By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — October 1, 2015 — A collection of some of the news and events from the collision repair industry in the week that was:
– The VW emissions scandal is, apparently, giving the entire auto industry a bad name. Cesare Pozzi, a professor at LUISS University in Rome, was quoted in the big Chinese newspaper, Xinhua, as saying the scandal will have an impact on a number of “guiltless” subjects. “We are talking about one of Europe’s largest carmakers, and the automotive is among the most relevant industries in terms of research and employment,” Pozzi told Xinhua. According to Pozzi the scandal is so big it may hit the whole production chain.
The chairman of Japan’s car manufacturers’ trade group also chimed in on the scandal. Fumihiko Ike, head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association and chairman of Honda Motor Co., told reporters Thursday at a press conference in Tokyo that, “I find it hard to understand how it happened and am disappointed by what they did. This one company … has damaged trust in the auto industry.”
A newspaper in India polled its readers and found that 75 percent thought the entire car industry has been tainted.
There has been some fallout in Canada. VW Canada suspended sales of cars here. That act could hurt the shares of AutoCanada, which was downgraded by Cormack Securities in the wake of the scandal. The publicly-traded company operates auto dealerships across the country, 200 of which offer VW products. Shares had been down as car sales slowed in Alberta as a result of the negative fallout from lower oil prices in that province. This week Scotiabank reiterated their “sector perform” rating on shares in the company.
The scandal comes at a time when the global auto industry was enjoying its best year in a decade. The upturn has been so good the unemployment rate in Detroit touched a 15-year low last month.
– A parks and rec official in Lincoln, Nebraska expressed shock over the illegal dumping of dozens of car bumpers in a parking lot at a local park. The area had long been a target for illegal dumping according to the official, but never like this. Dozens of car bumpers and body panels were scattered in a pair of parking lots over the weekend according to a local media report.
“That’s what makes this one a little bit special, because it’s a high amount and odd stuff,” Matt Mittelstadt, Southwest District Supervisor for Lincoln Parks and Recreation, was quoted as saying. “Obviously, it came from a body shop.”
Police were able to identify the shop through shipping labels found on some of the parts. The owner told police it had hired a man to haul the parts to the landfill. Clearly, the outsourced transporter never made it to the dump. Clean up crews filled two dump trucks with trash.
– Signs that aluminum is emerging as a preferred metal in the auto industry continue to appear. This week the massive aluminum producer Alcoa announced it will split into two independent companies. One organization will focus purely on aluminum production. The other company will concentrate on producing engineered products for the automotive and aerospace industries. The Alcoa brand name will stay with the company that does the mining, refining and aluminum production in 64 plants around the world. The other company has yet to be named. It will operate in 157 locations and will have 43,000 employees focused on providing “high-performance products.” Alcoa expects the split to be complete by the second half of 2016.
– Everyone knows it happens and a UK survey confirms it. A solid number of parents “front” for their children when it comes to buying auto insurance. According to the survey of 1,000 parents of with children of driving age, 9.3 percent admitted to claiming themselves to be the main driver of a car when, in fact, it was their kid driving the car the majority of the time. The main reason cited by parents as the reason they broke the law was to save money.
– The global free trade agreement known as TPP continues to make headlines. It was alleged this week that the car industry in the US buried a report that suggested US cars are less safe than European ones. Apparently, worries that the findings “would hamper negotiations between the two regions” led to the report being buried. The report found that US cars were “particularly unsafe” in the case of front-side collisions. The study was commissioned in 2014 by the Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and was conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the Safer Transportation Research Centre at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was hoped the study would confirm that vehicle safety standards are similar between the two regions, which would have supported the signing of the TPP. When the results were not what was expected, the report was shelved, apparently.
– Drivers in Michigan may soon be able to show proof of auto insurance on their mobile device. The bill allowing the digitization of car insurance was voted into law with unanimous support this past Wednesday. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Aric Nesbitt, was quoted as saying that the initiative “simplifies life” for drivers. The bill would allow for car owners to avoid handing over their digital device to an officer who requests proof of insurance in the course of stop for a traffic offense. Instead officers would require the driver to forward an electronic copy of the certificate so that the officer could “verify its authenticity in a safe setting” (presumably their own patrol car, or later at a police station).
– This story is an immediate classic in the annals of customer care in the auto body industry. When the owner of a Ferrari 360 refused to pay his $30,000 repair bill, the shop owner took the car into the driveway and rammed it into a building so he could return the car to the owner in the condition in which it came into the shop. We understand his feelings, but we’re pretty sure that still counts as willful destruction of property. Nevertheless, we suspect that a lot of our readers have been tempted to do something like this.