The AGRR industry in Memphis is feeling the pain after the city halted auto inspection requirements for registration renewal. Without this net to catch windshield damage, the demand for auto glass repair and replacement work is on the decline, according to reports from glassBYTEs™ readers.
“It’s just about killed the replacement auto glass industry,” says Shawn Barnett, manager of A&B Fast Auto Glass in Memphis. “We’ve seen a big decline in business. It’s dropped by more than 50 percent.
“We’ve switched over to do more home glass work,” Barnett adds. “We haven’t laid anybody off yet, but we’re a small company so we don’t have a lot of people.”
Meanwhile, Jack Morris Auto Glass has also felt the “hurt,” according to Jack Morris, CEO. The company has locations in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas and Mississippi.
“Fortunately, we operate in more areas than just Memphis,” says Morris. “If I were to guess, I would say our business has been down about 10 percent and I would say close to half of the dip is the economy and the other half is because of this.
“We’ve complained to the state and county about this,” he adds. “Everything [the economy] is just kind of shaky right now and I don’t see the halt in inspections ending anytime soon. Years ago, it used to be that residents had to get vehicles inspected three times a year in Memphis, then it went to two times and about seven or so years ago, it went to once a year. It helped business even when inspections were required just one a year. But with the economy the way it is, if there is a crack in the windshield, consumers are just deciding to put off getting the windshield repaired or replaced.”
Mark Yates, a veteran auto glass technician in Memphis, says he was laid off from Jack Morris Auto Glass after demand for windshield repair and replacements dropped.
“The fact they are no longer doing vehicle inspections is really hurting business,” says the 30-year industry veteran. “I got laid off along with a few others. Before, if your windshield had damage, the city wouldn’t pass your car under inspection. After the inspections stopped, the local police were supposed to give more tickets for damaged windshields but we haven’t seen this happen.”
Yates says he submitted applications with other local auto glass companies in the Memphis area, but that no one is hiring.
“I just went and put in applications at two other companies but they are not hiring,” he says. “Business is slow all around.”
Yates found a position as an auto glass technician near the Sarasota, Fla., and is relocating. He worked in Florida years ago, but says he left when the recession hit and work plummeted in the state.
“This is what it feels like in Tennessee now,” Yates says. “Fortunately, business in Florida has picked up so I’m going back.”
The Memphis City Council ended funding for the auto inspection stations in late June, effectively shutting them down. The Council apparently had hoped that either Shelby County or the State of Tennessee would take over inspection responsibilities, according a local report; however, this has not been the case.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has said the county government has no intention of stepping in to fund the inspections.
“In other localities, we do run it, but we don’t pay for that,” says Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. “Where we run it, the users are paying for it or the local county is paying for that. My understanding is … we were willing to run it, but we don’t pay for it any where else, so it’s not fair for us to pay for it here.”
“Right now, the city and county are developing plans for reinstating inspections, but at this point I can’t tell you many details,” Antonio Adams, general services deputy director, says in another report.