Higher Claims Cost Rattle Insurer

The following statement was said by State Farm Insurance founder George Mecherle in his annual address to State Farm employees in June 1934.

“Automobiles are changing. They employ new materials and different construction methods.  They can attain higher speeds… all of which contribute to higher severity and higher claims costs.”

State Farm was founded by George Mecherle in June, 1922.  From the very beginning, his entire focus, and that of every employee of the company was to sell more policies.  In the first seven years of its existence, State Farm sold over 280,000 auto policies.  Then, the Great Depression hit, and still George and his team pushed hard for more sales and more policies.  It wasn’t until 1934 that his financial people brought George a stark realization – that, for various reasons, loss-payments were starting to exceed new policy sales.  The company was bleeding.  Read the rest of the story in my book, “YesterWreck: The History of the Collision Industry in America.”


The Invention of the “Speedostat?”

People today think that autonomous cars are a completely new phenomenon.  However, the “bones” of autonomous driving, cruise control, was invented in the mid-1950’s by Ralph Teetor, a blind man.  It was first installed in the 1958 Chrysler Imperial. Teetor originally wanted to call his invention a “speedostat.”

Northeast Trade Show

In March, 1977, the first of what would become known as the Northeast Automotive Services Show, or better known as simply, the Northeast Trade Show, is presented by the North Jersey Auto Body Association (NJABA) at the Ramada Inn in Rochelle Park, NJ.  The show is called “Allied Member Night.”   Read more about the history of the show, and other industry shows in YesterWreck: The History of the Collision Repair Industry in America.

Cyclist and Buggy Collide

An unknown cyclist had a narrow escape from serious injury yesterday afternoon by running into a horse and carriage.  The wheelman was going up East Hollis St. at the side of the Crown Hill car. (trolley car running on tracks)  When he reached the corner of Main St. he attempted to run between the car and an approaching horse and carriage.  He misjudged the space between the two and ran under the horse which reared and the rider fell under the front wheels of the carriage.  He escaped with no worse injuries that a badly bruised back.  Both rims and the spokes of his bicycle were wrecked.  The horse attempted to run away but the driver, B.L. Keith soon had the animal under control but not until it had kicked the dashboard out of the carriage.  The cyclist was a stranger to the spectators and he picked up his broken wheels and walked away.  He seemed satisfied that the accident was his own fault and he made no complaint against the driver of the carriage.  Quite a crowd was attracted and many feared for a few seconds that the cyclist had been killed.

It is unknown if an insurance claim was filed by either party… or if the carriage dashboard was repaired.


Early Spray Guns

In 1887, Joseph Binks, a maintenance supervisor for Marshall Field’s department stores is charged with painting the store’s basement walls white – miles and miles of basement walls on several different levels in several different stores.  Painting by hand takes large crew weeks to accomplish.  Seeking a faster way, Binks develops a spray apparatus with paint in a bucket pressurized by a hand pump.  The paint is sprayed out through a wand mechanism with a nozzle, not unlike a devise to spray weed killer today.  It was a success.  Binks would later go on to use his paint sprayer to paint many of the buildings at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  The Exposition, on the scale of a world’s fair, was known as the Great White City, thanks in no small part to Joseph Binks and his now world famous spray guns.  In 1919, Binks developed his first air-powered spray gun as we know them today.

1970 VS 2000

Found in a trade magazine from 2000, this is how industry pundits at the time compared 1970 against 2000.  Do you see any comparisons to 2018?

  • More shops are realizing that there are a number of health hazards encountered by body techs and are taking steps to protect their workers.
  • Electrical work is more complicated and daunting than it was 30 years ago. Many shops now farm out their electrical work to dealerships or shops that know a lot more about it.
  • Because of the complexity of today’s cars, repair information is becoming more and more important.
  • The production pace has changed dramatically. Thirty years ago, owners and managers didn’t push technicians, as long as they worked at a steady and consistent pace.  Today, they are pushed to cut cycle time.
  • Technology is moving forward at an ever-increasing pace. One technician noted that he had to learn more new technology in the last 10 years than he learned in the previous 20.

Can You Bury My Deductible?

In 1966, Mae Harper, a Los Angeles-based collision shop owner and then one of the foremost female authorities on automotive repair had the perfect come-back when customers asked her to “cover” or “bury” their collision repair insurance deductible charge. She told them, “The only man I know who can bury something and get paid for it is a mortician!”

Industry Issues – 1969

In the fall of 1969, in his last magazine column as Auto Body Association of America president, Louis Baffa noted the following problems plaguing the industry:

  • Shortage of Help – For every seven technicians that leave the industry, only two come into the industry. The two that come in are usually entry-level people.
  • Parts – There is an ongoing shortage of parts. What does get delivered to the shop are many-times damaged due to poor packaging and handling.
  • Unqualified Adjusters and Appraisers – Baffa felt that unqualified people should in no way be telling qualified people how to repair a car
  • Unfair Competition – Insurance company-owned body shops and DRP shops (then called “captive” shops) present an unfair advantage
  • Refusal to Pay Proper Charges – Insurance companies were constantly shorting shops for paint costs, materials, towing, storage and the proper hourly rate
  • Inactive State Insurance Boards – In Baffa’s opinion, in many states, the Insurance Board did not protect the vehicle owner. In many cases they, in fact, favor the insurance company.
  • Improper Return on Investment – The profit a shop makes today is not commensurate with the investment made in equipment, tools, training, and experience.
  • Poor Flat-Rate Manuals – Baffa maintains that there is no real basis for the current flat-rate times and they are used as a “Bible” by insurance appraisers.
  • Prevailing Rate – Baffa maintains that the “prevailing” rate is a form of price-fixing by the insurance companies.

Book Progression Update 2/15/18

As of February 15, I have the first draft of the book written, reviewed and minor changes made.  From here I will add whatever new material is provided and work it into the existing text.  As a reminder for anyone wishing to submit historical materials, photos, etc. for inclusion in YesterWreck: The History of the Collision Repair Industry in America, the deadline is April 1, 2018.  from that point I will produce a final draft, then it’s off to the publisher.