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Thursday, 22 July 2010 18:09

A Brief History of Collision Repair Association of California

In the fall of 2006, five independent-minded shop owners in Northern California agreed that the collision industry needed steering —toward better protection for shop owners and consumers, that is.

“They were tired of the manner in which industry issues were being addressed and wanted to take a more aggressive stance on the issues,” says Lee Amaradio, CRA’s second president and owner of Faith Quality Auto Body in Murietta. “We lobby our positions vigorously,” says Amaradio.

Those founding members are current board members and shop owners Roy Carnevale, Anthony’s Auto Craft,  San Rafael, and Blake Andros, Blake’s Auto Body, with shops in Marin and Sonoma counties, as well as Byron Orris, Byron’s Auto Body in Napa, an owner and general member.

Two of the original founders, Todd Bishop and Gene Crozat, are no longer members. Crozat, the original president and owner of three G&C AutoBody shops in Northern California, had been critical of CRA’s direction even before his departure.

“The association grew out of frustration with the way industry issues were being addressed,” says Allen Wood, executive director for CRA. Owner of a consulting business, he was formerly a program manager for the California Bureau of Automotive Repair.

Based in Sacramento, the CRA represents member issues with the Department of Insurance, Bureau of Automotive Repair, the California Attorney General and other groups.

The group has worked on issues such as steering, labor rates, aftermarket parts usage and capping and has testified before the State Senate Banking and Finance Committee regarding steering, capping and labor rate surveys. CRA was also instrumental in defeating the original aftermarket parts bill about two years ago, which the group felt would allow inferior parts to be used in collision repair.

Recently, CRA participated in a press conference with Assemblyman David Jones (D-Sacramento), a candidate for California insurance commissioner, to publicize its safety concerns with the use of aftermarket bumper reinforcements. In addition, the group met with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), author of the state’s original anti-steering law, to demonstrate the differences in aftermarket reinforcements as compared to OEM parts.

Rather than form chapters, the CRA encouraged its members to communicate directly with the board, says Amaradio, who began his now 30,000-square-foot shop in 1979 on “a giant step of faith.” He notes: “This allowed membership dues to go directly to address issues.” Today, the membership varies from 100 to 125.

Amaradio notes that CRA offers its members insurance and operational programs, provides training on regulatory issues and how to deal with the California Department of Insurance and BAR, holds conferences for members and posts labor rate surveys and other industry-related information on its Web site, www.cra-ca.com.

The CRA has recently opposed SB 350, sponsored by the Certified Aftermarket Parts Association which was just allowed to die in California (see other cover story). The organization has offered three amendments for its buy-in. “Unfortunately, as written the bill contains contradictory and confusing sections that would erode consumer protections if enacted,” the organization wrote in its April 14, 2010, letter to Assemblymember Mary Hayashi, (D-Hayward), who chairs the Committee of Business and Professions.

“The CRA does what others won’t do. We’re not afraid to step out of the box and get in the faces of state or local officials and try to make them accountable,” says John Tyczki, CRA treasurer and owner of El Dorado Collision Center in Poway and J&M Autobody in San Diego. “Our board members are owners in the industry— not vendors—and we understand the industry needs.” Tyczki started in the industry in 1979 sweeping floors.

“I felt that CRA provided a great opportunity to help me have a voice and be associated with some very knowledgeable industry leaders,” says Kim Andreatta, owner of Bakersfield Auto Body and CRA’s vice president. His family began the company in 1951, today a 20,000-square-foot facility on 2.75 acres.

“Those leaders have been a great help, not only to me as a shop owner but in looking out for the public’s well-being concerning their rights as motorists and safety issues on how vehicles are repaired and with what types of parts,” he adds.

“They gave me a voice in the state capital and have helped me become a better-informed business owner.”

Nathan Simmons, a CRA board member and also a president of local chapter of California’s other  auto body association, the CAA, says he joined CRA after seeing a video of the hearing with Sen. Jackie Speiers and the shop owners who founded the group.

“CRA goes after the real problem in the autobody repair industry,” says Simmons, owner of C&C Collision in Pasadena for 10 years. “They are not swayed by aftermarket-parts sponsors, they do not let relationships with insurers get in the way, they do not allow personal agendas to bog down or dilute the association.”

“If it’s important to consumers and repairers, you better believe the CRA is going to do whatever it takes to solve the problem,” he adds. “If you’re worried about your insurer relations, just send your support, so we can continue to fight these battles.”

To join CRA, contact:

Allen Wood
916-837-2362
Awoodauto@aol.com
Po Box 2891
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-2891
530-620-7480
Fax: 530-620-7332
www.cra-ca.com

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