Posts Tagged ‘Automobile’

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According to Wikipedia steering refers to the practice in which real estate brokers guide prospective home buyers towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race.

Fair Housing Act makes steering against the law. Just the word itself has negative connotation. In my mind it’s like forcing someone into a direction against their will. It’s a crime often committed and rarely prosecuted. According to WRA, a real estate magazine, there were more than 4 million breaches of Fair Housing Act last year, but only 31 of those cases prosecuted.

Considering this very interesting statistic, it almost makes this crime legal. As luck would have it it’s legal when it concerns collision repair industry. Steering, which allows Auto Insurance Companies to coerce their clients to have their vehicle repaired at the Shop of Insurance Companies’ choice, has passed a legislature several years ago and became a common practice in collision repair industry.

Even though steering has different meaning in real estate and collision repair industry, the gist is the same. Steering is guiding consumers in the direction against their will. Intellectually it is against the laws of our fair nation. So then why insurers are being allowed to practice steering?

It’s a good question. May be it is because steering is one of the most important systems of modern automobile, which allows it to move freely in any direction. Or maybe it is because Insurance Companies have unlimited resources to lobby and therefore legislate and number of collision repair shops cannot get together and unite to oppose financial giants.

In a perfect world it would be illegal, but in a real world Insurance Companies are getting more and more aggressive steering their customers to use body shops that they have discount contracts with. They use intimidation and a coercion to achieve their goals- financial gains.

They tell customers, yes you can go to the shop of your choice, but we won’t be able to approve repairs for a week and you cannot get a rental car until the repair is approved, but if you go to our shop, they will be able to start right away. And sometimes they outright lie – they tell consumers that if they take their vehicle to the shop of their choice, insurance company will not be able to guarantee repairs, when in reality Insurers never guarantee repairs, they just pay for them.

So, why is this happening to you, a sophisticated, 21st century consumer? And why are there so many homeless people in our rich and plentiful country?

Those are the questions that do not have a simple answer; still they should be asked.

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Daewoo Leganza

Daewoo Leganza

They say in order to sell a product you have to put it into customer’s hands. Similarly in order to sell a car you have to put consumer behind its wheel. At least that was the idea when Korean automaker Daewoo Motors brought a line of reasonably priced vehicles to sell in United States. Three different models; Lanos, Nubira and Leganza were introduced to a saturated American auto market in 1997.

The marketing idea was simple and seemed brilliant on paper. Daewoo would give anybody a vehicle to test drive for 90 days for free. You could either buy the car or give it back at the end of 90 day test drive period. The idea was that once you are driving this car it becomes yours and you will find a way to keep it. It really sounded like a fantastic and innovative idea at a time. My nephew who was attending Moorpark City College bought his first new car, pewter Daewoo Leganza like that.

In fact a great number of students signed up for test drive. Unfortunately not all good ideas work in real life. Technically not being responsible for their vehicles for the first 90 days kids thrashed their vehicle within first thirty days. Many first time drivers who were able to get the car that way got in accidents and a great number of youngsters just thrashed their vehicles and then returned them. In short this brilliant market plan was a complete disaster.

Five years later Daewoo Motors disappeared from American auto market. This morning I saw beige, 2000 Daewoo Leganza with fading paint job at my mechanic’s shop in Pasadena. I haven’t seen on the road in years. “It’s a piece of crap,” complained Mike:” You can’t get any original parts for it.” That’s a fact unless you have connections in Korea.

Not all Korean automobiles are crap. Two other major automakers from Korea, Hyundai and Kia have been enjoying ascending popularity in the American Auto market as of late. But Daewoo was just one of those ideas that never materialized in United States.

tesla

Twenty first century Tesla drivers are a new breed of luxury vehicle owners. They are just as obsessed with their automobiles as Porsche or corvette owners. Only you will not hear them talk about the size of the engine or how fast it will rip from zero to sixty seconds. Usually you will be taken aside to learn in confidence about one of the many wonderful features prized Tesla offers.

For example, on a hot Southern California summer day one can turn on air conditioning inside a Tesla remotely to cool off the vehicle prior to driver’s arrival. “It’s gotta be the door handles,” exclaimed John Fender from Agoura Hills:” How can you not love the car that greets you when you come near and says_ can we go for a ride- like an excited puppy.

How about regenerative braking? The vehicle brakes automatically as soon as you remove your foot off the gas. Oh wait! It cannot be called a gas pedal since there is no gas in this car. Let’s call it an acceleration pedal. Excited! You have seen nothing yet. The latest generation of Tesla informs the driver of speed zone changes as the vehicle travels on the road in real time.

Did you know that one must have a smart phone in order to own a Tesla? A friend from Huntington Beach said:” I love the Tesla apps. The iPhone app that lets me see how fast the car is going, the temperature inside the car and its charge status. My wife loves the apps too. Also the home link button knows to pop up when it’s time to open a garage door.”

Also Auntie Tesla took a page out of Uncle Sam’s book of keeping track of their citizens. You can track the whereabouts of the vehicle through you smart phone app.

And of course Tesla owners are very proud of the fact that they spend their hard earned money to protect the environment. As one gentleman eloquently stated:” reducing our foreign energy dependence and hopefully the need to send future generations to war to protect oil interests.”

Finally, most Tesla owners would have you believe that even though they spent a very substantial amount of money purchasing the luxury automobile that it is a sound financial decision due to future savings on gas. What they forget to mention that because of the weight Tesla uses performance tires that have to be replaced every ten thousand miles. Compare your yearly gas savings to replacing a set of performance tires which for 21 inch wheels are about $1800.00.

It’s a wonderful automobile; a marvel of modern engineering and a future of auto technology, but please do not be confused the words Tesla and frugal are not in the same continent. Anotherwords you do not buy a Tesla to save money, you buy it to enjoy a luxury car. So enjoy it!

Our expert detailer George taking care of the last steps of the refinishing process

Our expert detailer George is polishing Lexus

We take care of our bodies by taking a shower every day. We take care of our teeth by brushing them every day and have deep cleaning a few times a year. We take care of our health by exercising and going to a doctor for regular check-ups. Similarly we take care of our automobiles by filling it up with gas weekly and taking it to our mechanic for service every 3 to 5 thousand miles

So why don’t we take care of the outside of our cars? Isn’t your automobile the second biggest investment you made after your home? Wouldn’t it make sense to keep outside looking shiny and as good as or better than inside?

Have you ever seen a car so dusty that it is difficult to see through a glass window which carries a message from a concerned citizen -”wash me”?  My personal favorite example of untidiness took place a few years ago when our good customer brought his Toyota Camry for collision repair and requested that we do not wash his car after repairs are completed and specifically not throw away any newspapers from the inside. You might want to know how many newspapers were in the back of the car. Well, they packed the back seat to the point of where you could not see through the back window.

Let’s make a New Year resolution to keep our vehicle clean in 2015. It even rhymes so it must be necessary. All it takes is to wash it once a week and to detail or polish the outside paint of your car may be once every three months. You will be surprised how much better you will feel about yourself driving a clean, shiny vehicle. The feeling is similar to one you experience to when you get out of the shower and put a new set of clothes on.

And it’s not just your vanity or a pride of ownership that is at stake here, keeping your automobile’s paint at maximum shine brings its value up. You might still object to this by saying – I am a very busy individual and simply do not have any extra time required for weekly car washes and especially quarterly details which would most likely leave me without my car for a full day. To which I say – make time, just like you make time for personal grooming, make some time for grooming of your vehicle.

If you simply do not wish to do it yourself, there plenty of carwashes and detail shops all over town who are willing especial accommodations for you. Or you can call me directly at Hilton Auto Collision Center and we will pick up your vehicle detail it and deliver it back to you for no extra charge and provide you a daily car rental if needed. So what are you waiting for? Put this on top of your New Year’s resolutions for 2015, to keep your vehicle clean.

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Twenty first century brought us the invention of a smart phone, social media and much increased expectations of superior customer service. The big round world called earth has gotten much smaller. For example I can communicate with my cousin in Germany over Skype as if he was next door.

More and more I get requests from our customers for repair estimates for their vehicles to be made just from photographs that are sent via email or text from their phones. A trip to the local body shop to get an estimate on minor repair to the vehicle takes time. Time is money. Why not get an idea of what it would cost from the photos? Isn’t that one of the reasons they invented a smart phone?

It seems like a great idea. So why do I discourage customers from doing that? Because unless you are a professional photographer and know a lot about shades and lighting and right angles, pictures might be misleading.  Bringing up that point I usually get a response:” I just need to get an idea of what it would cost. I want hold you to it.”

This puts me in a conundrum.  On one hand I would like to make you happy and accommodate your request and save your valuable time, on the other hand I am concerned that the idea you would get from photos could be far from reality and thus create a conflict.

Imagine getting an email from me that based on your photos the repair should cost you about $500.00. You are happy. It is less than you expected. You schedule a repair and drop off the car at the body shop. Next day you get a call or email stating that the part actually needed to be replaced not repaired and the cost of repairs is $1500.00 and not $500.00. Your first is – this guy is a crook!

Now through no fault of my own, instead of gaining a loyal customer because of a special service I was willing to provide, I lose a client, but more than that I get an unhappy motorist who most likely will bad mouth my establishment.

“But I explained to you how inaccurate virtual estimate could be based on a photo and you told me you will not hold me to it!” explanations become meaningless when a consumer feels that he has been wronged by a body shop. One negative comment is worth ten positive ones.

What is the solution? After careful consideration I decided to offer mobile estimates. If you are really strapped for time and are willing to pay a little for the service, we will be offering mobile estimates beginning in January, 2015. We will come to your home or office and prepare a professional estimate using a tablet technology. The estimate will be promptly emailed to you. Of course an estimate is still only an estimate, because you never know what you will find once the vehicle is taken apart, but this will ensure maximum possible accuracy. The fee charged will be refunded when you bring your vehicle for repairs.

I need your feedback. Would this be of benefit to you? Please let me know.

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Monday morning GM trainer, Ruben Maldonado dropped by my shop driving bright yellow, 2015 Corvette, Stingray. It was sparkling in the Southern California sunlight. “It’s a chick magnet,” chuckled Ruben as I was admiring sleek lines of the redesigned beast.

“May be I could borrow it for a week or so just to confirm your claim,” said I smiling.

” But it’s a squeeze to get out of it, especially for an old fart like you,” replied Ruben:” So it might be counterproductive to your goal.”

As a kid I remember dreaming about 1967 Stingray 427 convertible. The iconic muscle car held a mystique of a fairy tale for me. As a young adult I was less than impressed with 1980 Stingray, specifically its steering and suspension. But today’s all new Stingray hugs the road as if it was made to do just that and the control you feel making sharp mountainous turns is very impressive.

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The new Stingray is absolutely amazing. It is built on aluminum frame which makes the vehicle lighter and stiffer and features carbon fiber hood and roof panels as well as lightweight compounds for the fenders and doors.

Considering there are different options, I am going to leave engine description to the experts, but if looks were important, the new generation Stingray is for me. With the rear end reminiscent of Ferrari it is designed with the front that seems to be more integrated or wrapped around the frame than the last one. It looks like a rocket ready to be launched.

 Not yet convinced, stop by your local Chevrolet dealer and take it for a test drive. It is much more than a nostalgia thirst quencher.

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We’re a little late to the party but the auto industry is finally making major plays on the digital and internet stages. It’s been standard practice to have a website for any business for almost fourteen years now, but since websites generally just give information or allow you to place online orders they’re essentially phones without having a to deal with a person on the other end. Thanks to social media and the technological leaps in portable technology the way our customers interact with us is changing.

 

Pictures have been increasing in pixel size, cameras have been decreasing in physical size, and these two combinations have made things like Snapchat and Instagram incredibly accessible and thus wildly popular. Well we’re making use of these technologies in a couple of ways. Taking pictures and having a way to send them easily means now we can write estimates for minor damage without ever having to see a car. While this isn’t entirely recommended since there is always the chance of internal damage, and pictures don’t get the message across entirely, it’s a step in an interesting direction.

The newest innovation which really sticks out is now the ability for our customers to track their repairs. Thanks to the great folks at CCC Information Services, we can now have our customers look up not only the status of repairs online, but also see pictures of the process. Not every body shop will be participating in this, but at Hilton Auto Collision we’ll be doing our best to make sure our customers can check up on their cars right from the comfort of their own homes.

 

Now for my personal favorite: tablets. Tablets have been around since the mid-nineties but did not get very popular until around 2007, and are really just computers that use touch instead of hardware for interaction. This difference is invaluable, since it allows for the tablet to be portable. Thanks to its portability anyone can use it anywhere, easily, and unlike laptops they don’t have long start up times (they usually just stay on) and due to the simpler technology going into them, large amounts of fans, bulky casing, and other computer necessities are not required.

With all of this in mind, it is easy to see the future which is coming, and I for one look forward to it. Our body shop has recently received its first CCC approved tablet and when it is set up we will be writing estimates outside by our customers’ cars, right next to them, in real time. This gives a more open, less restrictive environment for both us and our customers. No longer will customers sit idly by staring uncomfortably at the unknown of the computer screen. Instead we’ll be right by you, going over the vehicle step by step as we input it into our device.

 

My father told me that in the early nineties, body shops stopped hand writing estimates and switched to computers. The change was made to make things more streamlined, to boost production, and to lower the chances of getting inflated estimates. An unintended consequence of this is it seems to have also separated customers from the body shops. A technological shift is happening right now which has the potential to remove this unintended problem. Thanks to the internet, social media, and tablets, no longer do we keep our customers out; we can now open our doors wide and let them in.

Our expert detailer George taking care of the last steps of the refinishing process

Our expert detailer George taking care of the last steps of the refinishing process

In California your car is much more than just a tool for getting place to place. It is seen as an extension of the driver, with each car being just as unique as the person behind the wheel. There are even some people who claim they are able to tell everything about a person just by looking at their vehicle. A long time ago, in fact over a hundred years ago now, Henry Ford said that you could get the Model T in any color, “as long as that color is black!”  Thankfully this is no longer the case. With thousands of colors to chose from, various tints for windows, rims ranging from all sizes, hilariously small to outrageously huge, and all sorts of other options and decorations available, it’s easy to see why the car has become so personal.

Certain technologies become more fragile as they grow in complexity, which is as true in electronics as it is in car paint. The more personal our cars become, the more we want to take care of them. The perfect fusion of these two ideas is best represented in what is known as the detail job. In short it is the complete cleaning, polishing, and waxing of the entire vehicle. But, it goes deeper than that. For instance, when a detailer uses special compound to buff your paint, he’s not just removing stuck dirt and light scratches. The compound actually mixes with the paint and increases its longevity and quality. There are plenty of people who do this on their own, but in Southern California you’ll find all the detail shops packed. Not only are people trying to keep their babies clean, they’re also trying to keep them protected.

Modern car paint is made from a special blend of chemicals and water, and is referred to as ‘water-based.’ It is an environmentally friendly spray paint, applied in special booths, and has an incredibly wide range of colors. Most cars come with two major layers of paint, the colored paint and a ‘clear coat.’ As its name suggests, the clear coat is not visible. Its purpose is to take as much damage before that damage reaches the actual paint. Damage comes from a variety of sources, the most major one being the weather. Long periods of direct Sun exposure and being covered in snow on incredibly cold days can permanently damage your cars paint, by either causing it to peel or turn a different color. Dangers to just the surface of the paint include oxidation and scratches. Deep scratches can cause very serious problems. The car paint does more than just make your car look good, it protects it. If you have a scratch deep enough to expose metal, that metal can rust, and could eventually rust out an entire panel.

With there being a demand for detailers, a large supply has popped up. While there are plenty of detail shops and licensed at home/mobile detailers, there are also many who operate without licenses, or even basic training. One should always be cautious and wary of what they are purchasing and who they are purchasing from. This includes car dealers themselves! Dealerships offer ‘clay protection coats as an add on to the vehicle price , just like power windows or navigation system. jobs.  In reality clay coat on your vehicle is nothing more than a glorified deatail job

A big thing to consider  is whether or not you’re getting enough bang for your buck. Dealers will charge you an arm and a leg and most of the time you’ll end up getting a good enough job, if not sub-par. With car washes you run the risk of subpar jobs and they definitely don’t  give each car the attention it needs. The easiest option is finding someone close to you with a detailer they trust, though that doesn’t guarantee the detailer knows what they’re doing. Always use caution and common sense when looking for good service! There are also online options such as yelp, and the reviews can lead you in the right direction.

The best type of detailer is the kind with a deep passion for what they do and attention to detail, and I can find a no better example than our shop’s own George Nieto. George treats every customer’s car as if it was his own, going through every nook and cranny and never missing a single step to make sure the car is just right. He holds a large amount of intimate knowledge regarding cars, paints, and detail supplies, so he always knows what car needs what and how much of it. He fully stands behind his work, and so do we. We wanted to offer our customers the best in both quality and protection, and thanks to George we can. If you find yourself in need of detail, especially when Spring and Summer start coming around, come by and let us take care of you. We promise you won’t be disappointed!