CARSTAR Auto Body Repair Experts is touting its annual conference as “the collision repair industry’s largest MSO network event.”
The conference is scheduled for Aug. 22-25 in Charlotte, home of Driven Brands, which acquired CARSTAR in 2015.
Themed the “1NE CARSTAR,” this year’s CARSTAR Conference will take place at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte as well as the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It will open with a dinner and its annual awards presentation to recognize the top-performing franchisees. Then the event will shift gears to focus on strategic planning, management and technical education sessions, panel discussions, vendor partner networking events, motivational speakers and an insurance industry forum.
“Over the past year, CARSTAR has expanded its presence as the most dynamic company in the collision industry,” said Michael Macaluso, president of CARSTAR North America. “Our conference will reflect this with an event where store owners, business leaders, vendor partners and insurance companies come together to help build the collective industry for the future.
Nissan, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai-Kia and American Honda rode strong demand for trucks in posting solid sales gains in June as the U.S. auto industry rebounded from a May slump.
Industry volume rose 2.4 percent to 1.5 million new cars and light trucks — below most projections. And the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate came in at 16.68 million, below a consensus forecast of 17.2 million, and below the 17.01 million rate in June 2015 and May’s 17.46 million pace.
Nissan Motor Corp. — behind record crossover, truck and SUV deliveries — recorded a 13 percent rise. Fiat Chrysler extended its streak of monthly advances to 75, while Ford volume increased 6.4 percent. General Motors deliveries fell for the fourth time this year, down 1.6 percent, and Toyota Motor Sales volume slipped 5.6 percent, marking the company’s fourth monthly decline this year.
Automakers and analysts are counting on historically low interest rates, stable fuel prices, rising wages and near-full employment to counter some headwinds and continue driving strong auto sales in the second half of the year.
Light trucks, helped by improved fuel economy and low gasoline prices, continue to propel the U.S. market, which set a record in 2015.
“In spite of some severe stock market volatility in June, the American consumer stayed focus on buying new vehicles,” Reid Bigland, senior vice president of sales for FCA North America, said in a statement.
At the Nissan brand, volume rose 13 percent to 129,495 vehicles, setting a June record. Infiniti sales rose 11 percent to 11,058 cars and light trucks.
GM was dragged down by an 8.6 percent drop in deliveries at GMC and a 5.5 percent decline at Buick. Cadillac volume jumped 5.5 percent, while Chevrolet eked out a 0.1 percent sales gain.
The company again shrugged off the decline, pointing to efforts to boost residual values by cutting back on deliveries to daily rental fleets, rein in incentive spending and control inventory levels.
Ford rode another robust month for F-series trucks. F-series sales surged 29 percent to 70,937 trucks. Escape crossover deliveries gained 20 percent to 29,003 vehicles. Lincoln sales rose 5.8 percent to 8,809 vehicles.
FCA US, behind another record for Jeep and generous discounts, saw June deliveries rise 6.5 percent.
Jeep sales jumped 17 percent to 83,691 for a June record. Volume climbed 14 percent at the Ram brand and 3.1 percent at Dodge, but sales slipped 20 percent at the Chrysler brand and 19 percent at Fiat.
Fiat Chrysler’s average new-vehicle incentive in the U.S. rose 21 percent to $4,101 last month, compared with June 2015, TrueCar estimates.
American Honda Motor Co. reported sales of 138,715 for a year-over-year gain of 3.2 percent on record light truck volume for the month. Volume jumped 7.1 percent at the Honda division but slipped 27 percent at Acura.
At Kia Motors America, deliveries rose 16 percent to 62,572 vehicles — a June record. Hyundai also set a June sales record of 67,511 cars and light trucks, for a slight gain.
Sales at Volkswagen slid 22 percent to 23,809, extending the embattled brand’s losing streak to eight straight months. VW has been unable to sell new diesel models since September amid violations of U.S. emissions rules.
Audi of America notched its 66th-straight monthly U.S. sales record in June as deliveries rose 1 percent to 18,445 vehicles on a 29 percent jump in crossover sales. Among other luxury brands, volume rose 3.5 percent at Mercedes-Benz, 23 percent at Land Rover 125 percent at Jaguar and 41 percent at Volvo. At BMW, deliveries slipped for the seventh straight month, falling 10 percent in June to 28,855.
Subaru set a June sales record with volume of 46,598 vehicles, an increase of 5.1 percent and the 55th consecutive month the brand has generated year over year gains.
With increased availability of the Legacy and Outback, Subaru executives expect the brand to finish the year stronger than it performed in the first six months, when volume rose 2.6 percent to 279,458 cars and light trucks.
“We can be very happy with our half-year performance which will set us up well for the second half of 2016,” said Jeff Walters, senior vice president of sales for Subaru of America.
Among major automakers, the average incentive last month rose 8.6 percent to $3,116 from $2,871 in June 2016. BMW dangled the biggest spiffs while Subaru offered the lowest discounts, TrueCar estimates.
Through June, U.S. light-vehicle demand has risen 1.4 percent, though some analysts say prospects for another record year are diminishing amid signs of weakening job growth and Brexit-spooked financial markets.
“There certainly is a higher probability of having a slightly down year than there was a month ago,” Jeff Schuster, an analyst with research firm LMC Automotive, told Bloomberg News this week. “It’s no longer just a leveling off — it’s a potential contraction in the second half of the year.”
Before U.K. citizens voted a week ago to leave the European Union, RBC Capital Markets flipped from predicting 2016 U.S. sales would top last year’s record 17.5 million vehicles to forecasting a 1 percent drop. Bank of America Merrill Lynch lopped its estimate by a half-million vehicles.
The vote in the U.K. triggered a two-day global stock market rout — the kind of event that makes car shoppers less confident about their finances. U.S. equity markets have rebounded this week.
Some analysts also believe a rise in inventories of late-model, off-lease used vehicles could pull shoppers away from new cars and light trucks in coming months.
That rise – powered by an increase in leasing that began about three years ago – is expected to accelerate in the second half and continue for several years.
One of Central Pennsylvania’s newest public-company leaders is poised to become one of the region’s newest residents.
Don Maier is president and CEO of Armstrong Flooring Inc., which separated over the last week from Armstrong World Industries Inc. Although Maier has been an executive atArmstrong World since 2010, he has been living outside Cincinnati with his wife, Susan, and two daughters.
“That’s a long commute,” said Maier.
The Ohio native stayed put because he had accepted what was then a three-year assignment. And because of his role in company operations, he was often traveling anyway.
Six years later, after his younger daughter graduates high school, Maier and his wife will be moving to a home they bought in Manheim Township, he said. His older daughter attends the University of Cincinnati, where she is studying graphic design.
“My career obviously has changed now and I’m much less of a road warrior,” Maier said. “I look forward to being able to have dinner with my family and being home.”
He’s also looking forward to sampling what Lancaster County has to offer. “It’s been exciting to see the Lancaster area evolve over the last six years,” he said. “I think the downtown area and all of the improvements that have been made down there, it’s a real exciting place.”
Maier spoke to the Business Journal on April, the day he rang the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares in Armstrong Flooring began trading April 4.
Based in Manheim Township, Lancaster County, Armstrong Flooring has 3,700 employees and annual revenue of about $1.2 billion. Competitors include Georgia-based Shaw Industries Group Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, which reportedly has more than $4 billion in annual sales, and Georgia-based Mohawk Industries, which has roughly $8 billion in annual sales.
Hit the floor running
Before the separation, Maier was CEO of Armstrong’s flooring division. He’s excited to lead it as a standalone company.
“This is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “It’s just such an honor to be in this position, to be in a brand-new startup company that has a 150-year legacy behind it.”
It’s not an easy position. Like many companies in the business of construction and building products, Armstrong took a hit during the downturn and is looking for more solid footing.
Maier’s goal is to spur revenue growth through product innovation and improved service to the people and companies that sell Armstrong products.
“When I went into this role a little over a year ago as the CEO before we separated, what I really found was a business that had great assets, great brands, great products but was not really driving the top line like it needed to,” he said.
Recent innovations include new vinyl flooring products with cultured diamonds incorporated in the surface coating. The diamonds increase durability and resistance to scratching. Marketed as Diamond10, the coating also is designed to repel liquids.
“Were very excited about that,” Maier said, noting that the coating is likely to be applied to other kinds of flooring. “You’ll see Diamond10 on wood products, tile products, sheet products.”
Big-box retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot remain important distribution channels for Armstrong, Maier said. Big chains represent about 40 percent of flooring sales overall.
But Armstrong also is focused on shoring up relations with independent retailers and distributors. They represent the remaining 60 percent of sales for the industry.
“We see a lot of opportunities by serving that channel much better than we have,” Maier said, noting in particular the value of relationships between distributors and retailers.
“That’s a real, I think, competitive advantage,” he said. “The Shaws and Mohawks of the world are primarily direct-sales model. We like the penetration and the relationships that the distributors bring.”
The structure costs a bit more, flooring experts have told me in the past.
But independent retailers can take time to explain to customers the value of Armstrong products, Maier said. “It’s difficult to do in a big-box environment where there’s a fairly low touch with sales.”
The long commute and responsibilities related to the corporate separation have kept Maier from community involvement. But he expects to do more as time goes on.
In the meantime, he said, the new company is creating a foundation, similar to the existingArmstrong World Industries Foundation established in 1985. The Armstrong Flooring Foundation will start with funding of $750,000, Maier said.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to give back more of my personal time to the community down the road,” he said.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman warns homeowners to avoid falling for a roofer’s “too-good-to-be-true” offer and becoming an “April fool.”
The “fly-by-night” contractor will take a homeowner’s hard-earned money and leave without completing a roofing job or even buying the shingles, according to a news release Friday by Coffman’s spokesman Roger Hudson.
Following record snow falls in March, roofing scams are expected to increase in April and May, Hudson’s news release says. Coffman said her office fielded more than 100 complaints about possibly shady roofers in 2015.
“Many of these unlicensed roofing companies will canvas an entire neighborhood following large snow, hail, or rainstorm. They pitch a limited time ‘special offer’ and promise to do repairs that either never get done or cause real damage to a homeowner’s roof,” Coffman said.
She cautioned homeowners to do their homework and not fall for high pressure sales tactics.
“Remember, if a deal sound too good to be true… it probably is,” she said.
Coffman offered some consumer tips to avoid roofing scams:
• Never allow an uninvited contractor to inspect your roof or to contact your insurance company directly.
• Say no to contractors requesting an immediate decision.
• Contact insurer before spending a significant amount of money on a new roof.
• Arrange to have an authorized adjuster come to your home.
• Obtain at least three bids from different contractors and check each one with organizations like your local Better Business Bureau.
Bad contractors will do shoddy work, often damaging property, and delay completing the work, according to Coffman.
Roofers must provide a written contract with his contact information, give approximate dates and costs of service and identify his contractor’s surety and liability coverage insurer. Homeowners have up to 72 hours to rescind the contract.