Changes at and to the National Auto Glass Conference

by Brigid O'Leary

Herrera. Oliver. Topping. Bull. Ketcherside. Taylor. They were all there, and Ivan was coming.

There was electricity in the air at the 2004 National Auto Glass Conference & EXPO held in Tampa, Fla., September 9-11, and not all of it was because of the weather.

True, when the show wrapped on Saturday, September 11, the winds were starting to pick up, but that didn’t deter most of those in attendance at the show. In fact, as the final two seminars began—presentations by representatives of National Auto Glass Standards (NAGS) and the Chicago Auto Glass Group (CAGG)—
organizers of the show scrambled to bring in more chairs to accommodate the swelling crowd.

Standing Room Only
Minutes into his presentation of the NAGS rebalancing, Jesse Herrera was interrupted as the folding screen was removed from the room to open up more seating space.

Once order was restored, the presentation went on as planned—until the question-and-answer session began. Though moderator Leo Cyr expressed his intention of letting the questions continue until none remained, it became apparent that the questions would have to be curtailed or chance CAGG not having an opportunity to make its presentation. As it was, the NAGS and CAGG presentations together were originally scheduled to run from 3 – 5 p.m. CAGG didn’t take the podium until 5:30.

Herrera and Bud Oliver of Mitchell/NAGS discussed the upcoming rebalancing that will take place at the beginning of 2005 in detail. They explained what will happen before the rebalancing takes effect and illustrated why they feel the rebalancing will eliminate R-parts. (For more on R-parts, see NAGS Notes on page 14; for more on the Rebalancing, see Balancing Act, page 22.)

The audience was concerned with more than just R-parts, however. Some of the concern stemmed from the activation of the rebalancing.

“What is the expected response on day one, when this goes into effect?” asked one audience member, to which Herrera explained that the changes won’t be instantaneous.

“It won’t happen that day,” he said. “[Changes] will happen 30 to 60 days prior. Insurers are in the process of analyzing [the rebalancing preview information], to understand it before it happens.”

Another member of the audience followed up with the question, “does that mean the preview [has been] determined to be the new pricing system, with a few minor adjustments?”

“We do believe it is fairly representative of where it is going,” Herrera replied. “We’re not 100 percent sure, it may need some tweaks … hence the second preview.”

He did, however, give those audience members who remain wary of the impending rebalancing a sliver of hope. He alluded to the possibility that if the industry wanted more time before the rebalancing took place, it might be postponed. (See AGRReports on page 18.)

Handing out copies of its white paper, CAGG announced that it has had more than 1000 companies formally state their support of the movement since July and specified what the group sees as flaws with the current benchmark.

Looking to bring what it calls “real cost” back into the pricing structure, Carl Ostdiek spoke first for CAGG and explained some of the group’s objectives, which include promoting and implementing a pricing structure that addresses parts and labor as separate issues and reflects what some call “actual competitive market pricing.”

More Than Chit-Chat
The NAGS and CAGG sessions were the most popular seminars at the show by far. The crowd, the largest at any of the seminars over the three days the show took place, stayed to the end to hear what was to be said. As Herrera pointed out they were there “at 3:00 on a Saturday, on September 11, in Florida, during hurricane season, with Hurricane Ivan heading right for the city.”

During the opening session on Thursday evening, National Glass Association (NGA) board chairperson John Heinaman made the formal announcement that the National Auto Glass Conference will move to the spring. It is currently scheduled for May 23-25, 2005 in Minneapolis. 

There were few empty seats at Dave Taylor’s 8 a.m. seminar Friday, wherein he discussed overhead and how to manage the costs associated with it.

Taylor also detailed characteristics to look for when assessing current or future Certified Public Accountants, and the importance of reports and audits.

Jeff Bull of Bull and Associates in Centerville, Ohio, and a member of the AGRSS board of directors, and Leo Cyr, vice president of the NGA’s auto glass division, discussed the industry’s options for exhibiting professionalism. Included in the discussion was the benefits of belonging to independant groups such as the Auto Glass Repair Safety Standard (AGRSS) Council, which created the standard to which all auto glass replacement companies are held. AGRSS registration, he reminded the audience, helps to solidify a professional image and will give consumers more confidence in the shop when they understand what it means. Bull further described how to make consumers aware of AGRSS, using AGRSS patches, plaques, pins and consumer brochures to identify registered companies.

Both men also touched on the efforts members of the industry are making to inform consumers about safe repair and replacement.
Chuck Lloyd of Livgard and Rabuse lectured on short pays, small claims court and working with competitors to brainstorm for solutions to such problems, similar to his presentation at the IGA show in May. (For information on products featured at that trade show, see Showroom on page 38.)

Run Like the Wind
The trade show ended at 3 p.m. on Saturday and much like Cinderella leaving the ball, it was quite apparent when the appointed hour struck. By 3 p.m., the few attendees still on the trade show floor were quickly making their way to the NAGS and CAGG seminars.

The winds of change—for the National Auto Glass Conference, the industry, and thankfully, for Ivan—blew strong that weekend. Not only did Ivan change its course, but the industry now has fewer than eight months to prepare for the next National Auto Glass Conference and fewer months still to prepare for the changes that a NAGS Rebalancing or movements by the CAGG may bring.

Brigid O’Leary is the editor of AGRR magazine.