Los Angeles Tops Global Congestion Ranking

Transportation analytics company INRIX has published its annual Global Traffic Scorecard, analysing 1360 cities across 38 countries. Based on the findings, the US ranked as the most congested developed country in the world, with drivers spending an average of 41 hours a year in traffic during peak hours. This cost the drivers nearly US$305 billion in lost productivity in 2017, an average of US$1445 per driver.

The US had three of the top five most congested cities globally, with Los Angeles (first), New York (tied for second with Moscow) and San Francisco (fifth) costing an economic drain of more than US$2.5 billion thanks to traffic. Angelenos spent an average of 102 hours last year in traffic jams during peak congestion hours, costing them US$2828 each and the city US$19.2 billion from direct and indirect costs. Direct costs relate to the value of fuel and time wasted, and indirect costs refer to freight and business fees from company vehicles idling in traffic, which are passed on to households through higher prices.

Despite the high costs of congestion in Los Angeles and other cities, American drivers, in general, had it easier than their German counterparts. At US$1770, congestion cost the average German driver 57 per cent more than an American, after adjusting for exchange rates and the cost of living. Detroit had the lowest cost of congestion among the top 25 US cities, at US$1256 per driver, and ranked among the bottom in all three categories of costs: commuting, business and leisure/other.

In the UK, the INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard analysed congestion in 111 cities and towns. London remained the UK’s most congested major city for the 10th year in a row, ranked second in Europe after Moscow and seventh in the world overall. Drivers in London spent an average of 74 hours in gridlock during peak hours, an increase of one hour since last year. This contributed to congestion costing London drivers US$3390 a year each and the capital itself US$13.26 billion from direct and indirect costs.

Along with the capital, Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and Edinburgh made up the UK’s five most major congested cities. Drivers in Manchester spent 39 hours in congestion during peak hours, and 10 per cent of their total drive time (peak and non-peak hours) in gridlock. This in turn cost each driver US$1958, and the city US$481 million. Motorists in Birmingham spent over nine per cent of their total drive time in congestion last year, costing the city US$882 million.

The True Cost Of Motor Vehicle Body Repair Is About To Get Real

The Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) Limited and its affiliated organisation, the Australian Motor Body Repairers Association (AMBRA), launched a new cost calculator tool that will assist motor body repair businesses transparently identify their costs and a charge out hourly rate for their business.

The tool, which has been independently analysed by national business advisory and accountancy firm BDO, and examined by the Australian Tax Office (ATO), enables all motor body repair business owners / management to capture all of the costs associated in running their businesses. The tool also includes helpful worksheets for Profit and Loss, Tradespersons costs, and has the added potential of highlighting areas of business operations where further efficiencies can be made and / or improvements to productivity.

AMBRA Chairman, Jeff Williams, said the cost calculator would help motor body repair businesses not only identify their actual costs of doing business, but assist in determining a fair, reasonable and transparent ‘shop’ or business charge out hourly rate that was verifiable, defendable and in accordance with sound business and accounting practice.

‘Too many motor body repair businesses, who have heavily invested in training, equipment, tooling, and in meeting the demands of a rapidly changing automotive industry, are being forced to accept rates and charges demanded by work providers that simply do not reflect the costs of their business and placing them at a significant disadvantage or even jeopardizing their future’ Williams said.

‘Most work providers to the motor body repair industry have their own calculators or processes that are required to be applied in order to secure work. These tools or processes rarely capture the complete picture and contain elements or parameters designed to produce a pre-determined hourly charge rate outcome. This leads to different motor body repair businesses, with different capabilities or services, differing levels of staff and costs, and even different locations being subjected to a rate for their services which are not reflective of their actual costs – even though they may have already made significant improvements, generated efficiencies and productivity enhancements to be competitive,’ Williams said.

MTAA CEO, Richard Dudley, said the development and provision of the cost calculator tool was an essential element in providing transparent competition in the motor body repair sector and had involved all MTAA State and Territory Member Associations and their body repair membership as well as trusted partners and business associates.

Dudley also highlighted the importance of Federal Government initiatives, particular the ATO and ACCC programs, designed to improve the business acumen of particularly small business.

‘The development of this tool highlights the value of relationships and collaboration by the MTAA and Members with these Departments and Agencies to improve the sustainability and profitability of its business constituents. In particular, the MTAA is grateful for the work of the small business team in the ATO for providing essential feedback and suggestions for improvements to the tool,’ Dudley said.

MTAA also notes the ATO acknowledged ‘The challenge faced by the Smash Repair Industry to influence and control profit margins in a competitive economic environment largely controlled by insurance companies is clear. Accurate calculation of direct and indirect costs places smash repair businesses in a more powerful and informed position to negotiate contracts, prepare quotes and ultimately operate successful businesses.’

The calculator will be distributed and be available to MTAA Member motor body repair businesses from 2 February 2018.

US-Based Blackstone Private Equity Bids $530m For AMA Group

Australia’s largest crash repair company, AMA Group, has received an indicative buyout proposal for its panel business from United States private equity firm, Blackstone.

In a letter to AMA shareholders, Company Secretary Terri Bakos said Blackstone valued the business at $530 million “on a cash free, debt free basis.”

However, Bakos said a deal was far from done.

“There is no certainty that a transaction with Blackstone or any other party will eventuate or of the nature of any such transaction. AMA will continue to inform shareholders and the market in accordance with its continuous disclosure obligations.”

According to the Australian Financial Review, Bell Potter industrials analyst Chris Savage called the offer “reasonable” but “not necessarily a knock-out bid.”

AMA operates 100 body shops around the country, with 33 of those added over the last 16 months. Blackstone is the biggest shareholder in a similar US business, Service King Collision Repair Centres, based in Texas.

PPG Partners With Uni Of Michigan’s Mcity For Autonomous Vehicle Research

PPG announced its partnership with the University of Michigan’s (U-M’s) Mcity, a public-private partnership that brings together industry, government and academia to improve transportation safety, sustainability and accessibility for the benefit of the society. Mcity’s work includes operating the Mcity Test Facility, which is the world’s first purpose-built proving ground for testing autonomous vehicles, connected-vehicle systems and related technologies. PPG is the first paints and coatings manufacturer to join the Mcity partnership.

PPG is developing a broad portfolio of coatings to improve functionality and enable broad deployment of autonomous vehicles. These developments include exterior coatings that enhance vehicle visibility to radar and light detection and ranging (LIDAR) systems, as well as easy-to-clean coatings that help prevent obstruction of autonomous vehicle sensors. PPG highlighted these technologies at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) at Cobo Center in Detroit.

The Mcity Test Facility, which opened in 2015, was developed by U-M with support from the Michigan Department of Transportation. The facility aims to re-create a range of operating challenges faced by vehicles on the road with simulated urban and suburban environments. Sitting on a 128,000-square metre site on U-M’s North Campus, the facility offers more than 64,000-square metres of roads and traffic infrastructure, including approximately eight lane-kilometres of roads with intersections, traffic signals, street lighting, sidewalks, fire hydrants, simulated buildings and obstacles like construction barriers and pedestrian crash dummies. In addition to operating the test facility, Mcity also funds academic research and works with its partners to deploy connected and automated vehicles in Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan.

“Autonomous vehicle technology offers numerous real-world advantages, and the ability to test such technologies safely and thoroughly is essential for proving the viability of advanced mobility solutions,” said Huei Peng, director, Mcity. “Our state-of-the-art facility offers a controlled environment for manufacturers like PPG to develop and hone the capabilities of autonomous vehicles and related technologies, while also providing them access to a variety of valuable tools and resources. We’re excited to have PPG be part of this journey.”

Added Gary Danowski, PPG vice president, Automotive OEM Coatings, “Specialized coatings will play an integral role in the development of safe and reliable driverless vehicles. We are enthusiastic about this partnership and are always actively seeking additional R&D partners as we continue to explore new possibilities in emerging vehicle technologies.”

The agreement provides PPG with access to resources such as Mcity lab and project data; research and deployment assets; an independent forum of suppliers, manufacturers and end users; university expertise related to legal, regulatory and social issues; and Mcity research review meetings and the annual Mcity Congress.

Allianz, Suncorp Refund $62.8 Million In Add-On Insurance Premiums

Allianz will refund $45.6 million to 68,000 customers and Suncorp will refund $17.2 million to 41,428 MTA Insurance customers for add-on policies, both of which were bought through car dealerships that provided little or no value to consumers.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said it had a number of concerns about the design and sale of a range of Allianz add-on insurance products sold through car dealerships across Australia between 1 December 2010 and 30 November 2017. The Allianz refund programme will cover four Allianz add-on insurance products sold between the seven-year period. These were Motor Equity Insurance, a Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance that pays the difference between the amount owed on a car loan and the amount the car is insured for if written off; Loan Protection Insurance (LPI), a form of consumer credit insurance; tyre and rim insurance; and extended warranties.

ASIC expressed several concerns with these products, including the unlikelihood customers could claim on their GAP policies because of these policies’ design, as well as customers being over-insured or not needing the policies they were sold. Life cover (under LPI) was sold to young people who were unlikely to need it, while customers were sold extended warranties they were unlikely to need because it might have been up to seven years before they could make a claim (as the car had a manufacturer’s warranty for that period).

MTA Insurance was pinged over its own GAP insurance policy offered to dealership customers between 2009 and 2017. Like Allianz, ASIC found it unlikely that the customer could claim on the insurance, because they may have paid a large deposit on the car loan so that the insured value of the car was more than the amount borrowed. ASIC also noted that the GAP policy cover was unnecessary as it duplicated replacement vehicle cover held by customers under their comprehensive car insurance policies, while customers were often sold a more expensive level of cover than they needed. Finally, many customers did not receive rebates under their GAP policies when they paid out their loan early, even though cover under those policies had ended.

Both companies will offer rebates as well as partial or full refunds depending on the policies customers held. Allianz will also make a community benefit payment of $175,000 to a financial literacy organisation, while MTA Insurance will make a similar payment of $50,000.

“The refunds offered by Allianz, together with those from other insurers, make up one of the largest compensation programs achieved by ASIC, with over $120 million in refunds to consumers as a result of ASIC shining a spotlight on these poor consumer outcomes,” said Acting ASIC Chair Peter Kell.

“Add-on insurance has been under the spotlight for some time now. Insurers should be taking active steps to ensure their customers are not being sold products that provide little or no value.

“Our message to insurers is simple: the needs of your customers must come first in the design, price and sale of your products.”

ASIC said it acknowledged Allianz’ cooperation and Suncorp’s engagement in both matters.

Safer Vehicles Promoted In Crashlab’s $1.6 Million Investment

Roads, Maritime and Freight Minister, Melinda Pavey, has announced increased funding for Crashlab to enhance local crash test capability to assist with independent testing of autonomous vehicle safety technologies. The Government is investing $1.6 million to upgrade the existing Crashlab test facility to enable the assessment of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems and other advanced driver assistance systems.

Pavey said the Government understands the importance of vehicle safety in reducing road trauma, which is why driver assistance technologies like AEB, lane-keep assist and speed assistance systems are so important.

“Expanding Crashlab’s capabilities to test new and emerging vehicle safety technologies will support ANCAP in its important role in encouraging the introduction of AEB and other life-saving technologies across the national vehicle fleet,” Pavey said. “This means that to achieve a five star ANCAP safety rating, an effective AEB or lane support system will be required on all new vehicles rated.”

“These upgrades will see NSW offer a world class vehicle safety testing capability covering crash protection, and even more importantly, crash prevention.”

This investment comes in addition to the recent upgrade of crash test equipment and acquisition of new, more sophisticated dummies, catering for the broadened ANCAP safety rating program in place from 1 January 2018.

“The independent assessment of autonomous vehicle safety technologies is a new and important element of the ANCAP safety regime this year, and this commitment from the NSW Government will extend ANCAP’s capability in this area,” ANCAP Director – Communications & Advocacy, Rhianne Robson said. “This investment to expand the service and enable the safety performance of autonomous technologies to be assessed locally will greatly enhance road safety for all Australians.”

The NSW Government is a founding member of ANCAP and through the Roads and Maritime Services’ Crashlab test facility, contributes to the ongoing testing and assessment of vehicle safety encouraging vital vehicle safety improvements.

QBE Appoints Vivek Bhatia as Chief Executive Officer, (ANZO)

QBE Insurance Group Limited announced the appointment of Vivek Bhatia as Chief Executive Officer, Australian and New Zealand Operations (ANZO), following an extensive global search. The role reports to Pat Regan, Group Chief Executive Officer, and forms part of the Group Executive Committee.

Vivek joins QBE from icare, the NSW Government public financial corporation managing the state’s insurance and care schemes. With more than AU$30 billion in assets and AU$6.7 billion in income, icare is one of the largest social insurers globally. He played a critical role in the formation of icare in 2014 and was appointed as the inaugural Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. Prior to this he co-led the Asia Pacific Restructuring and Transformation practice at McKinsey & Company and before that, was the Chief Executive Officer, Australian Underwriting Operations at Wesfarmers Insurance.

Vivek replaces Pat Regan who was appointed Group Chief Executive Officer in September 2017 from the role of Chief Executive Officer, ANZO.

Vivek will join QBE in the first quarter of 2018 and will be based in Sydney.

Euro NCAP’s Best In Class Cars Of 2017

2017 was Euro NCAP’s busiest-ever year with nearly seventy models assessed and now Euro NCAP has announced the year’s best performers.

Volkswagen emerges with great credit with winners in three categories – the Polo in the supermini class, T Roc in the small off-road category and the prestigious Arteon in the executive class – and Volvo reinforces its reputation for safety with this year’s best overall performer, the large off-road XC60.

The winners, by category, are:

ExecutiveVW Arteon
Large Off-RoadVolvo
Small Off-RoadVW T Roc
SuperminiVW Polo
Small MPVOpel Crossland X
Small Family CarSubaru XV and Subaru Impreza

Most of the models tested in 2017 were new to the market and most of these achieved the maximum five-star rating which, set against Euro NCAP’s increasingly tough assessment regime, reflects the ever-improving safety of modern vehicles. Older, facelifted models fared less well, their ratings, generally poorer than those of newer cars, reflecting a lack of advanced restraint systems and driver-assistance technologies.

Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP, “Congratulations to Volkswagen! To win best-in-class in three different categories is a great achievement and underlines the company’s commitment to providing the highest levels of safety to its customers. Subaru and Opel are also offering class-leading products while Volvo continues to underline its reputation for safety. More broadly, though, it is encouraging to see so many new cars performing so well in all areas of safety, and being equipped with greater and greater levels of life-saving technology.”

Pedestrian-detecting autobrake systems, first tested by Euro NCAP in 2016, was already available on 82 per cent of the cars tested in 2017 and standard equipment on 62 per cent of them. Speed assistance was offered on 92 per cent of the new cars tested, and was standard equipment on 82 per cent. Yet these advancements in driver-assistance technology took nothing away from improvements in crash-protection: 96 per cent offered standard two or more seating positions in the car compatible with new i-Size child restraints and 94 per cent of new cars now offer rear seat load limiters and belt tensioners as standard.

BodyShop News Summernats Giveaway

The 31th Street Machine Summernats proudly supported by Rare Spares is the largest annual horsepower party in the Southern Hemisphere, taking place this January 4 – 7, 2018 in Canberra. Featuring the world’s greatest burnout competition; the National Burnout Masters, the colourful City Cruise, the craziest cars in the country and so much more, plus a huge music line up including Wolfmother, Thundamentals and 28 Days. With so much entertainment, Summernats is a motoring lifestyle festival that you need to experience, so make sure you join more than 100,000 fans for an iconic Australian motoring experience like no other. Tickets are on sale at www.summernats.com.au

BodyShop News has four tickets to give away to the first four emails with the right answer to this question: “How many Summernats have there been already?”

Email to [email protected].

Automechanika Shanghai 2017 Closes With Record Breaking Figures

The 13th edition of Automechanika Shanghai, which took place from 29 November to 2 December 2017, has posted its most successful results to date. The event is Asia’s largest for the automotive parts, accessories and services industries, and represents the entire supply chain for business exchange, marketing, networking and education on a global scale. This year’s edition once again demonstrates the show’s impressive growth path, with the final figures for this year exceeding all expectations:

  • Visitors: 130, 928 (2016: 120,671) – 9 per cent increase
  • Exhibitors: 6,051 (2016: 5,756) – 5 per cent increase
  • Scale: 340,000 sqm (2016: 312,000) – 9 per cent increase

The success of the fair and its expanded sector representation was clearly reflected on the show floor, particularly through the brand new REIFEN Zone for tyres, wheels and rims, as well as in the expanded Electronics & Systems sector and the E-Mobility & Infrastructure Zone. Visitors were impressed with the exciting displays within the Motorsports & High Performance Zone, and also with the increased number of international pavilions on offer during the fair.

On top of this, even more positive feedback came from Automechanika Shanghai’s many concurrent fringe events, which this year totalled 57. These included the highly anticipated Connected Mobility Conference, as well as the AIAG Auto Parts Purchasing Leadership and Suppliers Summit and the 3rd Summit: Merger and Acquisition Strategies for Chinese Automotive Corporations in the Overseas Markets. The fair’s participants considered each of these aspects to be a vital source for expanding their business across Asia’s entire automotive industry, and have expressed their satisfaction with this year’s edition.

The next edition of Automechanika Shanghai will take place from 28 November – 1 December 2018.