Volume 8,  Issue 4                         July/August  2006

AGRReports
breaking news

LEGISLATION

New York Bill Controversy Arises
The effort to enact a consumer choice bill for auto glass in New York has moved forward with the legislation being approved in the Assembly Insurance Committee and advancing to the Codes Committee; but, the move did not occur without controversy as the wording was changed to allow insurance companies to recommend a shop as long as the shop does the replacement to a certain, as yet undefined, standard.

This change came about after a letter was sent to the committee by lawyers for Safelite Glass Corp. saying that enacting the law would be bad for consumers, increase prices for auto replacement work, and add an unnecessary regulatory burden. 

Independent auto glass businesses in the state which have been advocates of the bill say the language change makes the legislation favorable to Safelite and detrimental to independents. 

Prior to the last-minute change, State Assembly Bill A07199 would have prohibited insurance agents from recommending or suggesting a shop to repair or replace damaged auto glass unless “expressly requested” by the insured driver. Additionally, the bill would have authorized the superintendent of insurance to publish “regulations relating to the replacement of automobile glass,” and those regulations have been defined as “at least as stringent as the standards developed by the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS).”

Currently, the language has been changed only in the assembly bill, not the senate bill, Senate Bill S03429.

MANAGEMENT

Fuel Prices Affect AGRR Industry
The $3 gallon of gas, and quite probably the $4 gallon of gas, is not a “fuel crisis,” according to reports in the media, but the new reality of what driving costs for consumers.

For the auto glass replacement and repair industries, this translates into fewer miles driven and a reduction in the number of windshield that will be replaced or repaired. According to some estimates, increased fuel costs have resulted in a 3 percent reduction in the number of miles driven and a 1.8 percent reduction in the number of windshields replaced.

According to a report in The New York Times, Richard Curtin, director of a consumer confidence study at the University of Michigan, said consumers had thought the gas price run-up would be temporary, but “they’re coming to the conclusion that gas prices will be permanently high.” And this will translate into fewer miles driven.

Officials of the Travel Industry Association say a third of all leisure travel takes place during the summer. This season, they project, Americans will take 326 million trips, essentially equal to last year’s 323 million trips. However, it also predicts that trips will be shorter and closer to home.

Another drive-less incentive which is receiving media attention is a reduction in vehicle insurance. Insurance.com recently confirmed that consumers who are driving less because of higher gas prices could be saving money on their insurance.

A recent analysis by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) indicated that drivers could save an average of 5 to 10 percent on their auto insurance rates if they reduced their annual mileage.

COMPANIES

Glass Doctor Franchisees Meet
Glass Doctor®, the chain of full-service auto, home and business glass replacement providers, recently hosted its 25th annual reunion at the Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Ariz. The event brought together franchise owners of Glass Doctor and other subsidiary companies of its parent company, The Dwyer Group®, from across the United States and around the world.

Franchisees and employees representing Glass Doctor met to discuss business trends, the rise in demand for services in the residential and commercial sectors, 2007 advertising and marketing, and franchisees’ achievements.

“This has been a wonderful year, but it’s just the beginning,” said Mark Dawson, president of Glass Doctor. “Reunion is our time to come together as a team and celebrate success and plan for the future.” 

Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 Olympic hockey team, was the keynote speaker. Other highlights of the reunion included seminars on improving business with better accounting practices, customer service and marketing procedures for franchise owners. 

Diamond Triumph Acquires Agents Auto Glass
Diamond Triumph Auto Glass Inc. has acquired Agents Auto Glass, based in Stoughton, Mass. Agents, which had been a 25-year-old family-owned business that does both auto and flat glass, has the single location. 

According to Diamond Triumph’s president Karen Christopher, “Our primary focus will be to learn from Agents in order to build on our existing relationships in the insurance segment. Our plans are to keep the Agents brand and not disrupt the current level of service. This acquisition is another step in showing our full commitment to the Massachusetts market.” 
Doug Boyle, chief executive officer for the Kingston, Pa., based company, added, “Agents customers will benefit by having expanded access and service opportunities. This acquisition provides our customers with three brands to choose from in Massachusetts: Triumph Auto Glass, Settles Glass Co. and Agents Auto Glass.” 

Carla Greco, who served as president of Agents Auto Glass, now has a key sales role for Diamond Triumph Auto Glass. She stated, “I am excited about the opportunity and Diamond Triumph’s commitment to invest in this market. I look forward to continuing to grow the close relationships I have with Agents customers.”

LEGAL

LilBuddy Corporation Dismisses Lawsuit
LilBuddy Corp., headquartered in Sussex, Wis., filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of the suit it had filed earlier against AEGIS Tools International. 

The suit was big industry news at the recent National Auto Glass Conference in Tucson, Ariz., when a judge in the case refused to grant LilBuddy an injunction preventing AEGIS Tools from performing demonstrations of its Solo tool, which is conceptually similar to the LilBuddy tool. Both tools allow a single auto glass replacement technician to set a windshield on a vehicle that is normally considered a job that requires two people to complete it successfully. 

The owners of LilBuddy had filed lawsuits against a number of large industry suppliers including AEGIS Tools, C.R. Laurence, Pilkington, PPG and Sommer & Maca, alleging patent infringement and asking that a judge issue a restraining order to keep those companies from displaying their two-man set devices at the show. The judge declined to do so.

Diamond Triumph, Safelite Hearing Held
At the first open hearing in the three-year-old Diamond Triumph v. Safelite anti-steering case, arguments were heard on each party’s motion for summary judgment. If granted, the action could end the case. After hearings in the day-long event early in June that included testimony by three industry experts, at least one of whom represented Safelite, attorneys for each company presented their arguments supporting each motion.

Both companies said they were pleased with the hearing, according to the formal statements they issued.

Safelite said it was particularly pleased that the court is allowing its motion of summary judgment to continue, stating: “After three years of litigation we’re pleased that the court scheduled a hearing on our motion of summary judgment to dismiss the case. We continue to believe the suit lacks merit and we will continue to vigorously defend our legal position.” 

Diamond Triumph also felt positive about the experience and optimistic about the outcome of the hearing. “The company is extremely satisfied with the hearing today as it had the opportunity to present a portion of evidence in open court. Diamond remains confident that the outcome will be positive for the entire industry. The company awaits the judge’s decision,” its statement said.

Laminated Sidelite Suit Dismissed
A U.S. District Court judge in Dallas has dismissed a suit brought by the owner of a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe that accused General Motors of negligence for having tempered glass installed in the vehicle’s sidelites rather than laminated glass which remains intact when broken.

Chad and Michelle O’Hara, Williamson County, Tex., brought the action in response to an accident in which their 9-year-old daughter’s arm was crushed when the Tahoe rolled over on its side. 

The lawsuit argued that GM should have used laminated glass which would have remained intact keeping the child’s arm inside the vehicle.

INSURANCE

Allstate Revises Pricing Reimbursement
Allstate Insurance recently revised the proposed pricing it offers auto glass shops participating in its Glass Claim Express program, dropping what it’s willing to reimburse to 22 percent off of National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) pricing from 17 percent off NAGS. 


AGRR
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