Environmental Lawsuit Settled With AutoNation In California

A $3.38 million settlement has been reached between dozens of AutoNation subsidiaries and eight California counties including Alameda and Santa Clara for alleged violations of environmental and customer record laws.

The 57 dealerships and collision centres will pay US$2.1 million in civil penalties after they allegedly disposed of hazardous waste illegally, broke laws related to the storage of hazardous materials and didn’t protect the information of some customers.

Prosecutors said the case began in 2013 when environmental health inspectors from Santa Clara County allegedly saw hazardous waste violations at several AutoNation service departments.

AutoNation is the country’s largest retailer of new vehicles.

A string of undercover inspections of the dealership’s garbage cans revealed that hazardous automotive fluids, partially filled aerosol cans, used oil filters, electronic waste, and at one dealership, used motor oil, were allegedly disposed of illegally.

Prosecutors also allege that documents and invoices containing customers’ personal information were found in the trash. California law requires businesses make reasonable efforts to dispose of customer records by erasing or redacting information or shredding documents.

Prosecutors said as part of the settlement, the defendants will pay US$380,000 in costs and US$900,000 on projects aimed at improving the company’s compliance with hazardous waste laws.

The terms of the settlement also state that California AutoNation dealerships have a full-time environmental director on staff, provide resources so customer records can be shred and train all employees who work with customer records on the requirements of records laws.

Officials with AutoNation issued a statement, saying, “AutoNation is committed to environmental compliance and stewardship, and the protection of confidential customer information. Our indirectly owned California stores and collision centres devote substantial resources to the proper handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials, as well as to safeguarding their customers’ private information, in compliance with the law.”

Car-O-Liner Distributor Opens New Training Centre In KSA

Together with its new partner, Al Rajhi Takaful Insurance (ART), the largest motor vehicle insurance company in the Middle East, the AKA group team opened their new Training Academy on February 24th, 2018.

More than 60 guests attended the opening ceremony, including a large group of ART management and representatives.

Matthias Mueller, General Manager of AKA group operations, welcomed guests and outlined a brief summary of the strategies of both companies, in terms of training. The training centre has one section for training in body repair technique. It is fully equipped with a Car-O-Liner BenchRack 6300 and the Car-O-Tronic Vision2 X3 measuring system. For diagnosis and light repair there is the Speed alignment platform with and the PointX diagnostic measuring instrument.

The centre also includes a section for paint and preparation training, equipped with spray booths, preparation lifts and dry sanding systems. Two lecture rooms will be used for theoretical training classes. The opening day for the public and all customers will be on March 12th, 2018.

IAG Unveils 2016-2017 Quality Report

IAG today released its fifth Quality Report, the insurance industry’s only report that provides annual data on property and motor repair standards.

The IAG Quality Report gives insight into the monitoring, assessment and quality of repair standards across the company’s nationwide property and motor repair network.

IAG said it has been investing in its Partner Repair Network since 2012 to deliver safe, quality repairs and a high level of customer service across all its brands. The company added that the motor and property repair businesses IAG partners with have the skills, technology, equipment and resources to deliver efficient, high quality repairs for its customers across the country.

In 2016-17, IAG undertook 43,478 quality inspections of motor vehicle repairs. Quality issues were identified in 0.51 per cent of authorised repairs and potential safety issues in 0.01 per cent of authorised repairs.

IAG also undertook 6200 quality inspections of property repairs. Quality issues were identified in 2.56 per cent of authorised repairs and potential safety issues in 0.05 per cent of authorised repairs. Where an issue was identified during an inspection, IAG worked with repairers to rectify them.

IAG Executive General Manager of Short Tail Claims, Steve Fitzpatrick, said IAG is focused on continually supporting its partner repairers to further enhance their ability to deliver the highest quality repairs and service for customers.

“Over the past financial year, we increased the number of inspections across all brands underwritten and backed by IAG, with just under 50,000 motor and property inspections completed,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We will ensure our Partner Repair Network continues to evolve to provide the best possible experience for our customers, with the delivery of high quality repairs and excellent customer service.”

IAG has also introduced the Road to Gold I-CAR Certification for Motor Partner Repairers. This training will take approximately 24 months for partners to complete and is currently being rolled out progressively state by state.

The company said the certification will further enhance the knowledge of motor partner repairers and give customers more peace of mind that their vehicle is being repaired to the highest quality standard by a repairer with the highest possible accreditation in Australia.

The I-CAR programme complements the range of initiatives IAG has put in place to ensure quality of repairs, including the 10 Point Quality Repair Plan, Partner Repairer National Standards, and IAG’s attainment of I-CAR Gold Class Insurer status.

IAG said it is also using the latest technology to help its customers recover from incidents as quickly as possible.

“We are using drones which allow us to more quickly and safely assess a property after a fire, storm or flood. This means we can get the claim process underway for our customer as quickly as possible,” Fitzpatrick said.

To view the report, visit www.iag.com.au.

Car Craft Opens Office In Victoria

The Car Craft Group has established a base in Victoria with the group opening an office in South Melbourne at the Lakeside Business Centre.

“The Group’s expansion across the country has been at a steady pace and now that we’ve a put a flag in the ground here, it shows the Group’s focus of supporting local businesses with a local presence,” said Car Craft Victoria’s Darren Curry.

“The Group’s expansion across Australia continues in all states. Currently with 98 repairers being part of the network, it reinforces the Group’s philosophy of the independent repairer being stronger if they are part of a network like Car Craft.”

Car Craft General Manager, Peter McMahon, said: “While we’ve been speaking with repairers in Victoria about the benefits of being part of a network of likeminded business owners, we were very active in looking for the right location to establish our footprint and now being in the South Melbourne area allows us to not only reach business owners, but puts us in the middle of (the) St Kilda road business district.”

Axalta Launches Planning Course For Productivity And Efficiencies In ANZ

Axalta Coatings Systems is now offering an I-CAR® approved Repair Planning Course designed to enable estimators and repair planners to write a thorough damage estimate. The Repair Planning course from Axalta Services, will enable participating customers to walk away with an in-depth understanding of how to improve bodyshop front end processes that will not only help to improve business efficiencies and productivity but will ultimately translate into happier car owners and insurance partners.

Gone are the days when you could visually inspect a car and give a rough estimate of the damage and it would be close to the mark. Today, vehicles are highly sophisticated in design and electronics, substrates are more complex, as are the coatings and repair processes needed to get the car looking as good as it did when it left the factory. It is therefore imperative to provide a detailed analysis of the vehicle’s damage and accompanying documentation to avoid encountering cost and time crippling stoppages and, if applicable, reactive supplements.

The Repair Planning course (also known as Blue Printing) will show bodyshops how to do this effectively by helping them think through the repair not the damage. Aiming to review ALL the facts of the accident, bodyshop technicians will be able to identify the areas that need focus, with a full 100 per cent tear down of the damage area. This ensures all damage is highlighted, assessed and well documented and the repair methods comply with OEM procedures.

The course highlights these simple steps to allow bodyshop team members and insurance partners to have a clear understanding of the actual damage and what needs to be done before the job is even started. Not only will they be shown how to deliver a complete estimate of the damage but there will be no surprises during the repair process. Say goodbye to wasted technician time, increased estimator workload, excessive written supplements and production inefficiencies. And of course, the dreaded last minute missing part problem.

“It is not about how long a technician is working on the job, it’s the number of times that the job stops due to unforeseen damage or missing parts that plays a critical role in the final costing of the job,” explained Robin Taylor, Axalta Services Manager. “The Repair Planning Course will show the technician how to conduct a meticulous tear down, making sure everything needed to make a job run smoothly is there from the start. Cars will be processed faster, leading to productivity increases that translate into great profitability for the bodyshop. It is a win-win for the bodyshop, their insurance partner and of course the car owner.”

The 2018 dates for Axalta’s Repair Planning course are as follows:

  • Queensland – 11 April
  • South Australia – 17 April
  • Western Australia – 9 May
  • Victoria – 23 May
  • New South Wales – 30 May

Axalta’s Training Alliance with I-CAR means that upon completion of the Repair Planning course you will be awarded credit hours that can be applied towards I-CAR Gold Class Professionals, Platinum Individual designations, or be used to meet role‑relevant annual training requirements.

Full details on Axalta Services and the latest courses available can be found at www.axalta.com.au/AxaltaServices.

Car Craft Becomes I-CAR Platinum Sponsor

Car Craft increased its corporate involvement with I-CAR Australia by raising its membership status and becoming a Platinum Member, signalling its support for further professional industry development.

“The growth of Car Craft and the commitment to providing a consistent standard across their organisation nationally is welcomed and places their repairers amongst the leaders of the industry today,” said I-CAR Australia CEO Mark Czvitkovits.

“I-CAR provides the industry’s own accreditation programme for ongoing training and education across all roles in the industry. The increased support of Car Craft to the I-CAR vision is a valued commitment and will assist I-CAR in achieving the important goals that underpin the I-CAR position in the collision industry in Australia.”

Car Craft General Manager Peter McMahon added: “As a long-term supporter of I-CAR and of AMBRA shop grading, the board took the easy decision to increase our support of I-CAR Australia. The support we have received from the team at I-CAR has made our acceleration in training requirements an easy transition, from the latest vehicle technical information to liaising with local training bodies to meet our demand for welding certification, even the virtual courses have helped us meet demand.”

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.