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ARA's annual gathering provided a pure adrenaline rush of activity all centered around a theme of racing.
The 68th Annual Automotive Recyclers Association Convention celebrated the joint effort between ARA and its members to change public opinion of the automotive recycling industry as well as equipped recyclers to tackle government and regulatory issues head-on, armed with the latest information from industry and governmental experts.

“We were extremely pleased with the turnout from both attendee and vendor participants,” said Michael Wilson, ARA CEO. “Charlotte was an excellent host city, and the convention was packed with fun events and informative sessions. All the hard work of the  planning committee and staff paid off.” Held in October at the Westin Hotel and Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, the convention attracted over 1,000 participants.

At the annual ARA Board meeting, Wilson reported on the state of the association and its increased activities around the world. He spoke on the global effort to grow the green branding of automotive recycling through the Green Recycled Parts™ program, noting that the trademark is being registered in some 30 plus countries. He also shared that ARA’s expertise is being called upon, as Mexico has requested that ARA help in establishing an automotive recyclers association in that country. He announced that Canada has become the first country to  become C.A.R. affiliated as a whole country.

“With a strong international attendance to our annual convention, the International Roundtable Meetings, and other international gatherings, the automotive recycling industry is unifying across the globe. ARA is proud to be a part of this effort to be a resource to help grow automotive recycling industry and its image worldwide,” says Wilson.

Giving to the Cause

Several fundraising activities occurred throughout the week, including simulator races at the NASCAR® Hall of Fame, decorated cars made from Valve Covers, raffle tickets for a 2011 Harley Davidson Sportster (won by ARA member Dave Kokot, Vice President, Spalding Auto Parts), and the awards dinner auction, all of which raised over $100,000, benefitting the ARA Educational Foundation. The funds will help to continue the development and production of training courses for the ARA University for all enrolled members. It will also make it possible to develop training through webinars specifically for ARA members.

With the ambitious goal to help ensure the prosperous future of automotive recycling, ARA University looks to provide training courses to secondary vocational tech and college level students who are enrolled in programs for automotive recycling as a career. There are even plans to hold an ARA University on-location training event in 2012, over a weekend, at a college or vocational campus to make valuable hands-on training available to the industry.

“The fundraisers were a success thanks to all the generous ARA members and industry vendors who purchased raffle tickets, participated in simulator races, bid in the auction at the awards dinner, and designed valve covers and the companies that paid to host the valve covers at their booths,” said Ginny Whelan. “So many people worked very hard to make the fundraising pay off. I appreciate all their efforts!”

Committee Action

On the first day of the convention’s activities, ARA committees met to discuss their priorities and plans for the coming year.

The Gold Seal committee discussions included talk on how to enhance and bring all accreditation programs – such as C.A.R. Certification, URG 8000, Gold Seal, and the Canadian code of practice – under one unified brand. 

The committee was pleased with their first webinar held last year with 38 members in attendance. A second webinar is planned for late January on how to leverage the Gold Seal brand in marketing. A third one will follow on how to change a disgruntled customer into a life-long customer.

The discussion included adding www.surecritic.com to the list of resources for Gold Seal members. Eric Schulz, who has had a positive experience using Sure Critic and is also the Gold Seal committee chair, spoke positively about the program, saying, “Sure Critic gets your Customer Service Index surveys into the Internet marketplace, as well as increases traffic to your website. The service moves you up in search results and allows you to deal with issues before they get published on the Web.”

SureCritic believes that not all Internet reviews are created equal and they help you manage reviews that might not be flattering to your company. As a result, their clients benefit from improved credibility and a better online reputation at the same time. Schulz announced that if any Gold Seal member signs up with Sure Critic, they offer the first six months free.

The C.A.R. Committee reported having 322 members, or about a third of the ARA membership, with 97 in affiliate member programs.

They also officially accepted Canada as their first affiliate country. At the meeting, the committee discussed ideas on how to use and promote the Environmental Compliance Center for Automotive Recyclers (ECARCenter.org), which gets about 7,000 hits a month. There is a desire to increase that to 20,000 a month.

Hot topics for the Government Affairs committee included salvage acquisition, heightened concerns about increased regulatory activity surrounding stormwater regulations, and NMVTIS funding. Norm Wright, committee chair, advised that ARA members should watch for stormwater regulatory activity in their states and advise ARA if anything arises.

Jerry DeLuca, chair of the Airbag Committee said at their meeting, “Our primary goal is to improve sales with insurance companies because they are our best customers for airbags. We’re looking for ways to enhance the sale of airbags. We are also developing a Q&A that recyclers can use when going into governmental affairs situations.”

Greg Beagell, Electronic Commerce committee chair, hosted Charley Quirt,  CIECA  Project Manager, representative from Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) who shared how their work has been implemented in the industry. This year, the “Unit of Damage” card was divided into 4 quadrants to further help auto recyclers describe damage to their body shop and insurance customers. The Damage Locator guide was also updated with new information. Both of these resources can be downloaded from the ARA website.

Chuck Ossenkop reported he was stepping down from his long-held role as Technical Advisory committee chair, but was excited to see the first edition of the Hybrid Vehicle Dismantling Guide complete and ready for distribution to auto recyclers. The printed guide or DVD format is now for sale at $99. Funds generated from its sale will go to future technical committee project development. “This is the culmination of a great deal of work,” said Ossenkop, “and it will de-mystify the hybrid for auto recyclers.”

The committee is actively seeking a new chair person. Any ARA member with interest in this committee should contact the ARA office.

In their educational session held later in the week,  the safety concerns that recyclers have in handling and dismantling hybrid and electric vehicle batteries were addressed. Chuck Ossenkop, Northwest Auto Parts, Betsy  Beckwith, ECAR Center, and Sue Schauls, Executive Director, Iowa Automotive Recyclers, unveiled the new Hybrid Vehicle Dismantling Guide, and generously gave free copies to the first 100 attendees. This excellent resource takes a detailed look at how to dismantle hybrids, with an emphasis on the Prius and Insight, and will help recyclers to dismantle hybrids safely and efficiently.

The Scholarship Foundation awarded 59 scholarships in 2010-11 to children of employees of automotive recycling facilities. It also established permanent endowments in the names of Norman Dulaney and Sandy Andersen. Dulaney was a Past President of ARA and father of ARA Past President Linda Pitman, Dulaney Auto and Truck Parts of Amarillo, and Norman Dulaney Auto Parts of Plainview, Texas. Andersen is the late wife of Kennie Andersen, Andersons’ Sales and Salvage, Inc., Colorado.

The Educational Foundation committee had a busy year. The biggest news was announced to the membership at the Past Presidents’ Reception held at the NASCAR® Hall of Fame, with video debut of ARA Past President Norman Dulaney speaking of his experience as president and an automotive recycler. The video, recorded just weeks before his passing, was used to launch the ARA Museum of Automotive Recycling, now in the planning stage. The online museum will record the thoughts of ARA’s Past Presidents and industry pioneers, and tell the story of the industry: past, present, and future.

The Foundation also was instrumental in adding many new modules to the ARA University curriculum, as well as form partnerships with CIECA, the FIRST® Robotics Competition, and Collision Repair Educa-
tion Foundation, all formed to help to grow automotive recycling’s exposure in different ways.

Long and Short of It

While it was a longer convention week than ARA’s past program schedule and key events like the Annual Awards Dinner were held on a different day than in the past (to accommodate the real keynote event – the weekend’s NASCAR® races), the week managed to speed by.

Timely and interesting sessions that ran simultaneously to accommodate a request for an increase in information. Attendees had to send owners to one session and employees to another to hear and learn as much as possible. Here are some of the highlights.

A Note of Encouragement: Tamara Lundgren, CEO, Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. keynote speech covered three key parts, “people, profits, and the planet,” where she identified the three integrated businesses of her company as part of a “recycling eco-system.”

It first begins with the purchase of hundreds of thousands of cars in Schnitzer’s self-service businesses with 50 locations and 5 million retail customers’ visits annually. Once valuable parts from end-of-life vehicles have been purchased, the cars are scrapped and in most cases, sent to their metal recycling business. Once the scrap is processed, they sell it to their steel manufacturing business. Lundgren stated that her company started 106 years ago as a one-man scrap recycling business, and today, employs 4,000 people with revenues of 3.5 billion.

She then listed three trends:

1. Emerging markets in Asia (which will account for the largest share of infrastructure demand), China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Africa will be growing or developing automotive recycling industries and will provide opportunities for automotive recycling businesses worldwide.

2. The importance of sustainability and automotive recycling.

3. The use of technology to spur growth. Lundgren commended ARA, its leadership, and membership for being in the forefront of what is the 16th largest industry in the U.S.

“ARA members have helped make sustainability a household word and turned recycled autos into the leading recycled consumer product in the world,”  Lundgren said. “You have been leaders in adopting cutting-edge techniques to safely separate materials from end-of-life vehicles and by recycling about 80 percent of an auto’s content. By setting standards for environmental and safety through efforts like the Certified Automotive Recycler (C.A.R.) Program and through the Gold Seal Program, you and the ARA have pushed the highest standards for our industry.”

(A copy of Tamara Lundgren’s speech is available at www.arauniversity.org, click under the resources tab.)

Regulations rule: The very lively Auctions Panel session was standing-room-only as recyclers expressed their increasing frustrations and concerns over the issue of salvage acquisition and open auctions. Panelists who addressed those concerns included Sean Eldridge, Vice President of Corporate Operations, Copart;  Jerry Sullivan, Executive Vice President, QCSA Holdings,  Inc.; Bill Tiedemann, Group Vice President, Total Resource Auctions;  and Bo Wroten, Insurance Salvage Solutions, LLC.

While no new revelations arose from the session, the panelists all agreed that they operate their businesses according to the laws put in place on the state and federal levels. Sullivan summed it up, “The scales of justice have tipped in the wrong direction for the auto recyclers. Demand outside of the United States for our cars is huge. Since Cash for Clunkers, supply is down. We struggle with that every day. It should be a fair auction. With all we have to do – storage, title processing, etc. – fees are racking up on us. Buyer fees are high, seller fees are low. Insurance keeps grinding us down on price. In all this, we are providing a marketplace for everyone to do business.”

Working health care reform: This session provided important information on how to understand the implications of the new health reform bills for employers and their employees.  H. Frasier Ives, Esq. explained in detail what each wave of the health care reform will mean for you as an employer. He explained that you will pay either by paying for your employees’ health care or by paying the penalty for not doing so. He urged recyclers to start thinking about how it will affect their employees and their families as an important part of the compensation package. Some encouraging news came from his session in that employers can design their own plan and that most employers have already satisfied the new criteria in their current offerings of a broad-based health care program for employees.  

Looking at the parts: The Keeping Recycled Parts in the Repair Market session drew a large crowd as panelists Chris Anderson of Hollander, Dusty Dunkle of CSI, Dwight Howard of APU Solutions, Don Porter of State Farm Insurance and Jeff Schroder of Car-Part.com fielded questions from recyclers and listened to their concerns and comments.

With the recent trend of automakers’ attacks questioning the quality of recycled parts coupled with the struggle to consistently define parts damage to insurance and repairer customers across the industry, panelists offered their solutions to increasing the use of green parts in the marketplace.

“We think it’s certification on the front end and the Customer Service Index on the back end,” said Chris Anderson. “We must set a high bar with the certification process and ensure that everyone is doing it. If some aren’t doing what is needed, it shoots the certification in the foot.”

Don Porter stressed,” Technology is very important. If data in the system is incorrect, then it makes all the data suspect. Something must be done to ensure accuracy of data entry.” Jeff Schroder agreed and encouraged recyclers to stay on top of technology. “It’s important to stay on the cutting edge of technology because the future generations are so tech savvy.”   

Many topics, such as eBay Motors and Safety, will be featured as articles in future issues of Automotive Recycling magazine.

A Show of Shows

Attendees of the ARA Annual Exposition experienced a packed house of exhibitors, including a number of new vendors. The usual relaxed atmosphere allowed participants time to catch up with friends while looking over vendor offerings.

New vendor Jim Stewart, General Manager,  Advanced Data Systems, which offers POS Solutions,  commented, “It was a good show! I got six viable leads so far.” Aaron Auger, Manager for Mi-T-M Corporation offering water treatment equipment, was excited to be at the show, “I sold five systems from the last year’s show and have had a lot of interest.”

Mixing Business with Pleasure

The networking fun kicked off with an open house barbecue and facility tour at Pull-A-Part of Charlotte. Pull-A-Part’s Senior Vice President Steve Levetan and the staff hosted the evening full of southern hospitality and barbecue with all the “fixins.”

Bright and early the next morning, members were off to enjoy two different networking activities. The golfers headed for the Olde Sycamore Plantation for the second annual ARA golf tournament. Meanwhile across town, attendees enjoyed private tours of some of the coolest racing garages in town. This tour was a highlight for many of the racing buffs who attended the convention.

There was also an impressive tour and lunch at Duke Mansion that brought participants an appreciation of the history and beauty of the south, and an excursion to The Depot at Gibson Mall for treasure hunters.

Last Lap

Attendees were excited to watch the Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 race on Friday night, where they were treated to a hospitality tent at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, co-sponsored by Al-jon and Pick-N-Pull. A surprise visit from Geoff Bodine and Ken Schrader who talked about their experiences in NASCAR. Attendees also enjoyed a walking tour of pit row. The real die-hard fans returned to the track the next night for the Bank of America 500, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race.

The real champions of the week, though, were the attendees who invested in their business, their employees, and themselves by gathering to learn new and different ways to do business, to connect with industry peers, and to seek out new vendors. It can only help them to make 2012 a strong year for their business and for the industry.

For a look at more convention photos, visit our the magazine’s facebook page at www.facebook.com/
AutomotiveRecycling.


Not Possible Without You

ARA would like to thank all of the wonderful sponsors whose generous support made it possible to hold a convention with high quality educational seminars.

Diamond Sponsors

Each gave $15,000 or more and were vital to the success of the convention.

Hollander for sponsoring the Past Presidents’ Reception and Educational Fundraiser at the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Brock Supply for sponsoring the Awards Dinner

Wells Fargo Insurance Services for sponsoring theFriday Exposition Luncheon

Al-jon for sponsoring the Nationwide Series Night

Pick-N-Pull for sponsoring the Nationwide Series Race Night   

Platinum: Knopf Automotive, Pull-A-Part

Gold: LKQ, Phoenix Automotive Cores

Silver: Car-Part.com, ECAR Center, URG, Pinnacle

Bronze: G.J. Sullivan, Lamb Fuels

Associate: Auto Data Direct, Buddy Automotive, Salvage Direct (QCSA)

General: Legend Smelting, Mac/Granutech-Saturn Systems, Umicore


SAVE THE DATE

Discover the Magic of Automotive Recycling!
ARA’s 69th Annual Convention & Exposition
at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Florida
October 24-27, 2012


Michelle Keadle-Taylor is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia

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