Volume 11, Issue 4 - July/August 2009

AGR Reports
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Vitro America Sells AG?Distribution Business

Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) LLC took over Vitro America’s auto glass distribution business, effective June 24, according to information supplied by both companies.

Vitro America will now focus on its “core strength,” the architectural glass and aluminum business, according to communications issued by Vitro.

“Over the years, both [architectural glass and aluminum and automotive replacement glass] have become much more complex, requiring full dedication and commitment by all employees involved in order to maintain continued success,” says Charles Witherington, vice president and general manager of Vitro America, in a statement sent to customers.

He continues, “It has become increasingly difficult to be a leader in both businesses. Therefore, Vitro America has made the decision to exit the auto glass distribution business, and focus our efforts 100 percent in architectural glass and aluminum. We have always viewed the latter as our core strength, and will now be able to commit all personnel and resources to the flat glass business in the future.”

In related news, PGW announced in May that it will close its auto glass fabrication facility in Hawkesbury, Ontario, during the first quarter of 2010, citing the continued decline of North American automotive manufacturing.

Safelite Opens New Call Center and Two New Distribution Facilities
Safelite Auto Glass, a division of Belron US, opened a new call center in Columbus, Ohio, in May, a new distribution center in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in June, and, at press time, was scheduled to open a new western distribution facility in Ontario, Calif., in July.

The new 25,000-square-foot call center is located on the first floor of Safelite’s headquarters.

“We have taken over 40,000 square feet of additional space that we previously did not lease within the building,” says Belron US spokesperson Jenny Cain. “The contact center is 25,000 square feet and the remaining 15,000 square feet allows for expansion of our training facilities and corporate office space.”

The call center will be staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Safelite’s new Pennsylvania distribution center is 44,800 square feet, and will serve as the home base for 95 associates. Company officials say the facility will serve the areas of Northeast Pennsylvania and Central New York, including Syracuse, Watertown and Bighamton. The warehouse holds more than 7,000 windshields and body glass parts for Safelite AutoGlass/Diamond Triumph Glass retail operations and wholesale fulfillment under the Service Auto Glass name.

The company’s newest distribution center, which was scheduled to open on July 15, is in Ontario, Calif. The 282,000-square-foot distribution center will feature compact, fluorescent T5 lighting; motion and daylight sensors; skylights on 5 percent of the roof to allow for natural lighting; rechargeable, energy-efficient electric forklift trucks; motion sensors in office space that turn off lights when offices are empty; motion sensors in bathrooms to conserve water; and corrugated cardboard and wood pallet recycling. It will support the company’s distribution to the states west of the Mississippi River.

The company expects the facility to employ 35 initially and 90 total as volume increases.

The Ontario facility will complement the company’s main distribution center in Enfield, N.C., which also houses its manufacturing operations.


Saint-Gobain France Files Suit Against PGW
Saint-Gobain France filed a lawsuit in June against Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) alleging three counts of patent infringement. In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Saint-Gobain claims that PGW has violated the following patents:

• U.S. Patent 5,368,917, “Acoustic Protective Glazing for a Vehicle,” issued November 29, 1994;

• U.S. Patent 6,821,629, “Soundproofing Laminated Window for Vehicles,” issued November 23, 2004; and

• U.S. Patent 7,121,380, “Soundproofing Laminated Window for Vehicles,” issued October 17, 2006.

Saint-Gobain alleges that PGW “has infringed and is still infringing the ’917, ’629 and ’380 patents by making, selling, using and offering for sale certain automotive glass products such as windshields, windows, sunroofs and the like, which embody the patented inventions.”

Saint-Gobain is seeking a permanent injunction against alleged continued infringement; its damages for the past claimed infringement; increased and treble damages for “willful infringement;” attorneys fees; costs; and “any other relief appropriate under the circumstances.”

Saint-Gobain is represented by the law firm Ashby & Geddes, which is based in Wilmington.

Representatives from PGW had not responded to requests for comment at press time and had not yet filed a response to the complaint.


Belron Reports First-Quarter Growth
Belron S.A. reported growth of 17 percent during the first quarter of 2009, with 12 percent organic growth and 5 percent from acquisitions. The company reported that its total repair and replacement jobs grew by 17 percent.

In Europe, the company reported that it achieved sales growth of around 14 percent, consisting of 18 percent organic growth and 1 percent acquired growth, and offset by an adverse currency impact of 5 percent, due to the weak pound in Great Britain, according to a statement issued by Belron’s parent company, D’Ieteren.

“The sales growth was delivered through increased marketing activities and by maintaining close relationships with insurers and fleet partners,” reads the statement. “The Northern European businesses also benefited from very favorable winter weather conditions compared to 2008.”

The company attributes its acquisition growth in Europe to the purchase of Mobilglass of Denmark in November 2008.

Outside Europe, Belron reports sales growth of around 22 percent, comprising 4 percent organic growth and 12 percent acquired growth. The purchase of Diamond Glass resulted in the growth, the company says.

“In the [United States], the continued investment in marketing activities has enabled the business to grow despite the challenging market conditions,” reads the statement.

Belron also pointed out that it has signed a franchise agreement to open branches in Chile.

The company did not offer specific numbers for the growth reported in monetary figures.

Xinyi Glass to Open Glass R&D Center in Hong Kong
Xinyi Glass Holdings Ltd. is opening a research and development (R&D) center devoted to producing environmentally friendly glass in Hong Kong. One of the center’s focuses will be on developing energy-saving and heat-reflective auto glass products.

“We are setting up the R&D center in Hong Kong because, as a company based in Hong Kong, we hope to be able to fully capitalize on the unique edge of Hong Kong as an international city in alignment with the world to attract local and international talents,” says Yin Yee Lee, chairman of Xinyi Glass. “This move will speed up development of the group, allowing it to develop new energy and energy saving and other environmentally friendly glass products that match the roll out of government policies to promote use of solar energy in China.”


Three Women Allegedly Murdered in Pennsylvania Auto Glass Shop
Three women who worked for Ferguson Auto Glass in Saltsburg, Pa., were found dead afterhours at the company’s headquarters in late April. All three deaths were ruled homicides by the local coroner’s office.

The deceased, Edith Cora Tietge, 81, Kris Lynn Murphy, 43, and Doris Lee Murphy, 69, were reportedly related to Ferguson owner Kevin Murphy. Doris Murphy, Kevin Murphy’s mother, and Tietge were half-sisters, and Kris Murphy was daughter and sister to Doris Murphy and Kevin Murphy, respectively.

Several search warrants have been issued and items obtained from both Murphy’s vehicle and residence and the farm of Murphy’s uncle, Roy Martin, where Murphy says he was feeding cattle on the evening of the murders, according to local news reports. No suspects have been named.

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