Volume 33, Number 12, December 1998

USGAuto News

Auto Glass Specialists Open New Headquarters

Auto Glass Specialists has opened a new headquarters in Madison, WI. The company, which moved into its new home in 1997, recently held an open house to showcase the building for approximately 300 attendees.

The company occupies the basement, second, third and fourth floors of the five-story facility. The corporate offices and training rooms and classrooms for the Performance Achievement Group are in the building.

"It offers a state-of-the-art classroom and shop training facility," said Paul Spira of Auto Glass Specialists. "It also has updated telephone and computer connections and a large meeting space area."

The interior features of the building are designed to remind the visitor that Auto Glass Specialists is an auto glass company. There is tempered glass with a cracked center piece for partitions and obscured glass sidelites throughout the building that give the building a distinctive look, while also giving employees a feeling of privacy.

Planning Associates of Madison, WI, designed the building, while Kubala Washhatko Architects of Cedarburg, WI, designed the interior portion of the Auto Glass Specialists’ section in the building.

Carlite Integrated into Visteon Aftermarket

Visteon has folded its Carlite Strategic Business Unit into its Global Aftermarket Operations. The company says integrating its nearly $200 million replacement auto glass business into Visteon Aftermarket Operations will allow it to expand its aftermarket business and open up new distribution channels for other Visteon products.

"Bringing Carlite under the aftermarket umbrella at Visteon allows us to maximize and build on its strengths in order to expand our aftermarket business," said David Peace, director of Visteon’s Global Aftermarket Operations. "Also, this move opens up the possibility of utilizing new distribution channels for other Visteon aftermarket products in the future."

New Auto Glass Trends Emerge

USGlass publisher Debra Levy recently spoke about what the future may hold for the auto glass industry at Glass TEXpo™ ’98 in Houston, TX. In a session titled "The Auto Glass Insurance Interface" she detailed some of the emerging trends that may have implications for the glass industry.

The first item to watch is an increased vigilance by the government against anti-trust actions in the auto glass industry. The latest cases occurred, coincidentally, in Texas when Crafton’s Glass of Lubbock, TX, and A-1 Auto Glass Inc. of Ft. Worth, TX, (see USGlass, October 1998, Industry News) pled guilty to price fixing charges. The cases were the result of the U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation into the AGR industry and proof that glass shops must be aware of the microscope under which they labor.

A reduction in AGR companies is likely to be the result of the battle for survival in an overcrowded market. The audience discussed ways of staying in business, even in the face of tight competition. The concern was that tighter competition is squeezing profits and leading to poor work. One man expressed this fear by saying, "We do not want to become the Wal-Mart of auto glass."

Most in the audience seemed to conclude that service is the way that independent auto glass shops can differentiate themselves from the major players in the market. Along these lines, Levy explained how one independent glass shop found its niche by relating the story of a shop owner in California. When faced with a tightening market, the man focused on servicing high-end vehicles only. He now does no insurance work. Car owners have been drawn to him because of the quality of his work and he has done very well in the process.

With competition tightening, roll-ups are expected to increase. Roll-ups occur when larger independents combine two or three sets of five or six shops together. The consolidation of medium players in the industry is another trend on the horizon.

Other movements are the development of installation standards and alternative certification programs. With no current standard to install aftermarket auto glass, the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards Committee (AGRSS) is currently developing an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard (see story page 99). The new standard could give a shop owner a back-up when customers inquire about installation methods or safety.

The demand for qualified installers is also opening the door for a number of alternative certification programs. Levy also spoke of a program at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Virginia, in which those who successfully complete a glass and glazing course can earn college credit. There are also a number of other certification programs that will soon be accepted by the insurance companies.

Insurance companies, of course, play a role in the future and they, too, are expected to scale down the number of agents they employ. With many insurance companies using call centers instead of the traditional insurance agent, it will be more difficult for glass shops to develop relationships with the agent, the true decision-makers, and less likely that the decision-maker will be the local agent.

Alternative price lists may also be a wave of the future. Levy said a number of larger companies are reviewing some new types of pricing, such as single unit pricing for windshields.

Another trend glass shops need to be aware of is the internationalization of the auto glass industry. Large companies such as Belron, which owns Safelite, have the vast finances to own auto and glass shops all over the world.

Levy’s final trend touches on the strained relationship among insurance companies, glass shops and processing centers. Electronic data interchange (EDI) may move to the internet, a situation that could have a major effect on glass shops because it would eliminate the need for third-party claims processing.

R&D Magazine Awards Invisible Windshield

R&D Magazine has named General Motor’s Solar-Ray windshield film antenna as one the most technologically significant auto innovations of the year. The antenna, which is standard on GM’s minivans, is a form of a "hidden" antenna that appears on the vehicle’s front windshield instead of its decklid or front quarter panel. It was developed by the GM R&D Center, GM Midsize and Luxury Car Group, Delphi Delco Electronics and PPG Industries.

ABRA Expands Auto Glass Operations

ABRA Auto Body and Glass of Brooklyn Center, MN, has expanded in auto glass operations in the Atlanta, GA-area by acquiring Auto Glass Specialists Group, Inc. in Douglasville, GA. The acquisition gives ABRA more than 60 auto glass locations in 14 states. Former Auto Glass Specialists owner Willard Bowen will stay with ABRA as general manager of its Atlanta glass division.

State Farm Lowers Georgia Rates

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company has lowered its overall auto insurance rate level in Georgia by an average of three percent. The company says it is also returning $14.4 million to its Georgia customers in the form of dividends and increasing its discount to customers who have not been in an accident for ten years or more.

Duncan Systems Names European Distributor

Duncan Systems, Inc. of Elkhart, IN, has announced the appointment of German-based TSL Landsberg as its exclusive distributor to continental Europe. TSL Landsberg, which offers services to European RV owners, is the licensed manufacturer of Rockwood Motorhomes and authorized importer of Georgie Boy Motorhomes to Germany.

Quaker State Acquires Rain-X

Irving, TX-based Quaker State Corporation has completed the acquisition of Rain-X brand automotive glass coatings and treatments. The company intends to integrate Rain-X sales, marketing, distribution and operations within its consumer care products business.


USG

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