Posts Tagged third party administrator

The Future in the Automotive Aftermarket Industry

For me, listening to keynote speaker Tony Aquila, CEO of Solera Holdings, Inc. at Auto Glass Week in Baltimore was most interesting. He led Solera’s purchase of LYNX Services, GTS and GLAXIS from owners Pittsburgh Glass Works LLC and PPG Industries, Inc. earlier this year. Tony’s accomplishments are considerable, especially considering that he grew up sweeping floors working in his uncle’s body shop and he has a 9th grade education. You have to be incredibly impressed by the guy.

The “Strategic Focus” web page for the company states, “Solera is the world’s leading provider of software and services to the automobile insurance claims processing industry.” (Link to corporate history) Solera will certainly be changing the world of auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) with innovative software solutions that will simplify the claims handling process surrounding glass repair and replacement. The organization has the potential to affect the way all consumers and influencers ultimately buy AGRR products and services dramatically. Depending upon the vision and direction Solera heads automotive aftermarket parts and service providers, including the auto glass repair and replacement industry (along with the collision repair industry and parts distribution industry) could be in for some big changes. It’s all about taking out market inefficiencies and reducing costs associated with those inefficiencies.

Just look at the AGRR industry. To ensure that service level expectations of the consumer is ultimately met, any software program would need to have access to the real-time inventory level of any supplier or distributor warehouses in the area, the inventory levels of any AGRR shop or technician in the vicinity vying for repairs or replacements, along with the schedules of all technicians available to properly repair or replace the part.

Imagine when an auto glass replacement is required, if it would be possible for the software program to instantly search for the part determining which supplier(s), distributor(s) or AGRR shop(s) has (have) the part in stock; perhaps ranked by cost for the part while finding the best auto glass replacement technician suited to properly install the part; when and where the consumer wants it installed. With that capability you then have to start asking some questions like:

Once the software program has all of the information required to start processing an auto glass replacement, who or what company is directly buying and paying for the part(s) required?

It could be:

  1. The AGRR shop or technician facilitating the replacement or
  2. Maybe the customer’s insurance company or
  3. If it’s a cash job the consumer could pay.

Which of the three above pays for any part required is important to determine the all-in price to be paid for replacement parts, along with the price paid for required installation supplies and labor.

So which organization determines the pricing level for the various scenarios outlined above?

Who is buying and paying for the part and installation supplies required?

Who is paying for the technician to install the part?

Answers to these and many other questions will give you an idea as to where the industry could be heading. There will be changes coming and margins are probably going to change in the AGRR industry in the near future. And probably not for the better.

What is it you’re doing to be prepared for the future?

Just sayin’.

140707.safeisrisky

Courtesy of TomFishburne.com – Marketoonist.com©

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Just Sayin’ Blog – A Matter of Self-Interest or Consumer Choice

Dominos

 

Last June 3, 2013 Dannel Malloy, Governor of the State of Connecticut signed a bill that was passed by Connecticut’s House and Senate the previous month into law. This link to the summary of the act that was first introduced in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee of the Connecticut House states,

“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).”

This law seems to be a reasonable approach to provide and ensure consumer choice to the residents of Connecticut.

As it appears on the State of Connecticut’s General Assembly bill tracking web site the law – Public Act Number 13-67 – states,

 “AN ACT CONCERNING AUTOMOTIVE GLASS WORK.

To require an insurance company doing business in this state, or agent, adjuster or third-party claims administrator for such company to provide additional disclosures to an insured regarding such insured’s right to choose a licensed repair shop or glass shop where such insured’s motor vehicle physical damage or automotive glass work will be performed.”

Again, this language also seems to be a reasonable expectation for residents of the state. Everyone believes that consumer choice is a good thing right?

The signing of the law was reported by number of industry publications (glassBYTEs.com, Autobody News, Automotive Fleet) due to the dramatic effect that it would have when fully enforced on insurance companies claims management programs, as well as automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry players (Harmon Solutions Group, NCS/Netcost Claim Services, TeleGlass/Strategic Claims Services, Gerber National Glass Services, PGW Lynx Services, Safelite Solutions)  that provide network and/or Third Party Administrator (TPA) services to the insurance industry. AGRR networks and/or TPA’s tend to steer business to either company owned stores and/or to affiliated network repair or glass shops that conform to the pricing or service requirements of the network and/or TPA. That has been a long standing business practice of networks and TPA’s and it’s not hard to understand the financial benefit to these companies to continue doing so. The passing and subsequent enforcement of this law requires a pivot away from the long-standing AGRR industry practice of placing the decision of which company provides the repair or replacement into the hands of the consumer needing service and out of the hands of a network and/or TPA that has always been heavily involved in the decision. This also seems to be a positive for consumer choice. Again, everyone believes that consumer choice is a good thing right?

In order to protect its network and TPA business Safelite Group, Inc. and Safelite Solutions LLC (the Plaintiffs-Appellants) have gone to court against GEORGE JEPSEN, in his official capacity as Attorney General for the State of Connecticut and THOMAS LEONARDI, in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Insurance Department (the Defendants-Apelles) in hopes of overturning the law. The law clearly prohibits the steering of Connecticut consumers to specific repair shops by TPA’s and/or auto damage appraisers so one can understand the self-interest involved. Connecticut’s “Department of Consumer Protection” web page states that:

“Ensuring a Fair Marketplace and Safe Products and Services for Consumers”

The purpose of this government department is pretty obvious by its title. Public Act Number 13-67 protects the interests of consumers in the state and their “right to choose”; and the State of Connecticut unquestionably is within its rights to enact such a law, right?

If the State of Connecticut prevails in its defense of the constitutionality of Public Act Number 13-67 through the appeal process, as Safelite continues to fight to overturn the law, the future landscape of networks and/or TPA’s that provide AGRR services to consumers in the state will forever be changed. And if this law stands it will have an effect on the landscape of the AGRR industry in the entire United States. You can be sure that similar consumer protection bills will be introduced in state assembly’s’ across the country. Is that why Safelite is so strongly fighting this law duly enacted by the State of Connecticut?

If you visit the Safelite web site you will find that the company describes Safelite Solutions LLC as providing:

“….complete claims management solutions for the nation’s leading fleet and insurance companies.

The company currently serves as a third-party administrator of auto glass claims for more than 175 insurance and fleet companies, including 19 of the top 30 property and casualty insurance companies. Safelite® Solutions manages a network of approximately 9,000 affiliate providers and operates two national contact centers in Columbus, Ohio and one in Chandler, Arizona.”

The Connecticut law could serve to undermine a business practice that has existed in the AGRR industry since the late 1970’s. The genesis of call centers (a.k.a. a network or TPA) was when Joe Kellman, former owner of Globe Glass & Mirror, visited an auto glass call center facility in Bedford, England operated by Belron’s Autoglass and brought the idea back to the United States starting the U.S. Auto Glass Network. Since then, the impact, influence and control of consumer auto glass losses by networks and/or TPA’s operating in the AGRR industry has continued to grow each and every day. The networks and/or TPA’s obviously work hard to control and steer auto glass repairs and replacements to either company owned stores or to glass companies that agree to join and follow pricing arrangements that benefit the goals of the network and/or TPA. A business practice worth fighting for right?

The State of Connecticut is interested in protecting consumers in the state, who are in need of auto glass repairs or replacements, from being steered by a network and/or TPA. This law seems like a reasonable next step action in a state where those that are engaged in the AGRR industry are required to be licensed by the state (in my last blog I wrote about “Is it Time for Licensing?” in the AGRR industry). The Department of Consumer Protection oversees the licensing flat glass and automotive glass work.

We will have to wait for the appeal process to work its way through the courts to find out if this law stands, is amended or falls. But whether you believe that the law is a positive development for Connecticut consumers or you believe that the law violates free speech in commerce, the fight will continue as the stakes are too high. If the law passes through the appeal process and stands, it could be the tipping of the first domino and could be the beginning of big changes for the AGRR industry.

So where do you stand on Public Act Number 13-67? Are you on the side of consumer choice or on the side of the networks and/or TPA’s? Perhaps it depends on your own self interest.

Just sayin’.

 

Dominos

 

 

Associated Articles and Reference Material:

Zauderer’s Scope (page 589) https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/files/1566-keighley15upajconstl5392012pdf

http://www.autobodynews.com/news/regional-news/northeastern-news/item/7277-connecticut-governor-signs-anti-steering-bill-into-law.html

http://www.nldhlaw.com/content/uploads/2013/07/UpToSpeed_July2013A.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/2014/04/connecticut-officials-file-brief-in-support-of-anti-steering-law-in-appellate-court/

http://www.glassbytes.com/newsConnAutoGlassBillGoestoGov20130523

http://www.glassbytes.com/newsConnecticutSteeringPasses20130606

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/03192014SafeliteSecondCircuitBrief.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/04232014SupplementalIndex.pdf

http://www.glassbytes.com/documents/04232014JepsenBrief.pdf

http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=5072&which_year=2013

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Auto Glass Repair & Replacement Industry Legislation in South Carolina ***UPDATED***

 

I have been following with great interest the legislative initiative that has been taking place over the last two years in South Carolina. HB 4042 is attempting to lay out the rules of engagement for all stakeholders (consumers, auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) companies, third-party administrators (TPA) and insurers) of the AGRR industry in the state. Since HB 4042 was first introduced on April 6, 2011 in the South Carolina House and in the South Carolina Senate on May 24, 2011 the bill has gone through several versions. Now that the bill was passed in its final form by the General Assembly on June 6, 2012, it awaits Governor Nikki Haley’s signature to become law. If the governor signs the bill it will take effect on January 1, 2013.[1]  ***UPDATE*** On June 20, 2012 Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill into law.

The bill as passed is meant to:

TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 39-5-31 SO AS TO MAKE IT AN UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICE FOR A MOTOR VEHICLE GLASS REPAIR BUSINESS THAT ADMINISTERS INSURANCE CLAIMS FOR MOTOR VEHICLE GLASS REPAIRS TO HAVE AN INSURED’S GLASS REPAIR BUSINESS REFERRED TO ITSELF OR TO USE INFORMATION TO SOLICIT BUSINESS.

Legislation typically requires compromise to reach agreement for passage and to be signed into law. The final version of the bill that was passed by the House and Senate chambers of South Carolina last week does just that. When stakeholders attempt to “improve” and influence legislation to provide their constituents their desired goals that they hope the legislation will achieve, legislation is generally weakened from the original version that was presented. That too happened. Is this bill a win win for everyone?

When you read through the bill and try to determine the sum of the parts, it appears that everyone got a little something. If you were a consumer you probably didn’t take any notice of the fight over this bill, but consumers did receive rights and protections to choose the provider they want to use if they file an auto glass loss with their insurance company. When a loss occurs many insured’s are looking for a recommendation as to what AGRR company they should use when they need a glass repair or replacement. If you’re a consumer insured by a direct writer (an insurance company that solicits and services business directly with the public through its own employees rather than through local agents[2]) and you have a glass loss you’re probably going to be directed to the AGRR company recommended by the TPA, even if it results in the TPA’s related AGRR company doing the work. Another positive section of HB 4042 is that when an insured makes a call to their insurance company claims department 1-800 number to report an auto glass loss; and the phone is answered by a TPA, the TPA that answers that call on behalf of the insurer must immediately tell the insured that the TPA is acting on behalf of the insurance company.

If you’re an AGRR company operating in South Carolina you certainly did receive some relief in the bill as there are restrictions on a TPA’s ability to attempt to steer your customer on a 3-way conference call. The bill does come with some reasonable restrictions as to the business practices that AGRR companies must follow when a consumer files a glass damage claim when insured in South Carolina. The bill has a number of important sections that restrict how an AGRR company markets to consumers who have insurance coverage for an AGRR loss. Some of the restrictions will place limits on the sales and marketing methods used by some AGRR companies who compete in South Carolina.

In the bill insurers received new mechanisms to protect its insured’s from those who attempt to improperly influence claims and the bill imposes penalties for those that are found using improper methods as defined by the bill. There is also language in the bill giving insurers the ability to pay only what is “fair and reasonable” for an AGRR claim and insurance companies may inform its insured that the insured could be responsible for paying any cost of an AGRR loss over what the insurer feels is a “fair and reasonable” price. There are additional provisions in the bill that would appear to benefit insurers regarding how auto glass losses are billed in South Carolina. I’ve detailed all of the provisions at the bottom of this blog post. Time will tell whether the insurers are happy with the final version of the bill.

TPA’s may refer an insured with a glass loss to any company that is a member of the TPA’s approved shops (including its own AGRR company) if the insured does not have a provider of choice at the time they file the claim. The TPA can require an inspection of damaged glass prior to replacement, but the inspector cannot refer or attempt to influence who the insured chooses to use for the repair or replacement during the inspection. If the insurer or TPA does not own a ten percent or greater ownership interest in an AGRR company the provisions of the bill do not apply. As with the insurers, TPA’s have a number of new rules that they must follow in the handling of auto glass claims for insured’s in South Carolina. Some TPA’s will have issues with this bill while others may not. A June 4, 2012 article in glassBYTE’s quotes a senior corporate counsel for Safelite as saying,

“We are very pleased with the compromise reached in the South Carolina Senate on HB 4042. We are hopeful that the House will concur and that it will be signed by Governor Haley,” says Brian DiMasi, senior corporate counsel for the company. “In the end, all parties came to the table and worked very hard to address their respective concerns. Safelite has always honored customer choice, and this compromise not only preserves that choice, but protects consumers by addressing the rampant fraud in the vehicle glass industry in South Carolina.”    

While many may have an opposing view to Mr. DiMasi’s comment regarding Safelite having “always honored customer choice”, I was surprised by what he said at the end of his comment where he stated that the bill “protects consumers by addressing the rampant fraud in the vehicle glass industry in South Carolina.” Rampant? Really? The bill certainly offers fraud protection for South Carolinians, but when you look up rampant in the dictionary you’ll find definitions such as “profusely widespread”, an “absence of restraint” and “growing wildly: growing strongly and to a very large size, or spreading uncontrollably”.

Does fraud exist in the AGRR industry? Does fraud exist in South Carolina? Certainly instances of fraud are committed by some in the AGRR industry, but rampant? I think that Mr. DiMasi’s statement is a grossly unfair characterization of the vast majority of AGRR companies that attempt to fairly compete in South Carolina by providing consumers who need auto glass repairs or replacements with excellent AGRR services at “fair and reasonable” prices.

I’m sure that one or more stakeholders see something in South Carolina HB 4042 that turns the advantage their way. With the passing of this bill in South Carolina the battle lines are drawn and there is a panoply of those interested in what’s next. Next year could bring another attempt in South Carolina to gain further advantage for one or more of the stakeholders, but the success that some see with the passing of this bill will help embolden legislative efforts to curb the activities of one or another stakeholder in other states.

Depending upon which side of this debate you support, all should give thoughtful consideration what it is you want. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for,..” as to be sure there are always winners and losers in legislation passed into law and it’s possible that “…you might just get it”, but then again you might not get the outcome you were looking for.

Just sayin’……

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Additional information on HB 4042:

In its final version the legislation provides little wins for all stakeholders.

1.    Consumers get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):

a.    When filing an AGRR claim through their insurance policy the opportunity to choose who they want to do their AGRR claim and they can’t be required to use a particular provider. Both the insurance company and the TPA are covered under this provision.[3]

b.    Insured’s must be informed by the TPA that it is acting on behalf of the insurer and that the insured is not taking directly to their insurance company.[4]

c.    Once the insurer or TPA verifies coverage, both must find out if the insured has a preferred provider of choice for their AGRR claim.[5]

d.   If the insured’s provider of choice IS an approved vendor for the insurance company or TPA, the insurer or TPA must assign the claim and provide a claim number or reference number to the insured’s provider of choice.[6]

e.    If the insured’s provider of choice IS NOT an approved vendor for the insurance company or TPA, the insurer or TPA must confirm that the insured’s provider of choice will perform the required work at the insured’s rate of reimbursement for the work which is “fair and reasonable”. If the provider refuses the “fair and reasonable” reimbursement the insured may be told by the insurer or TPA that the insured is responsible for any amount over the reimbursement rate. The insured must be informed that they can use the provider of choice. The insured must not make statements about the warranty of provider of choice and refer any questions the insured may have regarding any warranty to the insured’s provider of choice.[7]

 

2.    AGRR companies get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):

The right to have an insured use them without interference if the customer chooses them as the provider of choice and they follow the rules laid out in the bill. The rules are:

a.    The AGRR company or anyone remotely associated with them must not:

                                          i.    Threaten, coerce or intimidate the insured into filing a claim;

                                        ii.    Engage in unfair or deceptive practices;

                                       iii.   Induce an insured to file a claim if the damage is insufficient to warrant a repair or replacement;

                                       iv.    Perform a repair or replacement for an insured without the approval of the insurance company;

                             v.   Suggest or represent that the windshield replacement could be free under the insured’s insurance policy or

                   vi. Market or advertise to consumers that could be insured’s who have an AGRR loss in virtually any way that their replacement could possibly be free under their insurance policy. [8]

b.    File a claim on behalf of an insured for a repair or replacement.[9]

c.    The insurer or TPA can require an inspection of the loss if they want by the representative of the TPA the representative cannot offer to repair or make suggestions as to who could do repairs during the inspection.[10]

d.    Violations of this section are subject to the provisions of the South Carolina Insurance Unfair Claim Practices Act.”[11]

e.    Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, the insurer has the right to inform the insured that the insurer will not guarantee the work performed by a provider that is not in the network of the insurer or third party administrator.”[12]

 

3.    Insurers and TPA’s get in the bill (or law if and/or when its signed):

a.  When an insured does not request to have covered glass repair work performed by a specific provider of choice, the insurer or third party administrator may refer the repair to a vehicle glass repairer who is a member of the insurer’s or third party administrator’s preferred network of providers.”[13]

b.   Strictly limits who can file an insurance claim for an AGRR loss.[14]

c.   The insurer or TPA can require an inspection of the loss if they want by the representative of the TPA the representative cannot offer to repair or make suggestions as to who could do repairs during the inspection.[15]

d.    The provisions of this section do not apply to insurers or third party administrators who do not have a ten percent or greater ownership interest in a vehicle glass repair business.”[16]

e.   Violations of this section are subject to the provisions of the South Carolina Insurance Unfair Claim Practices Act.”[17]

f.    Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter, the insurer has the right to inform the insured that the insurer will not guarantee the work performed by a provider that is not in the network of the insurer or third party administrator.”[18]

g.     It is an unlawful practice for anyone that sells, repairs or replaces vehicle glass to:[19]

                                          i.    submit a claim to either an insurer or a TPA if the glass was not damaged prior to the claim being submitted;

                                              ii.    if the services were not provide;

                                          iii.    use a location to bill for the repair or replacement other than the one that the repair or replacement was actually performed in an attempt to charge a higher price,

                                             iv.    have authorization from the insured to do the repair or replacement;

                                              v.    show any date other than the actual date of the repair or replacement or

                                            vi.    make any material misrepresentations related to the repair or replacement.

h.  An AGRR company cannot advise a policyholder to falsely the date of the damage done to a vehicle that needs a repair or replacement.[20]

i.  An AGRR company cannot falsely sign on behalf of the policyholder any document regarding the repair or replacement.[21]

j.  An AGRR company cannot intentionally misrepresent the cost to the policyholder for a repair or replacement or tell the policyholder that the insurance company or TPA has authorized a repair or replacement.[22]

k.   An AGRR company cannot represent to an insured that the repair or replacement will be paid entirely by the insured’s insurance company.[23]

l.     An AGRR company cannot do further damage to the glass that is to be repaired or replaced in order to increase the scope of the repair or replacement or encourage others to do further damage.[24]

m.  An AGRR company must repair or replace the damaged glass back to the pre-loss damage and use approved and customary AGRR techniques.[25]

n.    An AGRR company cannot offer rebates or something of value to the insured who files a glass claim.[26]

o.    An AGRR company cannot misrepresent their relationship with the insured’s insurance company.[27]


[1] SECTION 3. Section 1Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (E)”

[2] As defined by Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary

[3] SECTION 1.  Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(A)”

[4] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(B)”

[5] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(C)”

[6] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(D)”

[7] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(E)”

[8] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(G)”

[9] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(H)”

[10] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(I)”

[11] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(L)”

[12] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(M)”

[13] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(F)”

[14] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(H)”

[15] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(I)”

[16] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(K)”

[17] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(L)”

[18] SECTION 1. Chapter 57, Title 38 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding “Section 38‑57‑75.(M)”

[19] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (A)”

[20] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (B)”

[21] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (C)”

[22] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (D)”

[23] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (E)”

[24] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (F)”

[25] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (G)”

[26] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (H)”

[27] SECTION 2. Chapter 5, Title 39 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 39‑5‑170. (I)”

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Hopes for the New Year

I’m hoping that 2012 turns out to be a great year for those in the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry or if great is too high a bar to set at the very least better than 2011. In my opinion there are few key things that need to happen (and perhaps more than a few) for 2012 to be a great year. I’ve listed some of my hopes for 2012. Perhaps some are on your list as well.

  1.  Our industry is affected by three key business drivers:  weather, the economy and miles driven. Sadly we have no control or influence over any of these so I’m hoping for some luck for 2012.

Weather – I’m hoping to see “good” weather this year. I think you know what the definition of “good” means. For the most part 2011 was a “good” weather year.

In many markets, the AGRR industry and all those affected by it rises or falls depending upon the severity of the winter season which means snow. A severe winter brings increased breakage while a mild winter has the opposite effect. Annual demand obviously can vary considerably based on those weather fluctuations. I have many friends that compete in the snow-belt and at this time of the year they are looking at weather reports day-in and day-out to see when and where that next big snow will be. That snow, of course, has to come in the right amount and at the right time of day for maximum effect and that would be during rush hour. It would be great to see snow come in every other week so that after that big snow there would be sunny weather that follows allowing all those new repairs and replacements to be completed.  If there is no snow, owners/managers are forced to make tough decisions they’d prefer not to make relating to cutting expenses, so please let it snow. Snow brings out plows and salt trucks. If the area you live in still uses gravel or coal or sand, even better. 

Then there is ice. Ice can be even better than snow for the AGRR industry. Then there are cold snaps that can cause star breaks to run out when drivers go out and clean frost off windshields on cold mornings with scrapers or   even better – hot water. And when drivers turn on the defrosters to get rid of frost and warm air hits cold windshields. 

Hail is nice too. Of course not too small that won’t break the glass, but not too big either.  Just the right size will do. Rain isn’t ever really that good for our industry, but if it does rain please let it rain at night.

The Economy – My hope for 2012 is that in the United States and everywhere else in the world the economy becomes robust.  Since 2007 -2008 the economy in the United States obviously has not been robust.  During economic downturns many who experience auto glass breakage – the “do nothings” – delay repairs and/or replacements.  Everyone in the industry hopes that as the economy improves those “do nothings” will replace that broken auto glass.

A fully-employed workforce in the United States would be great. My hope for a robust economy includes the wish that everyone has a great job and that its a great paying one. All those fully employed people should have a car too — actually several cars would be even better. It would be great if all those cars would be fully insured with a zero dollar comprehensive insurance deductible. And, since these are my hopes for 2012, I hope that all those cars are fully insured with an insurance company that doesn’t use Safelite® Solutions as its auto claims administrator (I’m guessing most of you’d agree with me on that one). I hope everyone is going on vacations this year and preferably driving to all the beautiful places there are to visit and see in our great country.

A bad economy requires those competing in the AGRR industry to take an introspective look at their businesses.  That introspective look should include “SWOT” – your strengths and weaknesses versus the opportunities and threats you face. How you deal with SWOT generally determines how successful you’ll be.

Miles Driven – Miles driven are key to auto glass breakage and my hope is that for 2012 gasoline prices remain “low” which will equate to more miles driven by putting more people in their cars and on the road providing more opportunities for drivers to break auto glass.

The total monthly vehicle miles driven have been growing since the federal government started tracking the data. In September 2011 the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Commission released an in-depth Traffic Trend Report. If you follow this link to a graph on miles driven, after hitting a moving 12-month high of 3.039 billion, yes billion miles driven in the rolling 12-months ending in November 2007 the graph shows a down-tick in estimated vehicle miles driven that occurred in 2008 – 2009.  Thankfully the miles driven appear to have somewhat stabilized for now.

But the cost of gasoline is a major influencer relating to total miles driven. On December 18, 2011, a Chicago Sun Times (Chicago Sun Times article) article titled “At gas pump, 2011 was the year of the big squeeze” reported on the annual cost of gasoline for the average American family in 2011. The opening line of the article stated, “It’s been 30 years since gasoline took such a big bite out of the family budget.” The article goes on to report, “the typical American household will have spent $ 4,155 filling up this year, a record.  That is 8.4 percent of what the median family takes in, the highest share since 1981.”  This wasn’t good news for AGRR retailers in 2011. 

On January 6, 2012, a Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times article) article titled “Gasoline prices start the year at a high – and rising” reported on how gasoline prices are starting out this year. The article states, “but this also may be the year of the gas-pocalypse, analysts warn. That’s because gasoline prices are the highest ever for the start of the year, and they’re on the rise, supercharged by expensive oil and changes in refinery operations.” That’s certainly not good news for AGRR retailers looking for 2012 to be a better year than 2011.

The AGRR industry really needs to see lower gasoline prices that will cause a spike in miles driven for its business outlook to improve in 2012. Based on predictions made by Edward Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., on December 22, 2011, on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance Midday” that doesn’t seem likely. If you follow this link Mr. Morse talks about factors affecting the crude oil market and the outlook for oil and gasoline prices. You’ll see that he holds out little hope for “low” gas prices in 2012.  Mr. Morse sees the floor for gasoline prices to be $ 4 by the end of May 2012. That’s certainly not good news for AGRR retailers in 2012.

My hope for 2012 is that gasoline prices are low and miles driven are high. Based on the realities of the marketplace and comments from experts you’d better cross your fingers and say a prayer for that one.

  1.  I’m hoping that in 2012 some entity – some organization or company in the AGRR industry steps up and becomes a leader for the industry. By the way, I’m certainly not suggesting that the “market leader” can assume that role.  I don’t think that’s possible. I am hoping that leadership is shown by someone who really cares about the AGRR industry and the issues that it faces, offering positive ideas for all to improve the valuable services that the industry provides to consumers.
  1. I hope to see fewer imports of auto glass manufactured overseas coming to the United States/North America and the imports that do come to our shores at least be from those companies that are major suppliers of Original Equipment Manufactured auto glass to car manufacturers and not those who primarily make after-market parts.
  1. I hope that every windshield that needs replacing in 2012 is replaced using the Auto Glass Safety Council’s auto glass replacement standard known as the AGRSS® Standard.  The standard is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards development organization.  The AGRSS® Standard (ANSI/AGRSS® 002-2002 Automotive Glass Replacement Standard) is North America’s only auto glass replacement standard and it addresses the proper procedures that must be used by auto glass technicians, along with other company employees who are also important to ensure the safe installation of auto glass.  No other company or organization maintains any standard remotely similar to AGRSS®.  I also hope that replacements are completed using a urethane that provides a 1 hour safe drive away time.  Your customers deserve nothing less.
  1. My final hope is that someone steps up and attempts to compete on a larger scale against the market leader. The industry really needs a strong competitor to Safelite®.  I really don’t care who that is, but come on already.  Somebody step up on the retail or third party administrator side and give them a go.

I hope everyone who competes in the AGRR industry the best of success and luck in 2012.

And finally I’m hoping for a great 2012 for myself.

Just sayin’……..

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