Safelite Files Countersuit Against Diamond Triumph
Columbus, Ohio-based Safelite Glass Corp. has filed a counterclaim against Kingston, Pa.-based Diamond Triumph Auto Glass in the anti-steering case filed by the latter company last April (see May/June 2002 AGRR, page 20). According to court documents filed on November 1 in Scranton, Pa., Safelite claims that Diamond Triumph has violated Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, which prohibits making false and misleading descriptions and/or representations of fact “that misrepresent the nature, characteristics and/or qualities of Safelite’s commercial activities.” In addition, Safelite claims that Diamond Triumph has used “false accusations to promote its own services, soliciting commercial relationships between Diamond and Safelite’s insurance clients and potential insurance clients” by writing to Safelite’s insurance clients for information regarding the case. Finally, Safelite also alleges that Diamond Triumph “has made numerous similar false publications to other Safelite insurance clients and others in the auto glass repair and replacement industry.”
Count I of the countersuit concerns “defamation per se,” and Count II claims Diamond Triumph has engaged in federal unfair competition. The company is requesting compensatory damages of more than $75,000, along with a permanent injunction restraining, enjoining and prohibiting Diamond and its agents from communicating with Safelite’s clients and customers.
Safelite also issued a press release the day the suit was filed to explain its rationale behind the
“Defamation includes intentional false communications to others that are designed to damage the business opportunities available to the defamed company and that is exactly what Diamond Triumph Auto Glass has done,” said John Barlow, Safelite president and chief executive officer. “They have represented us as unethical and unlawful ... These baseless attacks on our company are unacceptable in the eyes of the law, and we will not allow them to persist.”
Diamond Triumph chief executive officer Norm Harris said the company stands by its original complaint.
“We were not surprised by Safelite’s counterclaim and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves against their allegations. Truth is always an absolute defense against any claim of defamation and we are confident that our communications to third parties regarding Safelite’s actions have been truthful and accurate,” Harris said. “We have refrained from making any public statements regarding details of the lawsuit and we intend to continue that practice. We feel that the courts are the proper forum in which to address these matters. However, we have felt that from the beginning of this lawsuit that our claims are righteous and that we will prevail in this action, and we continue to hold that belief.”
Nearly 100 Shops Sign Up to Be Accredited in the First Month
The Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards Council (AGRSS) officially began taking registrations November 1, 2002, and as of November 30 had registered 87 businesses, according to Carl Tompkins, chairperson of the AGRSS credentialing committee.
“We’re well under way on the credentialing process,” Tompkins said. “We’re just working on getting the word out.”
Tompkins added that so far a diverse range of businesses, both large and small and in a variety of locations, have signed up to register themselves as adhering to the AGRSS standard.
The credentialing program was unveiled on November 1. Through the credentialing program, auto glass businesses can register via AGRSS to show to customers and other businesses that they adhere to the AGRSS standard. In return, registered businesses can receive a variety of AGRSS marketing materials to use in their shops.
Those interested in registering can download a registration form at www.agrss.org, or can write Rick Church, the AGRSS registrar, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800 Roosevelt Road Building C, Suite 20 Glen Ellyn, IL 60137.
PPG Canada Inc. Decides Not to Appeal Anti-Dumping Case
PPG Canada Inc., which is based in Oshawa, Ontario, has announced that it will not appeal the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) decision regarding allegedly dumped Chinese automotive replacement glass. On July 31, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency found that nearly half of Chinese windshields were dumped with a weighted average margin of dumping more than 20 percent; however, on August 30, the CITT concluded that the dumping of Chinese windshields had not caused material injury and was not threatening to cause material injury to the Canadian industry. PPG had announced that the company would appeal the decision, but on October 3, decided against it, according to Russ Rutherford, director of sales and distribution, auto glass replacement Canadian Glass Group.
“While we are disappointed with the decision, PPG has decided not to file an application for judicial review because we are deferring to the CITT’s finding that windshield imports from China will continue to enter Canada at volumes comparable to those of today,” Rutherford said.
However, Rutherford added that PPG Canada would continue to monitor Chinese imports and the impact of the American anti-dumping duties on the Canadian markets.
“If Chinese windshield imports do not continue to enter Canada at volumes comparable to those of today, safeguard measures may be warranted,” he said.
|Minnesota Fines State Farm $775,000 for Auto Glass Charges and Other Allegations
A Minnesota judge issued a fine of $775,000 to State Farm Insurance on December 4, and said that the Bloomington, Ill.-based company must change its practices within the state.
State Farm did not admit to any of the original charges of the Minnesota Commerce Department (MCD), which had alleged that the company had underpaid auto glass replacement companies in the state and had “limited the ability of its policyholders to choose their own glass vendor.”
In addition to the $750,000 fine, the company must pay auto glass shops more than its standard rate for future claims (and those received since July 27, 2001) and insist that its customers have a choice in where to have their windshields repaired and/or replaced.
The MCD spent nearly 18 months investigating the allegations against State Farm and, according to commerce commissioner Jim Bernstein, the company had allegedly committed all of the unethical business practices named in the original filing. Other allegations charged that State Farm had unfairly placed a surcharge on homeowners insurance policies for any home more than 40 years old and that the company had pressured medical practitioners to change opinions about injuries suffered in auto accidents to reduce the cost of paying claims.
“I think that some individuals at State Farm made some bad decisions, and I think there was a little greed here,” Bernstein said. “There’s no accident here. There’s no coincidence.”
In addition to these fines and retributions, State Farm also agreed to pay $200,000 in civil penalties and investigative costs.
Lee Smiertelny, a claims manager for State Farm, said the settlement was a compromise it agreed to in an effort to move forward in its relationship with the MCD “so [it] can best serve Minnesota insurance consumers.”
Jack Morris Auto Glass Works to ReplaceTornado-Broken Glass
When the numerous tornadoes and storms swept through Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Ohio late on the night of November 11 and early on the morning of November 12, buildings were torn down, roofs were ripped off and lots of glass was broken. Much of the broken glass was auto glass and employees of Memphis, Tenn.-based Jack Morris Auto Glass worked nonstop after the storms to repair the damage. The company even set up an emergency site on the campus of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., to handle the extra volume of work.
“We have set up a remote site on campus with cell phones and emergency lighting and we are steadily taking orders, processing paperwork and installing glass,” said John Morris, chief executive officer, on November 13.
Most of the immediate glass replacement needs were for sidelites, which added to the urgency—along with the fact that many of the students are from out of state.
“The big problem you have is there is a lot of paperwork because you’ve got to coordinate all these claims with insurance companies, and then over half the students are from out of state and that’s creating a little extra headache,” he said. “Then obviously [we have to] make sure we’ve got the right glass and get it in there, not to mention just the sheer volume of all of it.”
In addition to setting up the remote site, approximately ten employees from Jack Morris’s Memphis and Nashville locations traveled to Jackson to help out.
The company’s sister company glass wholesaler, Lewis Auto Glass, also ran trucks three to four times a day between Memphis and Jackson to supply all the glass needed.
While Jackson seems to have been hit the hardest, Rutherford, Tenn., and Marshall’s County, Tenn., also suffered a great deal of damage. Morris said the Nashville location served it with additional help, too.
“Of course, we’re working like crazy to service everyone,” Morris said. “Hopefully the overtime hours we’re having to work, not to mention the wear on tear on us personally, will pay off in the long run with long-term business in the future from these same customers.”
Mainstreet Celebrates Big 2-0
Mainstreet Computers Inc. of Belleville, Mich., recently celebrated its 20th year in business. David Carnahan, president and owner of the company, said he is proud of Mainstreet’s longevity in its time manufacturing and designing software for the glass industry.
“While 20 years in business isn’t unusual for a glass shop, very few software companies have reached the 20-year mark,” Carnahan said. “Even more impressive is the fact that we have maintained the same management team. This gives us an incredible advantage in understanding and meeting the needs of the glass industry.”
DCM Adds E-Van Estimating to Business
The DCM Company, which is based in Elkhart, Ind., has released a new e-Van estimating service, which will allow auto glass shops to estimate the costs of glass parts for vans online. By visiting www.evanestimator.com, shops can quickly register to use the service to find parts online and order them from DCM. Parts include windshields, sidelites, backlites and even the glass clips that are required for certain large van windows. Finally, the website will even display an image of what the requested piece of glass will look like.
Second Person Charged in Chance Murder
The district attorney in Maricopa County, Ariz., has charged a second suspect in the murder and robbery of former Empire Glass Co. owner Rick Chance. Robert Lemke has been accused of first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy, and is being held by authorities in Maricopa County. (See September/October 2002 AGRR, page 48.)
On August 22, Brandi Hungerford was indicted by the Grand Jury and accused of participating in the murder and robbery. She currently is awaiting trial in Maricopa County Superior Court. Hungerford admitted to police that she works as a prostitute and had agreed to meet Chance at the hotel on the night he was murdered.
Chance was found dead on August 9 in a hotel room in Tempe, Ariz.
Barlow Says No Truth to Rumors
Despite speculation that Columbus, Ohio-based Safelite Glass Corp. had plans to purchase Minneapolis-based Harmon Auto Glass, John Barlow, president and chief executive officer for Safelite, said there is no truth to the rumor.
“There are no discussions about any acquisition of Harmon by Safelite,” Barlow told AGRR. “Our industry is speculating again ... [The rumor] is totally inaccurate.”
Dow/Essex Introduces Marketing Program for Auto Retailers
Dayton, Ohio-based Dow Automotive/Essex ARG has designed a marketing support program to assist its customers in marketing their auto glass shops. According to Dow, The BETAPRO™ marketing tools program includes professional ads targeted to the consumer. The ads convey the importance of using properly trained technicians and the right adhesives.
All an auto glass shop has to do is add its name, address, phone number and logo to the newspaper, Yellow Pages and radio commercials and then contact its local media representative to place the ad.
Vitro and AFG Team to Produce Float Glass
Vitro Plan, a subsidiary of Vitro, will unite with AFG Industries, a subsidiary of the Japanese Asahi Glass Co., to supply float glass to markets in the United States, Mexico and Canada, according to Internet Securities Inc. Production is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2003.
“Our association with AFG will require funds of approximately $90 million,” said Jose Domeme, general operations vice president for Vitro. “We expect to start restructuring works in the Mexicali plant during the second half of 2002 and the first quarter of 2003.”
Domene said that Vitro’s priority is to reduce its debts, currently at $1.57 billion, the report said.
DialMark Re-establishes Relationship with LYNX and PPG
DialMark, provider of business software for the auto glass industry, has re-established a relationship with PPG Industries and LYNX Services.
“Our staff has worked closely with LYNX Services since 1994 and has great respect for their high technical standards,” said Duane Rogowski, former EDI technical manager for GTS and current director of product development for DialMark. “I see nothing but good times ahead for the relationship.”
DialMark’s product Chame-leonWare™ provides customized business management solutions to glass shops.
Diamon-Fusion Expands to Germany
Diamon-Fusion International Inc. (DFI) reached an exclusive representation agreement with Grossbon-gardt Kommunikation GmbH, A public relations agency representing the aviation, aerospace and high-tech industry, based in Hamburg, Germany. The agreement is for exclusive representation of DFI’s technology in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Auto Glass-Related Companies Named in Fortune 500 List
Fortune magazine recently released its annual ranking of the infamous Fortune 500, based on companies’ 2001 revenues, and several auto glass-related companies made the list.
General Motors, Detroit
Ford Motor, Dearborn, Mich.
State Farm Insurance, Bloomington, Ill.
Allstate, Northbrook, Ill.
AutoNation, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Visteon, Dearborn, Mich.
Liberty Mutual Ins. Group, Boston
USAA Insurance, San Antonio
St. Paul Cos., St. Paul, Minn.
Progressive Insurance, Mayfield Village, Ohio
American Family Ins. Group, Madison, Wis.
WMA Recognizes Equalizer Industries
Round Rock, Texas-based Equalizer Industries Inc. has received a “Standard of Excellence” award for web site design from the Web Marketing Association (WMA) in its 2002 Web Awards. The Web Marketing Association was founded in 1997 to help set a high standard for Internet marketing and corporate web development. The Web Awards is an annual award competition designed to judge corporate web sites against an Internet standard and against peer sites within their industries. This is Equalizer’s fifth consecutive year to receive the award.
Glass Doctor Opens 100th Franchise
Glass Doctor, which is headquartered in Waco, Texas, awarded its 100th franchise to Wes Walker of Opelousas, La., recently. Owner and operator of the local Windshield Specialists for the last nine years, Walker transformed his business into a Glass Doctor franchise in
"I am proud to be part of an innovative and progressive company such as Glass Doctor," Walker said. "It is an opportunity to bring to our area a company in which quality and service are second to none."
"Reaching 100 franchises is a great milestone for any company, and we are honored to give that title to Wes," said Robert Tunmire, president of the company. "He joins a network that is growing in size, strength and brand awareness across the nation, and now Glass Doctor will become the leading glass service in Louisiana, too. The hard work to build a national brand has really paid off."
In addition, the Dwyer Group, parent company of the Glass Doctor franchise, has been named one of America's 100 Fastest-Growing Small Businesses, according to Fortune Small Business magazine.
"We had an amazing year of growth in 2001, and our strength continues to shine," said Dina Dwyer-Owens, president and chief executive officer of the Dwyer Group. 'The Dwyer Group's focus on profits despite the struggling economy has really paid off."
Making the list was no easy task as the magazine reported that current economic conditions made making the list difficult. The list was limited to companies with annual sales of $200 million or less that traded on a major exchange at a stock price of $1 or more.
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