Archive for category Auto Glass Networks

20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago today the United States subsidiary of Belron International Ltd. (Belron) operating under the trade name of Windshields America (WA) merged with Joe Kellman’s U.S. Auto Glass (USAG)/Globe Glass & Mirror (GG&M) companies to form a company named Vistar. The second and third largest automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) businesses merged on February 26, 1996. If memory serves me WA had 274 stores in 43 states and the retail arm of Kellman’s two companies, GG&M had approximately 200+ locations in maybe 20+ states. USAG was the network call center arm of the business covering all 50 states. The merger provided Belron with a majority shareholding in Vistar, but management control fell to USAG/GGA. WA had annualized sales at the time of approximately $ 225,000,000+ and USAG/GG&A had annualized sales were approximately $ 200,000,000+ so as one sales totaled $ 425,000,000+ with approximately 500 store locations.

At the same time Safelite Auto Glass (SAG) was the largest AGRR company in the United States both in the number of stores and total sales. SAG had well over 500 stores and sales of approximately $ 500,000,000+. So if you had been able to combine the largest AGRR company together with the second and third largest AGRR company’s sales would have been over approximately $ 925,000,000 in 1996. A very tidy sum by anyone’s measure. The race was on two determine who could become the true market leader in the United States AGRR industry.

Lo and behold just two and one half years later on December 17, 1997 the shareholders of Vistar and SAG decided that they could achieve their market goals better together than apart so they agreed to merge. SAG at the time was owned by the Boston based private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners. When the merger took place Belron received the largest shareholding followed by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Joe Kellman. After the merger Vistar was absorbed by SAG with SAG and Thomas H. Lee Partners holding management control.

As you would expect, when in just 1 year 9 months 21 days the three leading companies in any industry merge, attempting to bring together three distinctly different cultures would be a big challenge. Especially when the largest and smallest shareholders of the new SAG didn’t have management control even though they had considerably more experience in operating AGRR companies than the shareholder with control. I’m not going to delve deeply into what happened next, but the newly formed company lasted just 2 years 5 months 23 days before heading into bankruptcy via a Security and Exchange Commission filing on June 9, 2000. As reported at the time a SAG spokesperson said,

“In papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware Friday, Safelite, based in Columbus, Ohio — with 500 U.S. locations — listed $ 559.2 million in assets and $ 591.4 million in debts. A spokeswoman for closely held Safelite, Dee Uttermohlen, said the Chapter 11 filing was related to a debt-load from an acquisition three years ago–but added that the company has been renegotiating debt with creditors.”1

So with that bit of historical background of the two mergers that took place in 1996 and 1997, along with the fallout from those mergers with the subsequent bankruptcy in 2000; I read with interest the 2015 financial results released by Belgium based D’Iteren n.v., majority shareholder of Belron International (and its subsidiary SAG). SAG’s 2015 sales, as per a SAG press release from February 3, 2016 (follow link), are $ 1,500,000,000 ($ 1.5 BILLION). That certainly sounds like a lot of sales doesn’t it?

Looking back to the total sales of WA plus USAG/GGA plus SAG in 1996 ($ 925,000,000+) and reading the sales that was reported today for SAG (remembering that the company now comprises WA, USAG/GGA and SAG) I found it surprising. Very surprising. DollarTimes.com calculates the value of a dollar in one year and adds the cost of inflation to determine that value to today’s dollar. Using the DollarTimes calculator you will find that $ 1.00 in 1996 would equate to a value of $ 1.54 today. The site shows an annual inflation of 2.18% or a total inflation of 54.09% over the past 20 years. When you calculate the 1996 value of $ 925,000,000, today’s value is worth $ 1,425,313,518. So when you look at SAG’s reported 2015 sales against the 1996 sales you see a real growth of 5.24%.

140908.rebrand

 

There has certainly been a lot that has happened in the AGRR industry in the United States over the past 20 years. While SAG has faced a number of challenges over the past 20 years they have always come out somewhat unscathed. Bankruptcy, legislative issues, what have you they seem to always come out on top. But in real dollar growth they’ve seen a 5.24% increase in sales. Seems small doesn’t it?

But arguably there is a problem if you only look at the growth in sales dollars over the past 20 years. Sales figures really don’t take into consideration calculating the effect of the large increase in windshield repairs that existed in 1996 versus today. Nor does it take into consideration the price compression that was wrought on the industry in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s by the insurance industry. Determining what those two factors have in the calculation of real sales growth is difficult as it requires you to look at both the industry’s and SAG’s 1996 mix of products sales and customer versus that mix today. SAG and Belron unquestionably know what those factors mean to the performance of the company, but I’ll leave that for speculation and debate by you.

In my looking back over the past 20 years I’m taking a positive spin as you can see that today there are competitors both old and new that are busy chasing SAG. Be they local, statewide, regional or national competitors; there are countless companies working hard to take on SAG and its position in the AGRR space. There are AGRR retailers, alliances, networks, collision and glass companies, internet platforms chasing after consumers, insurers and commercial customers alike that need the services that the AGRR industry provides. Competition abounds and although it is always difficult to take the throne from the market leader, you’ve got to continue to try at the local, statewide, regional or national level if you want your company to find success in the industry with you’ve chosen to compete.

So when you look back 20 years ago to today at the AGRR industry and at what the landscape was like then versus what it is like today, what comes to my mind is a joke about a pony attributed to President Ronald Reagan.

“Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked. ‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere.'”

I admit that I’m an eternal optimistic and I always see the pony in the room, but I think that opportunities abound for those who want to take on any leader in any industry. Never give up. Never.
Just sayin’.

 

1. Desert News article titled “Safelite Glass files for bankruptcy after listing $591 million in debts”

2. http://www.tomfishburne.com / http://www.marketcartoonist.com

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Vehicle Miles Driven Improving?

You may have seen statistics recently relating to the increase in miles driven in July 2014 versus July 2013. Seemingly great news for any business in the retail automotive repair industry as miles driven is one of the key drivers that affect the industry and any increase is a positive indicator. As shown on the United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration web site[1],

Travel on all roads and streets changed by 1.5% (4.0 billion vehicle miles) for July 2014 as compared with July 2013.”

Region

Total Travel

Percentage Change

North-East

38.3

0.0

South-Atlantic

55.4

2.4

North-Central

61.1

1.3

South-Gulf

53.4

2.2

West

58.6

1.3

o    Estimated Vehicle-Miles of Travel by Region – July 2014 – (in Billions)

o    Change in Traffic as compared to same month last year.

Great news it would seem. The governmental web site further shows that,

Cumulative Travel for 2014 changed by 0.6% (10.1 billion vehicle miles).

That sounds like continued improvement and more great news for the industry, but perhaps not…..

In the Thursday, September 18, 2014 edition of the USAToday™ a small graph was shown in the USA SNAPSHOTS® section on the front page with the header “USA’s driving stalled” (click link). According to Advisor Perspectives, the organization that provided the information shown on the graph, miles driven in the United States:

 

 “Adjusted for population growth, January to June miles driven this year are down 8.5% since 2007 peak”

 

Down 8.5%! That certainly isn’t great news for automotive retailers. You can read the article titled “Vehicle Miles Driven: A Structural Change in Our Driving Behavior“, that was written by Doug Short for Advisor Perspectives that was the source of the information on the declining number in its entirety by following this link (click here). The article takes an in-depth look at how miles driven are being affected by gasoline prices, changes in driving behavior, the effects of an aging population, unemployment trends and changes in the ways we interact with one another due to ever changing improvements in communication technologies.

 

Miles driven, along with weather and the economy are the three key drivers[2] for the automotive retail industry. How have these three key drivers been affecting your business? Based on Mr. Short’s perspective on miles driven, automotive retailers will have to rely on improvements in the economy and favorable weather to offset a real decrease in miles driven to help drive growth. You’re going to need to take greater advantage of your push and pull marketing strategy to attract customers.


If you have a desire to continue to grow your business (and who wouldn’t) into the future; it would seem advisable to work hard on ways to differentiate and separate yourself from your competitors. The decline in the miles driven has certainly had an effect on volumes to date and will unquestionably continue to influence the automotive retail industry going forward. With declining miles driven the opportunities for replacing or repairing damaged auto glass, for collision repairs, for tire replacements, oil changes, etc. will also obviously continue to decline. It’s critical for smaller retailers to find new ways to attract customers just as the large market leaders aggressively pursue those same customers with name brand awareness campaigns. Now is not the time for complacency.

 

Just sayin’.

 

complacent brands

Courtesy of TomFishburne.com


 

 

 

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Help Wanted: Writer Wanted for Social Media Conversation Page on Auto Glass Repair & Replacement

Hashtags

 

An interesting email hit my inbox on Monday from a company representing Service AutoGlass, a part of Safelite Group, Inc. The email came from Fun Online Corporation which is headquartered in New York, New York. Mike Schoenback  (and his partner Ron Luks) sent the email and it started with,

“Hi David,

I came across your contact information through Glassbytes.com.  Our company (Fun Online Corp) is working with Service AutoGlass®, a national provider of wholesale vehicle glass products and installation materials, to launch a social media conversation page in the fall of 2014.”

So the wholesale division of Safelite wants to interact with its customers via social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, along with numerous other social media sites? The email went on to say,

“We are interested in connecting with a person with good writing skills who has technical experience with auto glass repair and replacement and a familiarity with the industry. We are looking to hire such a person on an ongoing (freelance) basis to respond to posts on the social media page and work with us to develop conversation starters. Experience as a blogger is a big plus. This is a paid position.”

I guess I tick a couple of the boxes they’re looking for. I’ve spent my career in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, I am on some social media sites so I’m familiar with how those work and I blog. Even though it looks like the opportunity is being “outsourced” to Fun Online, the fact that it is a paid position is also great to know. The email ended with,

“I’m writing to see if you may be interested or if you have a colleague who may be interested in this opportunity.  We’re happy to have a phone or email conversation if you’d like more information about this.

Thanks very much!

Mike Schoenbach

Ron Luks”

Their email didn’t mention Safelite, just Service AutoGlass. I replied to let them know that I really appreciated the email letting me know about the opportunity, but I didn’t think I would be an appropriate person for the role they were looking at for a variety of reasons and I guess they didn’t look at some of my blog posts. I replied to Mr. Schoenback explaining that I was pretty sure that Safelite wouldn’t want me to fill the role even if I was interested. That being said I was once a part of Safelite filling a number of positions in the mid to late 1980’s leaving as the regional vice president of New England in late 1989; so I do have some familiarity with the company. I just didn’t think I’d be a good person to help “develop conversation starters” for them at this point in time. I’m sure that I could come up with a few “conversation starters” though. Here are some possibilities:

“If an auto glass replacement somehow slips through the hands of Safelite and you’re lucky enough that the opportunity comes to your company would you consider giving us a call so that we could sell you the part?”

“Here at Service AutoGlass we’re your all-in-one source for products and service, even if Safelite is spending countless millions on television and radio ads and is your biggest competitor. Come on…..give us a call. Won’t you?”

“We know that Pilkington, PGW, Mygrant and other wholesale distributors aren’t in the retail AGRR space installing auto glass in competition with you, but that shouldn’t stop you from giving us a call should it?”

I’m sure that you can come up with a few of your own. I asked a friend in the industry for a social media conversation starter for them and he suggested,

“They say you get what you pay for…. What did you get from us?”

I wished Fun Online success in finding someone to fill the social media role for Safelite…  er’ I meant Service AutoGlass. I found out that they sent the same email to a few other people in the AGRR industry as well. Imagine my disappointment hearing that. Perhaps they contacted you to see if you were interested? If not and you’re interested in the freelance position you can contact Mike and Ron to find out more. The Fun Online web site states:

“At Fun Online Corp. we’re your eyes and ears during business hours, evenings, weekends and holidays. A round-the-clock business infrastructure is expensive and can be a logistical nightmare. We can create a social media team or expand your current team and save you money. You’ll have 100 percent full coverage.”

It seems like a great opportunity.

Just sayin’.

 

 

* Cartoon courtesy of TomFishburne.com/Cartoons

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Hobson’s Choice (a Free Choice or No Choice at All?)

I recently read the argument that attorneys for Safelite Group Inc. (Safelite) made relating to Connecticut’s Public Act-13-67(c) (2) in a glassBYTEs.com article. They argued that,

“it puts appellants Safelite Group Inc. and Safelite Solutions to a Hobson’s choice….”

Hobson’s choice[1] refers to a businessman by the name of Thomas Hobson who ran a livery in Cambridge, England in the 1600’s. Hobson required that every rider asking to hire one of his horses to always take the horse nearest the door. If a patron didn’t want to use that particular horse no other horse could be used. A “take it or leave it” choice. As another source on the origins of the phrase states[2], “A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.” I thought using “Hobson’s choice” in this particular instance an interesting one considering the origins of the term. More on that later.

This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House and ultimately signed by the Governor of the State of Connecticut required that in the handling of any insurance auto glass claim in the State of Connecticut that:

“The act requires that a glass claims representative for an insurance company or its third-party claims administrator, in the initial contact with an insured about automotive glass repair services or glass products, tell the insured something substantially similar to: “You have the right to choose a licensed glass shop where the damage to your motor vehicle will be repaired. If you have a preference, please let us know. ” By law, appraisals and estimates for physical damage claims written on behalf of insurers must have a written notice telling the insured that he or she has the right to choose the shop where the damage will be repaired (CGS § 38a-354).”

Fairly straightforward.

A public radio program called “A Way with Words” talked about Hobson’s choice on one of the program segments. One of the hosts of the radio program, Martha Barnette tells us:

“The phrase Hobson’s choice goes all the way back to 17th-century England. For 50 years, Thomas Hobson ran a stable near Cambridge University. There he rented horses to students. Old Man Hobson was extremely protective of those animals. He rented them out according to a strict rotating system. The most recently ridden horses he kept at the rear of the stable. The more rested ones he kept up front. That meant that when students came to get a horse, Hobson gave them the first one in line—that is, the most rested. He’d let them rent that horse, or none at all.”

Perhaps you see where I was thinking that Hobson’s choice was an interesting phrase for the attorneys to use in their argument. First, Public Act-13-67(c) (2) is a duly enacted Connecticut law so their client really doesn’t get a choice in deciding whether they wish to follow it or not. As is their right, they can dispute the law which is obviously why the company is filing the appeals to the act which provides Connecticut consumers a choice in what company repairs or replaces their damaged auto glass. It’s just that at his stable Hobson didn’t want the same horse(s) being used each time by his patrons. Hobson wanted his patrons to use only the horse(s) that he wanted them to use. You can understand why Hobson wanted to rotate his horses so that each got equal use. Safelite wants Connecticut consumers to only use the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company that Safelite wants them to use. In this case it would appear that Safelite is Hobson.

By enacting Public Act-13-67(c) (2), the State of Connecticut took steps it deemed appropriate to protect consumer choice for residents of the state. There are any number of AGRR companies operating in the State of Connecticut for consumers to use when they sustain auto glass damage. So is it “A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice”? Isn’t it Safelite that is attempting to provide Connecticut consumers with a Hobson’s choice?

Just sayin’.

Take it or leave it

Another example of a Hobson’s choice would be from Henry Ford’s book titled My Life and Work and written in 1922 referencing options available for the Model T Ford.

Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

 

[1] Merriam-Webster.com meaning of Hobson’s choice

[2] Wikipedia.org description of Hobson’s choice

Other sources:

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/07302014SafeliteLettertoCourt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson’s_choice

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobson’s%20choice

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Road Trip

A few weeks ago we decided to take a road trip. The trip has taken us through Indiana, Michigan, Canada, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and now onto South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and then back to Illinois. We could add a couple of other states to the trip. It has been a great road trip. Besides keeping my eyes on the road I also kept an eye out looking for windshields in need of repair or replacement as I have since I entered the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. I was also looking for mobile auto glass vehicles along the way.

Road_Signs2

In an article titled “April Miles Driven Increases” that appeared in glassBYTEs.com last week, the web site reported that there was an overall 1.8% increase in miles driven in 2014 versus 2013. Only the Northeast reported fewer miles driven. Based on our experience, the number of vehicles of all types on the road has been pretty amazing. We’ve encountered very heavy traffic everywhere we’ve been so far and, since one of the three key drivers for the AGRR industry is miles driven (the weather and the economy the other two), perhaps this is another good sign for glass breakage and future business….at least in the states visited on this road trip.

I’ve spoken with a number of people who either own or work for AGRR retail and wholesale companies; regardless of the area in the country in which they compete, each says business has been great this year! In other road trips over the past few years there have always been a plethora of windshields in need of repair or replacement on the drive, along with countless plastic and tape wrapped broken door, quarter or back glasses (the “do nothings” – those who break glass and don’t repair or replace it). On this road trip I have been surprised to see very few broken windshields or taped up door, quarter or back glasses. Hopefully this is a sign that people are repairing or replacing glass when it breaks.

I saw the first AGRR mobile van on the road trip in Canada – a Speedy Glass van (I was the President and CEO of Belron Canada in the late 90’s and early 00’s). I didn’t see my next mobile van until I saw a Tiny & Sons Auto Glass mobile van in Massachusetts. I have driven by a number of glass shops on the road trip (and stopped by a few) and I didn’t see any mobile vans parked at the shops so I assumed (hoped) that each was busy doing mobile replacements. I’m in North Carolina now and I haven’t seen any more mobile vans. Odd I think as I see them in Chicago all the time.

After the strong winter season across much of the country we experienced some “Wind at our Backs” which was discussed in previous posts. Perhaps with a steady increase in year-on-year miles driven, and if the economy will come out of the doldrums we will see some positives for the AGRR industry. You still have to have to figure out how to deal with the big guys increasing market share and the brand recognition programs in play. If this year’s weather provided and continues to provide AGRR opportunities, if the miles driven continues to grow providing further opportunities and if the economy going forward gains strength and provides further opportunities; you’ve got something to work with. Not always easy I understand, but if it was easy you’d have a lot more competitors to deal with. You just need to continue to figure out what you can do to push and pull consumers to your business.

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Disruption Innovation in Business

 

Clayton Christensen developed his disruption innovation theory studying the computer industry. Disruption in virtually any industry will determine winners and losers in business. If you visit the Christensen Institute web site you’ll read that:

“The theory explains the phenomenon by which an innovation transforms an existing market or sector by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability where complication and high cost are the status quo. Initially, a disruptive innovation is formed in a niche market that may appear unattractive or inconsequential to industry incumbents, but eventually the new product or idea completely redefines the industry.”[1]

Image

Courtesy of TomFishburne.com

At the annual Code Conference held at the Terranea Resort, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California that brings together some of the world’s geekiest folks; Google’s Sergey Brin debuted Google’s driver-less car (link). These cars were designed without a dashboard, steering wheel or a brake pedal. Why? A driverless car doesn’t need any of those accessories in the cars of the future as seen by the visionaries at Google. Could this be an example of “disruptive innovation” that could affect multiple industries?

This Google designed driver-less vehicle is very different from the self-driving vehicles that Google equipped with the driver-less technology installed on the Toyota or Lexus models that Google first began using. The initial self-driving cars Google used were off –the-lot models made by original equipment manufacturers so each came equipped with a dashboard with all of the typical accessories you’d expect to find both on and under the dash. But this new Google car comes without many of the accessories deemed required, up until now, and Google added a few other things that you will find disruptive long-term. It evidently is equipped with a flexible plastic windshield.

The car can only top out at 25 miles per hour and you’re not going to be seeing it on the highways anytime soon, but nonetheless with Google behind it one can only assume that the company’s long-term goal is to dramatically change driving habits. Will this technology be successful in disrupting the car industry? It would take time and a lot of treasure, both human and monetary. Google certainly has the wherewithal to attract the best and brightest to make this project a reality and money isn’t an issue.

Experts believe a self-driving car will make driving safer. Imagine that you can text or talk on your phone to your heart’s content as you won’t need to be concerned about distractions. Human driving errors should be greatly reduced if all the other cars around you are interconnected resulting in greater safety. Older drivers would have more freedom which would be good for them and great for everyone else concerned about grandma and granddad getting behind the wheel. Disabled drivers would also gain new freedom to rely on themselves versus others. An EY Automotive study says that autos with Autonomous Vehicle Technology will surge from 4% in 2025 to 75% by 2035.

There are going to be winners and losers as self-driving cars gain traction in the coming years. What will greater safety and independence for everyone mean to the insurance industry and all of those in claims departments today if the number of accidents drops? To the collision and automotive parts repair industry? To the rental car industry? To the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry? To the trucking industry? Countless industries will be affected. There’s going to be a lot of businesses that will rise and fall with this disruptive innovation and a lot of people at risk of losing their current job in an industry affected by the self-driving car.

There will probably be a day when those who want to drive their own cars could be viewed similarly as today’s drunk driver or someone that is texting as they are putting self-driving car riders at risk.

What will the likely outcome be if Google’s self-driving cars become a “disruptive innovation” and disrupt car manufacturers, the transportation industry as a whole and change the habits of the driving public in the years to come? We’ll have to wait to see.

So is there something a company or companies are doing today (or will be doing) in the AGRR industry that is (or will) disrupt the way things operate? Are there innovations that will “completely redefine(s) the AGRR industry”? I think the answer is yes to both questions. There are plenty attempting to disrupt what it is you are doing today and I know that there are those trying to disrupt the future of the industry with new innovations.

Here is another definition of disruption innovation:

“A disruptive innovation[2] is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.”

You probably think we already have enough disrupters in the AGRR industry, but what is your plan going to be if you’re not one of the one’s who has designed or is designing a “disruption innovation” in the industry? Something is certainly coming.

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.christenseninstitute.org/key-concepts/disruptive-innovation-2/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Becoming Somewhat Extraneous

Let’s face it, the National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) List Price™ used in the auto glass replacement (AGR) industry for decades that has a pricing (and parts numbering) mechanism seems to have become extraneous.

Glasslinks.com has information that was detailed on a NAGS™ web site from 1998 that provides the following historical information on the company:

From N.A.G.S. Website of 1998:

National Auto Glass Specifications was founded in 1927 by Madison Tracey who made patterns to cut flat glass for automobiles. He assigned part numbers for these patterns to ‘catalog’ them for his inventory purposes. NAGS Part Numbers were soon adopted as the industry standard to identify glass.

  • The first NAGS glass pattern (#1) was for a 1926 Model K, Series 5, Touring and Roadster Chevrolet.
  • The oldest car for which NAGS has a pattern is a 1915 Touring and Roadster Ford; Pattern #49 is a 2-part (upper and lower) windshield pattern.
  • NAGS first “bent” glass Part Number was #XXX1 for the back glass on a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr
  • The first curved windshield for which there is a NAGS Part Number is #XX22, for a 1941-42 Chrysler.

In the 1940s, curved glass appeared and the pattern business declined. NAGS continued to assign Part Numbers to catalog curved and flat glass and published the ‘NAGS Catalog.’ NAGS also published a chart to ‘calculate’ the price of flat glass.

In the 1950s, manufacturers were in conflict over their published list prices. As a neutral party, NAGS was asked to assign list prices to NAGS part numbers, establishing the NAGS List Price. These list prices reflected the industry practice of discounting and were based on manufacturers’ truckload prices. NAGS started publishing the part numbers with prices, establishing the ‘NAGS Calculator’.

Through the 1980s, NAGS information was available exclusively in print form. There was little change in the industry business practices. In the late 1980s, change started happening quickly as advances in technology produced more curved, tinted and coated parts. Networks began operations and electronic commerce was introduced to the industry.

In 1991, NAGS joined the global information marketplace through its acquisition by Thomson International, a world-wide publishing and information services company, and began development of the GlassMate® Database. Today, this database is used in many ways in support of the Auto Replacement Glass industry; e.g., part identification, inventory management, purchasing, invoicing/billing, EDI, auditing, etc. The vehicle configurations in the database have been adopted as Code Source #474 by the X12 Accredited Standards Committee of the American National Standards Institute.

 

* In 1991 NAGS™ was sold to Mitchell International and Mitchell International was acquired in 2013 by KKR and Co. L.P., a large global private equity investment firm.

When I first entered the AGR industry in the 1970’s the NAGS™ list price was factored by the auto glass truckload discount listing produced by the then leading industry auto glass original equipment and replacement manufacturer. The NAGS™ formula for computing the suggested NAGS™ list price was easily understood by everyone in the industry. As a retailer you could calculate a new NAGS™ list price by using the truckload pricing list that manufacturers provided to retail customers. There was always a lag period between the time the manufacturer provided its current truckload price list and when NAGS™ then published a updated list price schedule making it available to the AGR industry. Life was certainly much simpler then.

With the rise of the “global economy” over the past several decades, the subsequent improvement in quality (certainly debatable) of auto glass manufactured from countries with lower cost from around the world, along with cost cutting achieved by domestic manufacturers; many auto glass parts have become a commodity at the wholesale level. With the mix of manufacturers the long-used NAGS™ formula to determine the list price of NAGS™ parts may have become somewhat outdated. The vaunted formula for determining the NAGS™ list must have greatly changed over the years. It was once a very open and transparent pricing mechanism.

I found an article on glasslinks.com from December 1998 titled “NAGS™ Announces Benchmark Pricing for 1999”. It’s a great article that in detail describes the “Benchmark Pricing” model NAGS™ used when the company reevaluated the list price for auto glass parts (and at the same time made changes to NAGS™ labor hours). According to the article, the revaluation that NAGS™ made reduced the list price for windshields by 68% and tempered by 53%, with NAGS™ labor hours reduced by 20%. The reduction in NAGS™ list price was intended to eliminate the large discounts that retailers were offering to insurance, commercial and cash customers off previous NAGS™ list price schedules. Discounts at the time ran as high as 65+% off the NAGS™ list price schedule with the thought that the revaluation and new re-engineered NAGS™ list price schedule would become the actual price charged by retailers to the retail customer base. That was the idea anyway…. We all know how well that worked out for retailers.

When NAGS™ was sold in 1991 to Mitchell International there was a concern raised by many retailers at the time that the treasured independence of NAGS™ pricing, that was sought out by manufacturers’ in the 1950’s, would be at risk. A major customer of Mitchell International was the insurance industry.

It’s difficult enough to fully understand pricing offered from AGR manufacturers and suppliers to retailers. Pricing is rather fluid, meaning that you receive whatever pricing you can negotiate with manufacturers and/or suppliers and there is no consistency upon what pricing is being offered to retailers. So how does or can NAGS™ have a formula today to determine suggested NAGS™ list price for auto glass parts which can be consistently used across the industry?

In an “open letter” dated May 5, 2014 written to Mitchell International/NAGS and signed by Independent Glass Association President Matt Bailey, the company was asked,

“What are the specific sources that you have collected data from since independent glass retailers and the referenced suppliers have all confirmed wholesale price increases?”

I haven’t heard if Matt received a reply to his question.

The question was a reasonable one and was related to an industry wide 5% +/- price increase put in place by a number of AGR manufacturers/suppliers to retail customers instituted on April 1, 2014. It is difficult to understand how a 5% +/- price increase from AGR manufacturers/suppliers could result in a reported .7% increase in the NAGS™ list price for the top 100 NAGS™ parts as detailed in a glassBYTEs.com™ article titled “NAGS Spring Calculator Released, Average Price Increase of Top 100 is 0.7 Percent” written by Jenna Reed. The article stated,

“The Spring 2014 National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS) International Benchmark Calculator has been released and shows the average price change of top 100 most popular parts was a 0.7 percent increase since the last catalog. The total average price change of top 10 parts was an increase of 0.4 percent.

To view the top 100 parts, click here.

In a comparison from the Winter NAGS Calculator 2014 to the Spring NAGS Calculator 2014, the largest price increase by percentage was on the 2005 Honda Civic windshield (FW02184GGYN), which increased 4.5 percent. To view this analysis of largest price increases by parts among the top 100, click here.

In the same comparison from Winter to Spring, the largest price reduction was on 2012 Ford Escape windshield (DW01684GTYN), which is down 3.07 percent. To view an analysis of the biggest price reduction among the top 100 parts, click here.”

It seems odd doesn’t it that prices from suppliers would go up 5%+/- and the top parts would rise less than 1%.

There are countless retailers that use either a cost plus, flat or tiered pricing models to consumer and commercial/fleet customers adding a “mark-up” to their actual cost of the glass being replaced. Often those prices include both the labor and kit charge required to complete the installation. This provides those that use these models comfort that they have a consistent profit margin to operate under. Networks and TPA’s still use a discount to NAGS™ pricing model to most of their clients.

A group of industry leaders formed The Chicago Auto Glass Group over 10 years ago to address industry pricing. The group worked hard at developing a “white paper” on benchmark pricing and suggested that the AGR industry move to a pricing model they detailed as follows,

“This Guide is intended to serve solely as a recommendation for establishing benchmarks and is in no manner intended to set or determine actual prices for auto glass replacement or to reduce open competition in the local, regional, or national market place.”

You can click on this glassBYTEs.com link to read the entire Chicago Auto Glass Group proposal. The Chicago Auto Glass Group wasn’t successful in pushing the benchmark pricing proposal, but many in the industry viewed the proposal as a positive step in making industry pricing fair to all stakeholders.

AGR industry stakeholders should, on occasion, evaluate the pricing model(s) that they use, discard old or outdated ones and replace them with ones that are relevant. What do you think?

Just Sayin’.

 

 

Reference materials:

   http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/nagsbnch.htm

   http://www.usglassmag.com/AGRR/Backissues/2003/0305/future.htm

   http://www.glassbytes.com/newsNAGSWinter20130114.htm

   http://www.glassbytes.com/2014/05/nags-spring-calculator-released-average-price-increase-of-top-100-is-0-7-percent/

   http://www.glassbytes.com/2013/09/mitchell-international-owner-of-nags-purchased-by-kkr/

   http://www.glasslinks.com/newsinfo/nags_history.htm

   http://www.usglassmag.com/AGRR/Backissues/supplement/NAGSNOTES.htm

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Is it Time for Licensing?

I read an article relating to the Novus Super Session at the organization’s Annual Franchise Conference held last week in Tucson. A representative from one of the networks that operate in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry in the United States attended the conference and discussed industry related issues and ideas. One of the issues discussed related to the responses to survey questions that the network had asked of some number of in-network shops that either are:

    1. required to bill through the network for the insurance or fleet work that these shops do for an insurance company that utilizes this network as an administrator or
    2. shops that are asked by the network to do work on the behalf of the network for an insurance company or fleet account that the network either can’t or doesn’t want their own company owned technicians to do for some reason.

The survey question that the representative said received the most comments related to unlicensed and/or unregistered AGRR shops. The network representative reported that when the survey responders were asked if they would support the regulation of auto glass shops in their states a resounding 74.2% responded with a yes. I think the question relating to regulation of auto glass shops an interesting one and I support the regulation of auto glass shops that do replacements.

When you consider all of the various “services” that are regulated by states, it is inconceivable to me that auto glass replacements (and other automotive repairers) are not. I looked on the web site of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) that oversees and licenses those considered “professionals” by the State of Illinois. There are 237 professions that are regulated by the IDFPR starting first with those who provide “Acupuncture” services. That seems like a profession that should be regulated. If you’re going to have someone perform acupuncture on you, would you want just anyone off the street be allowed to stick needles in you? Probably not. The listing ends with “Veterinary Technician”. The professional listings include some in the medical profession, but not every specialty is listed so if you add every regulated and/or licensed professional’s in the medical field to the list on the web site would be much longer. How does the state you live regulate those they consider professionals? Do you have 237 different professions regulated and/or licensed by your state?

I think it’s interesting that some of the professions that are regulated and/or licensed by the State of Illinois include:

Real Estate Appraiser                                             Athlete Agent

Cemetery Customer Service Employee                    Community Association Manager

Detection of Deception Trainee                                Nail Technician

Shorthand Reporter                                                Timeshare Resale Agent

Understanding that a few of the professions on the truncated list above taken from the IDFPR web site could, for instance, certainly cost you money if you had a bad appraisal via a Real Estate Appraiser, but in all likelihood none of these licensed and/or regulated professions are going to put your life at risk. A faulty windshield installation, on the other hand, could cost you and/or passengers riding in your vehicle serious injury or in a worst case scenario a life.

If you visit the AutoGlassSafetyCouncil.com or SafeWindshields.com site you’ll find a variety of information regarding the importance of windshields in auto glass safety. A question on the SafeWindshield.com site asks:

What role does my windshield play to ensure my safety in an accident?

The windshield provides a significant amount of strength to the structural support in the cabin of the vehicle. For instance, in a front end collision the windshield provides up to 45% of the structural integrity of the cabin of the vehicle and in a rollover, up to 60%.

There should be no dispute regarding the importance of a windshield in ensuring the safety of auto and truck passengers, asking that those who install your windshield to be licensed and/or regulated doesn’t seem unreasonable to me? If in the State of Illinois the state government feels that there is sufficient need to regulate and/or license Nail Technicians, Athletic Agents or Shorthand Reporters, wouldn’t you think that the same state legislature would take a look at various automotive repairs that if not done properly, could cost someone a serious injury or death?

The network representative at the Novus meeting was quoted as saying that for those that the network surveyed:

“By far, the largest problem was unlicensed/unregistered shops.”

You can certainly downplay the network that provided the survey results when asking the question “What was the largest problem in the AGRR industry?” (some might suggest the right answer to the question is the network providing the information is actually the largest problem in the AGRR industry), but is it time to consider the licensing and regulation of the AGRR industry considering the importance of the windshield to occupant safety? Perhaps that licensing or regulation could include adherence and verification of replacements to the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard®. That might be an unpopular position for some, but would it be so bad? As auto glass professionals what are we afraid of?

Just sayin’.

 

AGW 2014 Free Admission

Link to Free Admission Ticket to Auto Glass Week 2014

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Just Sayin’ Blog – A Matter of Fairness

Recently I was forwarded a letter that Safelite Solutions (“Safelite” “SGC Network”) sent to an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) company.  The letter related to work that the company had done for a consumer that happened to be insured with a company for which Safelite manages glass losses. The AGRR company had done a replacement and was required to send the bill for the work that was done for the consumer through Safelite in order to receive payment. The letter that was received started out stating:

“The SGC Network is currently in the process of performing a random fast cure kit Audit.”

The letter went on to state:

“Please fax copies of the work orders/invoices that include the urethane lot stickers. Do not send proof of purchase or receipts. The only acceptable documentation is the urethane lot sticker attached to the invoice or work order. Please forward to ATTN: SGCNetwork at 614-210-9941 within the next three business days.”

Have you seen or received one of these letters? I hadn’t seen one before. What was requested certainly seemed reasonable to me and the company also thought the request was reasonable. The company had the information readily available since the information is required under various sections of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard that is administered by the Auto Glass Safety Council™. What was interesting about the request was that Safelite was taking on the role as an independent 3rd party auditor in asking for the information. Who do you think performs that function when and if Safelite audits its own use of a “fast cure kit”?

Take a minute and look up the word “fairness” on dictionary.com and you’ll find the following:

Noun

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or injustice; 

evenhandedness”

            Adjective

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

            Adverb

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

It’s also interesting to see the word fairness shown via TH!NIKMAP’s Visual Thesaurus®.

 Fairness 2

 

So does it smack of “fairness” that a retail auto glass company that competes for auto glass repairs and replacements in the United States is also given responsibility for performing audits of competing AGRR companies to determine if they are using a “fast cure kit”? It doesn’t seem that Safelite would be the appropriate entity to audit others if you applied the definitions of fairness:

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or 

injustice; evenhandedness”

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

They certainly aren’t “free from bias” and it doesn’t seem as though they would have a strong desire to adhere to the idea of “evenhandedness”. I don’t see how they could be “impartial”. And it would seem impossible that the act of their being the auditor would be accomplished “in a fair way”.

To me it seems to defy logic when the corporate mission of any company must be to grow market share and produce increased value to its shareholders for it to be possible for them to be an independent auditor of others in the industry in which they compete.

Safelite’s company web site states:

We must do what’s right, even when no one’s watching

This means living by our values and being accountable. It is about how we treat our staff, our customers and members of our local community. We reinforce this throughout our corporate structure with legal compliances and ethics training, an employee ethics hotline and numerous channels for feedback and concerns.”

Certainly words any company would be proud to adhere. It seem appropriate to ask “who’s watching” those that are watching us? Do you think that there’s a 3rd party auditor that’s auditing the auditor?

I think you can ask the same question relating to the “pre-inspections of auto glass claims” that was discussed in a glassBYTEs article titled Safelite Solutions Accepts Recognition for Pre-Inspection of Auto Glass Claims” in May of last year. Does that practice seem to smack of “fairness” to you?

As most everyone on the planet knows, Super Bowl XLVIII is coming this Sunday, February 2, 2014 between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. The officiating crew this year is led by veteran referee Terry McAulay. What if for the game this year a crew of Denver Bronco fans is allowed to officiate the game instead of the impartial officials that have been selected by the NFL? If that was allowed to happen how many calls do you think would go Denver’s way? Even the most ardent Bronco fan hoping for a win for their team would see that as both blatantly “unfair” and “unjust” to the Seattle Seahawks team.

So as “A Matter of Fairness”, who thinks that how Safelite operates as an auditor and/or inspector is:

“the state, condition, or quality of being fairor free from bias or 

injustice; evenhandedness”

“free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial”

“in a fair way; correctly: act fair, now!”

Just sayin’.

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Doing the Right Thing Isn’t Always Easy

Whether you are an auto glass shop owner or an auto glass technician working in the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry, following the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard® isn’t easy, nor should it be. The AGRSS® Standard has rules and best practices which requires a higher level of diligence and reporting to be adhered to on the part of both the auto glass company and its technicians. Deciding as a company to fully embrace the standard and fulfill all of its requirements separates your company and your auto glass technicians from other companies which you compete. As a company you make the decision to follow the AGRSS® Standard then take the additional step and join the Auto Glass Safety Council™ as a registered company. Being a registered company requires that you participate in the non-profit organization’s Validation Program. Understand that if you’re a registered company, following the standard tells your customers that you are willing to open yourself to a 3rd party validation and inspection to ensure that you indeed follow the rules of the standard.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I sit on the board of directors of the Auto Glass Safety Council™. The Auto Glass Safety Council™ consists of countless industry members who donate their time and efforts to maintain the standard. They and/or the companies they work for pay for the time and travel required to spend working on behalf of the AGRSS® Standard. No one is paid for the work that they do.

By following the AGRSS® Standard you set yourself apart from others in the industry that’ve chosen not to do so; whether for reasons of profit, lack of knowledge or perhaps that you just don’t care about the safety issues involved. I’m not sure what would cause a company to not follow AGRSS®, but it has to be for one of those reasons. There are 8 deliverables that an auto glass company must adhere to comply with the standard. They are:

For Blog

Adhering to the AGRSS® Standard requires that you follow all 8 of the above deliverables. Does your company follow the standard and the deliverables? How do your customers know that you do?

A number of networks and/or third party administrators (TPA) require that auto glass shops that do replacements on the behalf of network customers replace glass according to the AGRSS® Standard. How is it possible for those networks to know that each replacement is actually performed to the standard? The only way for a network to confirm that every glass replacement is completed according to the standard is to require membership of every glass shop that does work on its behalf. No network or TPA, to my knowledge, requires 100% of the glass companies that do its replacements be members of the Auto Glass Safety Council™ to validate that its members are indeed completing replacements according to the AGRSS® Standard.

There are insurance companies that require auto glass shops that do replacements for their policyholders to complete them according to the AGRSS® standard. But what, if anything, do those companies do to enforce their own requirement? I’m not sure the answer to that question, but I’m not aware of anything more than an auto glass company being required to just say that they do installations according to the AGRSS® standard.

Do insurance companies ask you to install used glass on older cars or on cars involved in collisions? That claim has been made recently and that request is not allowable under the AGRSS® Standard. If asked would you install a used part in a consumer’s car when you can’t determine how it may have originally been installed?

Here are a few questions that are important to ask if you say you follow the standard, but don’t use a 1 to 4 hour fast cure Safe Drive Away-Time (SDAT) urethane:

·         If you’re an auto glass shop that uses a urethane that requires 24 hours or more to provide a SDAT do you actually inform your customer that they can’t drive their car for 24 hours?

·         Do you really think that if your customer is told that the car isn’t safe to drive for 24 hours that they actually will follow your instructions?

·         What do you think happens when you do the installation at their place of work knowing that they will be driving at the end of the day?

If the urethane you’re using requires a specific humidity and/or temperature level to cure properly, do your auto glass technicians have equipment with them that tells them that they are in compliance with the urethane they’re using?

What do you do if you encounter rust when doing an installation? Do you do the repair required to ensure that you comply with the standard? Do you go ahead with a replacement when there is rust damage that must be repaired according to the standard without actually doing all that needs to be done to ensure compliance? Would you walk away from a job if the customer won’t do what is required to fix a rust issue? It’s not easy to follow the AGRSS® standard.

To be sure, to do all that is required to be done by an auto glass company, auto glass technicians that perform the replacements and those who are tasked to keep proper records to execute all of the deliverables of the AGRSS® Standard isn’t easy as I said, but it is certainly achievable by companies and auto glass technicians that care. Fully knowing that a company or network or TPA that professes it follows the standard can certainly be called into question. The only way to know if some company is truly conforming to the standard is to be validated it by an independent 3rd party company.

The standard is a challenge. It is made to be. Validations can only be confirmed by an independent 3rd party organization approved to complete the inspection of an auto glass shop that says it adheres to the standard. To proclaim that you follow the AGRSS® Standard and not also back it up with an independent 3rd party verification would be similar to saying that the Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov has been a rousing success from its rollout on October 1st. The Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov may indeed ultimately provide what some profess that it will provide, but just saying so doesn’t mean that it has or will.

By the way, just because you are a registered company with the Auto Glass Safety Council™ and follow the AGRSS® Standard doesn’t mean that insurance companies or consumers will beat a path to your door. Not yet anyway. Doing the right thing when it comes to ensuring your customers safety should be enough.

There will certainly be those who read this blog who will disagree with me as to the “how” we ensure that consumers are protected when it comes time to having their glass replaced, but ensuring that consumers receive adequate protection when having auto glass replaced should be a concern to us all. That is of course if you care about consumers and the AGRR industry you wish to participate.

Just sayin’.

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