Caliber And Abra Merge To Create The Largest Collision Repair Network

Caliber Collision and Abra Auto Body Repair of America have announced a definitive merger agreement, with the combined collision repair facility operator to have more than 1000 locations.

“This combination will allow us to offer even greater satisfaction for our valued customers and insurance clients while creating new opportunities for the talented teammates of both companies,” said Steve Grimshaw, Caliber Chief Executive Officer. “With more than 1000 stores in 37 states and the District of Columbia, we look forward to providing customers and insurance clients with the flexibility and convenience that come with the broadest geographic coverage in the United States and a full suite of services. We’re confident the technological and operational investments will create unparalleled customer service, enhanced repair quality and industry-leading metrics, all of which advance our purpose of restoring the rhythm of our customers’ lives.

“We plan to maintain all existing centres from both companies as we develop and execute a plan to work smarter, generate growth, offer expanded services, drive operational excellence and reward talent across the organisation. Recognising the critical importance of top talent to our success, we will be retaining all teammates in the field at both Caliber and Abra centres, and we look forward to creating a culture that supports our teammates as they expand their careers across a larger organisation, accelerated by industry-leading development programmes,” said Grimshaw.

“Our industry becomes more complex every year,” said Abra CEO Ann Fandozzi. “The combined company will invest in the equipment, training and technologies that will allow our teammates to build their careers while continuing to meet and exceed our customers’ needs for years to come. Abra’s leadership team is excited by the opportunities this combination with Caliber creates for customers, insurance clients and teammates. We look forward to seeing our traditions of stellar customer service, unparalleled operational excellence and team development taken to the next level across the United States.”

The transaction is expected to close in early 2019 with Caliber CEO Steve Grimshaw to lead the combined company.

Ann-Fandozzi-ABRA
Abra CEO Ann Fandozzi.
Caliber CEO Steve Grimshaw.

AkzoNobel And McLaren Celebrate 10-Year Partnership

AkzoNobel and McLaren celebrated 10 years of collaboration at the SEMA automotive show in Las Vegas, Nevada, last month.

The partnership began in 2008 when AkzoNobel became the official supplier of paint solutions for McLaren Racing. McLaren has used the company’s premium Sikkens brand for its Formula 1 cars ever since.

AkzoNobel has also been a technology partner to McLaren Automotive since 2012, with all McLaren road cars being fully painted in the company’s products.

“Working with partners like McLaren is a perfect example of our commitment to delivering cutting-edge innovation,” said Keith Malik, Key Account Director of AkzoNobel’s Automotive and Specialty Coatings business. “We’re proud to have partnered with them for 10 years and demonstrate our shared passion for high performance technologies and performance.”

Simon Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of McLaren Racing, said: “Our decade-long relationship with AkzoNobel has led us to new innovations, scientific and sustainable advancements and quality finishes. Their longevity in the marketplace, coupled with the technology we’ve developed together, has helped us in our ongoing pursuit of high performance, and we’re thrilled to call AkzoNobel our partner.”

The livery for this season’s MCL33 F1 car has made an impact, with the Papaya Spark colour scheme winning a BBC poll for best-looking car.

AMA Group Announces Executive Management Team, Board Changes

AMA Group has announced several management changes that will take effect at the conclusion of the 2018 Annual General Meeting to be held on 22 November.

Andy Hopkins will become Group Chief Executive Officer while Anthony Day will join the board as an independent Non-Executive Director. Ray Malone will continue as Chairman.

AMA described Day as one of Australia’s leading insurance industry executives who has more than 30 years of industry experience. Day was recently the Chief Executive Officer of Suncorp Group’s Insurance Operations, one of Australia’s largest insurance businesses. In that role, he had responsibility for both the Group’s General and Life Insurance operations within Australia which incorporate AAMI, GIO, Vero, Shannons and Asteron.

Hopkins said AMA is very fortunate to have Day join its Board of Directors.

“His level of understanding of our key insurance company customers’ service needs is without peer.  We look forward to being able to utilise his knowledge in our business to deliver better outcomes for our customers”.

The company has also appointed Steven Becker as Group Chief Financial Officer following the resignation of Ashley Killick. Becker has spent the past two years as the Chief Financial Officer of Affinity Education Group. Prior to that, he was the Chief Financial Officer of the formerly ASX-listed Mantra Group for eight years.

AMA Group says Becker has extensive experience in high growth organisations providing financial and strategic leadership. He will be based in South-East Queensland with the finance teams and commence with the company in early February 2019.

In the interim, the Chief Financial Officer role will be performed by AMA Company Secretary and financial accountant, Terri Bakos, and the General Managers of Finance in the Panel Repair and ACAD businesses.

Malone said the changes mark an important milestone in the development of AMA Group.

“In a little over six years, the business has grown from a small troubled aggregation of automobile related businesses to Australia’s leading automobile panel repair and aftermarket parts operator. It has been my pleasure to lead the business through this stage of its development.

“The business has now reached a size that it requires a more traditional governance structure and the addition of new talent to the executive management team and Board of Directors to ensure that the next six years are equally as successful. Mr Hopkins has been my partner in growing the panel repair business over the last three years and he is ideally suited to succeed me as Group Chief Executive Officer. In this role, he will rely heavily, as I have for the last six years, on Mr [Ray] Smith-Roberts to continue his exceptional leadership of the ACAD business. Together, they will ensure AMA Group realises the significant market opportunities before it.”

Hopkins responded by saying: “Mr Malone has done an amazing job leading the creation of a truly market leading business over the last six years. It has been my pleasure to work closely with him for the last three years and over that time I have never ceased to be amazed by his entrepreneurial skills and innovative approaches to problem solving which have added very significant value to the business. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him as Chairman and head of the procurement business. The procurement business of AMA is an area of significant potential growth for AMA and I look forward to working with Mr Malone in growing that business.”

According to AMA’s latest annual report, revenue grew by 33 per cent to more than A$509 million, up from A$382 million in the previous year. The group completed 26 acquisitions, integrated 30 new facilities, and opened four new greenfield sites, taking the total number of facilities to 114.

AMA Group has also corrected an article in “The Australian” which asserted that AMA is “teaming up with Blackstone to form an offer for Suncorp’s Smash Repairs Group, Capital SMART”.

In a statement, AMA said the suggestion is incorrect. “AMA is not teaming up with Blackstone to make any offer for the Capital SMART business,” the statement read.

“Further, AMA’s announcement that Mr Anthony Day will be joining the board of AMA after the AGM has no connection with Suncorp selling the Capital SMART business. Mr Day will be joining the board due to his excellent credentials and experience in the insurance industry in Australia, AMA’s core customer group. The board of AMA believes that Mr Day will make a valuable contribution to the board.”

Seventh Car Manufacturer Hit With Class Action Over Airbags

A Sydney legal firm has added a seventh vehicle manufacturer to its class action claiming cars with deadly airbags were sold to consumers.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan (Quinn Emanuel) last month filed class action proceedings against Volkswagen, while actions have already been commenced against Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Subaru, BMW and Nissan. These proceedings are being heard concurrently in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

Quinn Emanuel is expecting to file against Ford and Audi shortly, covering an estimated 2.5 million Australian drivers it says are driving cars fitted with defective airbags. The company says the airbags have been linked to the deaths of at least 24 people worldwide, including one in Sydney last year, as well as injuring hundreds of others.

Quinn Emanuel Partner, Damian Scattini, described the airbags as “ticking time bombs”.

“Over time they degrade,” said Scattini. “As they degrade they become unsafe. On our case, these manufacturers knew these airbags were dangerous, but kept using them in their vehicles, putting profits before the safety of their customers. Car manufacturers have known about this problem for years. These airbags need to be off the road.”

The legal firm is urging consumers to check if their vehicle is subject to recall and to act immediately if a replacement airbag is available. However, Quinn Emanuel says that due to a global shortage of airbags, many Australian drivers are only being offered a temporary fix, with a like for like replacement, meaning that their airbag will have to be replaced again in the future.

The company claims that in many cases, the replacement airbags contain the same propellant used in the defective airbags, ammonium nitrate, which deteriorates over time. However, consumers are still encouraged to obtain a temporary fix, as a newer defective airbag is preferable to an older defective airbag.

“It’s about responsibility and accountability. Car manufacturers need to make good the harm they’ve done to their customers. No more, no less,” said Scattini.

Quinn Emanuel says consumers whose vehicle were, or are, subject to the Takata airbag recall may be entitled to participate in their class action proceedings. Vehicle owners are not excluded from participating if they have had faulty airbags replaced.

Axalta Partners With Volgren Buses In Australia

Axalta has announced a new partnership in Australia with Volgren, a leading bus manufacturer owned by Brazilian company Marcopolo S.A.

Axalta recently signed an agreement to be the sole supplier of coatings to Volgren for both newly manufactured buses and for the repair of existing ones. The partnership consists of an all-inclusive training and support package, as well as an extensive trial period to assess product performance.

“Having been with one paint company for the past 20 years, we did not make the decision to change easily,” said Michael Healy, Volgren Supply Chain Manager. “For the first three months we put Axalta’s products and back-up service through intense testing and were very pleased with the professionalism, commitment and quality that Axalta delivered. I’m 100 per cent confident that the change we made will ensure Volgren buses continue to lead the market for many years to come.”

As well as developing customised product solutions using the Imron Fleet Line range, Axalta said it demonstrated paint application techniques that could assist in improving cycle times in the coating application. This was supported by comprehensive on-site training and repair process documentation.

“As a market leader in Australia, Volgren needed a coatings partner to work with them through all levels of the business,” said Steven Brett, Axalta’s Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand. “With the introduction of new products, new processes and improved quality control across all Volgren locations, we demonstrated that Axalta could meet Volgren’s requirements.”

Axalta Europe Tour Focused on Technology

Axalta Coating Systems recently concluded its “European Excursion” that saw a large group of customers and distributors visit several automotive landmarks through-out Germany, including Automechanika in Frankfurt.

The tour, which took place in early September, provided the opportunity for customers to broaden their knowledge on the most advanced repair techniques, view the latest industry-related products on offer, as well as network with like-minded repairers.

One of the highlights of the week was an exclusive I-CAR training session on carbon fibre. This high-end product is commonly found in vehicles that are positioned in the prestige end of the market. The training provided a better understanding and a more informed perspective on the technology used in prestige vehicles and the impact on the repair process. This session was a forerunner to the OE factory tours at Mercedes-Benz and Porsche in Stuttgart and BMW in Munich.

“Our European Excursion provided a good opportunity for our customers to mix work and pleasure,” explained Paul Wake, Axalta’s Sales Director and host of the tour. “There was great interaction between customers from all around Australia and New Zealand, each comparing notes on different aspects of running an auto-repair facility.”

Automechanika 2018 proved to be a big hit for seeking out new technology and the latest in product launches. Axalta’s partners – Finixa and Sagola – were both exhibiting and presented their latest offering to the group.

Axalta’s “Win a trip to Germany” competition prize winners Franco Missaglia from Stylefinish AutoBody in Victoria and Craig Hall from Craig Hall Bodyworks in the ACT were also present on the tour.

Robert Bryant Named Interim CEO at Axalta

Axalta Coating Systems has announced that its board of directors has appointed Robert Bryant, Axalta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, to the additional role of interim Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Bryant succeeds Terrence Hahn, who has resigned by mutual agreement with the board, following an investigation by outside counsel into conduct by Hahn unrelated to financial matters that Axalta believes was inconsistent with company policies. Hahn has also vacated his position on the board.

“We are pleased that Robert Bryant has agreed to step into the role of interim CEO,” said Charlie Shaver, Chairman, Axalta Coating Systems. “Having worked closely with Robert for over five years, I know he has the leadership skills and financial acumen, as well as the respect of the management team and employees, to be an effective leader for Axalta. The company remains well positioned to build on its success, with strong end-market demand and an unrelenting focus on customer service and innovation.”

“I deeply appreciate the vote of confidence from Charlie and the board,” said Bryant. “The management team at Axalta is resilient — we will work tirelessly to put this distraction behind us and focus on delivering outstanding products and customer service.”

“I wish the best to Axalta’s employees and its leadership,” said Hahn.

Axalta also announced that its preliminary results for the third quarter are in line with the company’s guidance communicated during its second quarter earnings update, which specified third quarter adjusted EBITDA of approximately 24 per cent of the midpoint of its full-year range.

Robert Bryant has served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Axalta since 2013. He was previously Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Roll Global LLC. Before joining Roll Global in 2007, he was Executive Vice President of Strategy, New Business Development, and Information Technology at Grupo Industrial Saltillo, S.A.B. de C.V.

Elite Body Shop Solutions Webinar On Scheduling Coming Soon

Elite Body Shop Solutions has announced the next instalment for its free Elite Webinar Series, “Simple, Effective Scheduling”, will feature Dave Luehr, Founder of Elite Body Shop Solutions, and Ron Kuehn, President of Collision Business Solutions, on Thursday, 25th October, at 1pm CST (6pm UTC).

Dave Luehr and Ron Kuehn say that they have learned most savvy shop owners understand that that they can no longer attempt to bring a majority of their week’s repair jobs in on Monday and then hope to get them all delivered by Friday, and scheduling based on estimated work hours doesn’t always work out either.

“Many collision repairers are either fed‐up with complicated and ineffective solutions or discovering that their scheduling ‘system’ isn’t really a system at all – they are essentially still ‘winging it’ when it comes to scheduling repair jobs into their shops,” Luehr said. “Modern, successful shops need to let go of old thinking in order to regain control of their business.”

Luehr and Kuehn says that they will guide the webinar attendees through the process of designing their own simple, effective scheduling system based on sound principles of managing work‐in‐process while ensuring maximum profitability.

By executing the information learned in this webinar, collision repairers can expect to increase profitability, eliminate unnecessary expenses caused by excess inventory, “massively” improve the customer experience, improve shop morale, “reduce the chaos, and get back control of your collision repair business”.

Every month, Elite highlights a topic to keep collision repairers and those that serve them abreast of the latest information required to be successful in today’s challenging business environment. This month, Elite says that attendees will discover new ways to become more successful and expand their horizons.

To register, visit events.genndi.com/channel/EliteWebinarOct2018. Those who are unable to attend the live event can watch the recorded webinar by joining the Elite Body Shop Academy at www.elitebodyshopsolutions.com/academy.

New Global Refinish Report Highlights Changes And Major Players

A new report on the global automotive refinish coatings market has found that the sector is highly consolidated, with five companies holding 65 per cent market share in recent years.

Transparency Market Research found that two major companies, Axalta Coatings Systems and PPG Industries alone hold 40 per cent share in the global market.

The report also finds that with stringent rules and regulation pertaining to VOC emissions, particularly in Europe and North America, the consumption of solvent-based coatings has seen a massive reduction.

The global automotive refinish coatings market is currently segregated into clear coat, primer, base coat, filler, activator, and others. Of these, base coat holds the top position in the market and is also expected to hold a 31 per cent share of the global market by the end of the assessed period. On the other hand, the activators segment is predicted to display high growth during the same period, ensuing in a minimal rise in its share by 2024 with North America anticipated to hold the dominating position in the market.

TMR analysts say the ongoing trend has forced many manufacturers to concentrate more on development of effective waterborne varieties of automotive refinish coatings, a trend that is likely to have a significant impact on the market’s dynamics in future. It is expected that the global automotive refinish coatings market is likely to display a 5.7 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the forecast period 2016-2024. The market, which was valued at US$6.6 billion in 2015, is likely to touch US$10.8 billion by the end of the assessed period.

According to the researchers, developing countries across the world are likely to witness a surge in their automotive market over the years. Countries such as China, South Africa, India, and Brazil are expected to remain at the forefront of this surge, due to rising populations and increases in disposable income. The rise in these developing countries is likely to, in turn, act as catalysts in the growth of the automotive refinish coatings market.

Another finding of the report is the numerous strict rules and regulations regarding emissions and how these have been levied for declining usage of certain elements and chemicals in automotive refinish coatings. This has seen the sales of solvent-based products dwindle, including higher levels of organic compounds in comparison to water-based products. Several efforts made by government and environment sustenance bodies are likely to increase knowledge amongst consumers, and this has seen a steep decline of sales in solvent-based coatings in recent years.

Thatcham’s Online Programme Helps Bridge The Knowledge Gap

Thatcham Research has announced the launch of a new online technical awareness programme to be known as “ecademy”. Businesses working in the automotive repair sector can use ecademy to keep employees up-to-date with developments that may have a significant impact on repair processes.

“The pace of change within our industry makes it challenging for repairers on two levels,” explains Dean Lander, Head of Repair Sector Services. “Firstly, when we surveyed customers recently, specific concerns were raised about the impact of ADAS, hybrid and electric vehicles, and new materials such as carbon fibre on future training needs. Secondly, customers cited the biggest barrier for training was not being able to afford time out of the business. Ecademy is a product to help our overcome these barriers.

“In other industries, learning management systems have long-since proved an effective method for delivering training,” continues Lander. “Of course, where in-depth subject knowledge or accreditations are an essential part of a role, nothing beats the face-to-face practical training courses we offer at our Automotive Academy. But reaching a level of technical awareness in a wide range of subjects is achievable through good quality online content – a sentiment that 87 per cent of those who took part in our survey agreed with.”

Less than a quarter (22 per cent) of the companies surveyed by Thatcham Research said that they were confident that all areas of their business understand the technical issues faced by repairers.

Features within the ecademy portal include:

  • CPD-approved interactive modules in subjects such as ADAS and calibration, hybrid and electric vehicles and vehicle design and materials
  • Progress tracking via learner and manager dashboards
  • Access to additional Thatcham resources such as new vehicle releases and technical bulletins
  • Communication with other learners via an online forum.