EBAA felt the need to join because of some legislation issues in Sacramento regarding steering and labor-rate setting,” she recalls.
The EBAA also saw the benefits the CAA offered such as pooled workers compensation and garage keepers liability insurance. What’s more, the EBBA board liked the quality of guest speakers the CAA regularly brought into its chapters.
The CAA sponsors scholarships for young people to enter collision repair programs as well as supports Regional Occupational Programs—tuition-free job training—at the high school level. Another outstanding CAA-supported program which promotes the industry to young men and women is Careers with Cars, held annually in various locations statewide.
One of the larger CAA-sponsored events, Gigi notes, is the East Bay Chapter Toys for Tots Model Truck Customizing Competition, held at the prestigious Black Hawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA.
Some CAA chapters have scheduled events supporting new technologies such as introductions to waterborne paints, legal issues that affect the collision repair industry and proper handing of hazardous materials.
“Ongoing education is a large part of what the CAA is about,” she notes. Even though we have a legislative arm, we pride ourselves in being diversified in many ways as a true trade association should be.”
The CAA is both sword and shield at the capitol. “It puts itself between its members and the issues, so that no one member can be singled out for retribution on unpopular issue and gives a voice to all— from the smallest of repair facilities to the largest,” says Don Feeley, owner of City Body & Frame in Riverside and twice CAA president, 2000 and 2009. A member of the Inland Empire Chapter, he also helped develop the CAA Web site in ‘94 as well as SCRS-CIC.
Feeley adds that CAA also helps to facilitate better pricing for its members on many business items such as insurance products, credit card processing—even sandpaper.  “This association has been fighting for its members for more than 40 years on all fronts,” he notes. “Wherever there is an issue in the collision repair industry, you will find a member of the California Autobody Association.”
As a result, Feeley isn’t just lukewarm about his 20-year CAA association: “I am damn proud,” he says, “to be part of an organization with such a rich history.”
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To join, contact CAA at:
555 University Ave, Ste 236, Sacramento, CA 95825
State Office: (800) 454-3368
Fax: (916) 646-8113

Also representing the state is the Collision Repair Association of California (CRA)— to be covered in a future article.

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