The Tesla Model S. Consumer Reports recently gave the all-wheel drive version a rating of 103 out of 100.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario -- August 27, 2015 -- A collection of some of the overlooked and interesting news bits from the week that was:

- Let’s hear it for the staying power of publicly traded companies involved in the collision repair sector. This week was a disaster in stock markets. Monday started on a dismal note with the Dow Jones index plunging 1,000 points that morning. For the rest of the week stock markets around the world experienced record amounts of volatility. The plunge in the Dow was the biggest in 75 years. But it’s worth noting that publicly traded companies involved in the collision repair sector held up really well in the storm.

Canadian player, Uni-Select, maintained its value through the blood letting. Stock in the company was trading this week at $58 a share, only $1 off its early August high of $59 a share. The market chaos passed this stock by, which is not a surprise. Investors are showing this stock some real love of late, as they seem to like the new CEO and his acquisition plan. Shares in Uni-Select were trading at just $40 a share this past spring.

Another publicly traded company that managed the chaos well: Boyd Group Income Fund. Units of the fund are currently trading at $61.93, down just a bit from the $63 a share the company was trading at two weeks ago. It’s clear: Investors like the story around the stocks in the collision repair sector.

- Collision repair shop owners in Ontario will want to let their clients know that this coming week, September 1, new, harsher fines for distracted driving come into play. If you’re caught fiddling with your Android behind the wheel it’s going to cost almost $500 and three demerit points off your license. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for bicycles when you’re getting out of your car. The penalty for “dooring” someone is now $365.

- The coming Connected Car Expo in Los Angeles this November will feature a presentation from John Zimmer, the co-founder and President of Lyft, a new Uber-like “ridesharing” platform. The company has raised $1 billion from investors and claims 100,000 drivers on its platform. Will Lyft do to Uber what Uber is doing to existing cab companies? Perhaps.

- Massive US communications company Verizon has just released a new “OnStar”-like service that can be added to any older vehicle. The device, brand name “Hum,” is a dongle that be plugged into a car's onboard diagnostic port. Info is conveyed through a Bluetooth enabled speaker clipped to the visor.

- J.D. Power released a fascinating and controversial report this week that suggests car owners are not using the new digital entertainment devices OEMs have spent billions developing and installing in cars. The day after that report appeared, another report appeared that predicted huge business for “Automotive Infotainment Systems for Passenger Cars.” Exquisite timing. You can read more about the J.D. Power report here. 

- Tesla Motors all-wheel-drive version of the battery-powered Model S, earned a 103 out of a possible 100 in an evaluation by Consumer Reports magazine. How that is even possible is an interesting question. Elon Musk also announced recently he will begin building a proto-type version of a so-called “hyperloop” transit system. Like one of those old pneumatic tube systems that moved messages between offices, the system would create a vacuum and move people across the ocean in, say, an hour. As for the Tesla car, Consumer Reports said the combination of power and efficiency was so “off-the-chart” that the magazine had to redo its ratings methods “to account for the car’s exceptionally strong performance.”

- Boyd Autobody and Glass is running a school supplies donation drive for Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg. The drive is part of the second annual Miles of Smiles program. Anyone in the city is encouraged to drop off supplies at a Boyd location.

The company is also presenting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg with a fully restored 2014 Chrysler Town and Country. The vehicle is being donated by Manitoba Public Insurance. Boyd employees will be restoring it to pre-accident condition.

- You can count on Collision Repair magazine to connect the collision repair industry to the current Canadian election. Canadians, of course, go to the polls this fall. Stephen Harper is desperate to keep his job as a resurgent NDP moves up in the polls, but he has not been helped by the current court case involving his former chief-of-staff, Nigel Wright. It was Wright who made some unseemly payments to Senator Mike Duffy out of his own account.

Wright, of course, was seconded to the Prime Minister’s office from Toronto-based private equity firm, ONEX. The company is run by the extremely rich and very well-connected Torontonian, Gerry Schwartz.  Schwartz’s firm bought up Texas-based collision repair chain Caliber Collision Centers in 2008. Caliber was acquired by ONEX’s ONCAP II fund for $58 million that year. In that deal $26 million came from ONEX. The rest was ponied up by the investors in ONCAP II.

The fund held on to Caliber until November of 2013. At that time the chain of shops was sold for $437 million to the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, OMERS, which is now working with Caliber executives to execute a consolidation strategy in the collision repair space. ONEX took $193 million of that sale price. You can bet Nigel Wright is looking forward to getting back to ONEX and away from the hassles of public life in the government.


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