In recent months the organization National Associates for Safe Auto Glass Replacements, Inc. (NAFSAGR) has become visible at industry events. According to organizers, the group promises to instigate a class action lawsuit utilizing federal racketeering laws (RICO) to combat the forces it says are destroying the auto glass business.
"NAFSAGR is preparing its federal complaint, to be filed in the immediate future," said its president Vince Salluzo on the organization's website on April 9. Salluzo ran a glass shop for two years in upstate New York before founding NAFSAGR. He said when he entered the business, he was "astounded" by the widespread knowledge of unsafe practices in repair and replacement. "Next thing I know, my business is dwindling and unless I'm ready to allow networks to come in and dictate a price to me . . I'm cut out of the market," Salluzo said during an interview with USGlass magazine in May. "The end game became when my business went from four-to-five windshields a day to ten a month, and I closed that business because I am just not going to do it that way."
But questions have been raised about the organization's effectiveness and its legal status. NAFSAGR was involved with the recent failed litigation in New York State (see USGlass, May 1998, page 62) that had sought to promulgate regulations for auto glass repair and replacement. Though disappointed with this setback, Salluzo feels that litigation is the only vehicle to combat the large networks. "I don't see anyone in our industry beyond NAFSAGR saying okay, guys, you want to play hardball, you're breaking the law, let's see what the federal courts have to say,'" he said. "We are going to do that this summer."
Though its legal name is "National Associates for Safe Auto Glass Replacements, Inc.," Salluzo has also identified the organization as the "National Association for Safe Auto Glass Replacements." And, USGlass magazine has learned, NAFSAGR is organized as a for-profit corporation in New York State, according to the State's Office of the Corporation Counsel there.
When asked why a for-profit corporation would be soliciting donations, Salluzo said "I've gone out and spoken in eight, ten, 11 states. I have received donations from 23 states--consulting fees if you will." He also confirmed that he does receive a salary from the organization. "From the beginning, I said to these people that I needed a salary and they agreed to it.
Salluzo says the for-profit status is a result of red tape. "When we set it up . . . I said I want to go not-for-profit and (our attorney) said . . . it's much more structured and much more difficult and it's going to cost you five times the amount of money, so just for the time being go for-profit," explained Salluzo.
NAFSAGR has garnered a good bit of support within the industry. "I strongly support the organization," said Dennis Farrell, president of Interlite, a large independent glass distributor based in Bensalem, PA. "They are working to right a wrong and deserve strong support."
Safelite Glass Corporation of Columbus, OH, reported total sales of $483.3 million for 1997, which was an increase of 10.3 percent over its 1996 figure. The companys operating income rose 8.6 percent to $25.8 million, while net income fell from $27.8 million in 1996 to $3.6 million in 1997.
The reduction in net income was primarily a result of the increased interest expense of $20.8 million associated with Safelites recapitalization in 1996, $2.9 million in restructuring charges and a $5.4 million loss on the September 1997 sale of Lear Siegler Holdings Corporation. The company also announced a new program called Repair Medics designed to focus on the sale and performance of high quality mobile and limited in-shop windshield chip and small crack repairs. According to the company, the program, which will put repair technicians on each truck, is designed to supply repair service to customers and to increase repairs for insurance and fleet customers, while also using repair as a means to grow both its repair and replacement business. Repair Medics, who spent the month of April undergoing training on the new repair system, will be dispatched to other major Safelite markets when the venture is proven to be successful in Columbus.
Few changes in Chrysler's glass division, MOPAR, are expected as a result of its merger with Daimler-Benz. Both sides have remained quiet on the details of the merger, but plans call for Daimler-Chrysler to keep its 421,000 employees and two headquarters intact following the $42 billion merger.
RV glass supplier Duncan Systems, Inc. of Elkhart, IN, has projected that it will double its business in 1998 for the fourth consecutive year. To accommodate growth, the company added about 30 employees in 1997 and plans to add 20 more in 1998, while planning to build a 45,000-square-foot office complex and warehouse. Duncan specializes in the needs of recreational vehicles by supplying a large quantity of RV glass, running an RV insurance adjusters school, publishing an RV repair and replacement book and RV repair and replacement services.
There are a number of laws now in state legislatures that could affect the auto glass industry. Among them:
PPG Industries of Pittsburgh, PA, and Laminado O Templado, S.A. De C.V. (CITSA) have introduced automotive sidelites made of laminated glass. According to the companies, the windows provide significant improvements in penetration resistance, acoustical properties and UV absorption.
SFC Sunroofs of Murrieta, CA, has presented its top ten awards to its top producing distributors. The recipients of these awards included Ziebart, Keystone Automotive, ITTCO, Auto Trim Design Network, Cross Country Distributing, Southeast Hatch, WKH Auto Accessory Warehouse and SAGR Products International.
Farmont Skylite of Brighton, MI, has presented a number of its customers with awards for dedication and contributions of sales and marketing efforts for its sunroof product line. Recipients included Najeeb & Hilal H. Al Sulaimani Co., Autobahn, Spade 2 International Company, Pacific Auto Accessories and United Power Sunroof Inc.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has adopted a new amendment that requires modification of the window frames surrounding the windshield windows of certain Fokker F27 Mark 050 series airplanes and installation of reinforcement plates on all window frames in the flight compartment. This amendment is intended to prevent structural degradation of window frames of the flight compartment, which could result in depressurization of the airplane.
A new airworthiness directive has also been adopted that requires inspections of ATR42-200, -300 and -320 airplanes to detect fatigue cracking of windshield frame structure and modification of the windshield frame structure. The directive is in response to the issuance of mandatory continuing airworthiness information by a foreign civil airworthiness authority.
The new Mercedes F200 concept car features specially curved glass on the windshields and doors and a glass roof. The roof, which resembles the pagoda roof of the 1960s and 1970s, makes use of electrochromic technology that darkens the glass at the touch of a button through conductive polymers between the two layers of glass.
In addition to this, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a new sky roof option for the 199 M-Class sport-utility vehicle. The sky roof is an opening of six feet by three feet, which the company says will give both front and rear passengers an open-air feeling. It is comprised of nine steel panels that open by sliding rearward and stacking up like window blinds.
The automotive glass repair and replacement field will have yet another variable with which to deal when General Motors releases its Solar-Ray windshield film antenna. According to the company, a conductive sputtercoat is applied to the inner surface of a laminated windshield and is electrically isolated from the vehicle body to prevent signal interference. The lower film covers 99 percent of the non-darkened area of the windshield and is virtually invisible from inside the vehicle.
Excel Industries, Inc. of Elkhart, IN, has signed an agreement to acquire majority ownership of Schade GmbH of Plettenberg, Germany. Excel will purchase its shares from company insiders for approximately $10 million cash and add approximately $15 million cash to shareholders equity.
AP Technoglass of Elizabethtown, KY, has won the prestigious Excellent Award from Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc. AP Technoglass won the award for fabricated glass in the export category.
Caliber Collision Centers of Irvine, CA, hosted an April discussion on The ABCs of Evolving Automobile Safety to an audience of insurance executives, fleet operators and industry leaders in Yorba Linda, CA. Bill Edmonds, traffic collision reconstruction specialist for Impact General, led the discussion on improvements in auto safety and engineering. Other speakers included Sam Massey of Supplemental Restraint Systems and Joel Timmons of Essex ARG.
Glass Technology of Durango, CO, has eliminated the expiration date on its line of Diamond Clear resins. According to the company, continuing research and development in resin chemistry have made it possible for the resin product to have an unlimited shelf life.
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