Happy New Year: A Look at the Top Ten Stories of 2009
December 30, 2009

As we enter another New Year, glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR magazine has taken a look back at the year's headlines and compiled those that were most read and generated the most feedback. Following is an overview of the year's top headlines.

- Latch, St. John, Heilman, Rossey and Others Released from PGW: Several of the top stories referenced long-time industry player and manufacturer Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW). However, the layoffs announced at the end of last March, which included several long-time employees, industry notables and key management personnel, drew much industry attention. Shortly after glassBYTEs.com learned of and reported about the layoffs, PGW announced that the goal of the layoffs were to "eliminate redundancy." PGW management also announced at that time that it would be reviewing all its operations and would restructure these-an announcement that came to fruition shortly thereafter and also generated much interest.

- State Farm Issues Reminder about "Insignia and Logo Glass" Policy: Though State Farm officials say it has long had in place a policy for how it handles "insignia and logo glass," an announcement/reminder about this came as quite a surprise to the industry when it was released last April. This story, and several follow-ups, including a memorable interview with State Farm spokesperson Jeff McCollum and industry reaction to the announcement, were among not only the most read, but also the most talked about news stories of the year.

- PGW to Take Over Vitro America's Auto Glass Distribution Business Effective June 24: Pittsburgh Glass Works again made headlines in June when it took over Vitro America's auto glass distribution business. Though neither company has commented publicly on this massive change, even six months later, many clearly expected an impact, based on the widespread interest in this story.

- Belron Purchases Iowa Glass Auto Glass Assets: Belron US's acquisition of Iowa Glass's auto glass assets could be known as the purchase heard around the world-or at least around the auto glass industry. This acquisition was one that was long-predicted by industry representatives, as much as a year before it occurred. Approximately three weeks before the two companies announced that they had reached an agreement, Iowa Glass president Steve Dummermuth advised glassBYTEs.com™ he wouldn't comment on such rumors (CLICK HERE for that story). But on September 23, it was in fact confirmed and the sale closed on September 30 (CLICK HERE for that story).

- Safelite Prepares for Launch of TV Advertising; Also Plans Mass Hiring: It's hard to believe that Safelite technician Erik Schumaker's name ever was not a common one, but it was just this past August that Safelite announced that it would undertake a massive television advertising campaign. Now, Schumaker's name is one known not only by those in the industry, but at one time also was known by many consumers across the United States who tuned into CBS, NBC, TNT, TBS and USA, during the two-week ad campaign. The campaign continued to be a popular topic throughout its run (CLICK HERE to read about the official October launch and to view the commercial), but the initial announcement that it was on its way, along with the news that Safelite planned to increase its fleet of technicians, seemed to generate even more excitement than Shumaker's television debut.

- Belron US Files Suit Against Coast to Coast and Former Employee; Alleges Employee is Violating Non-Compete: Though industry giant Belron US often is a recurring topic in industry circles, when the company filed suit against another notorius industry player, Coast to Coast Auto Glass, our readers certainly tuned in. Though the suit has since been dismissed (CLICK HERE to view that story), the allegations that a former Belron US employee had joined Coast to Coast, despite a non-compete agreement, created quite a stir.

- AGRSS Registration Absolves Montana Glass Shop in Recent Case, Shop Owner Reports: Jeff Tribble, owner of J&D Auto Glass in Missoula, Mont., may not be a name you hear often in the industry, but his story is one in which many took interest. Tribble has an interesting tale about how registering that he follows the Auto Glass Safety Standard (AGRSS) paid off for him in a recent suit filed against him. Tribble's story began with a simple call requesting that he send a technician 90 miles away to replace a windshield on a 1971 Mercedes-and what happened next surely surprised both Tribble and others who took interest in his story.

- Conn. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Glass Shops on Issue of Unilateral Contracts; Question of Fair and Reasonable Pricing Returned to Trial Court: Notable industry attorney and AGRR columnist Chuck Lloyd of Livgard and Lloyd has been known to describe unilateral contracts in a simple way, noting that it "takes two to tango." (CLICK HERE to read a column from Lloyd on this topic.) So this particular Connecticut decision certainly was one of victory for auto glass shops, particularly in the state of Connecticut. Though the Connecticut Supreme Court declined to make a decision on what constitutes "fair and reasonable pricing" in the case and remanded this part of the case to a trial court, it ruled clearly that when the glass shops involved were sent pricing letters by Safelite (which in this case was acting as glass claims administrator for Hanover Insurance), unilateral contracts were not agreed upon-and no agreement to submit to this pricing structure had been made on the part of the glass shops.

- Pittsburgh Glass Works to Close Evart, Mich., Plant; Company Officials Continue to Research Another Possible Closing: Just two months before Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) announced layoffs of several key employees (see above), it also announced that it would be closing one of its plants in Evart, Mich. Since then, it also announced that it would close another plant in Hawkesbury, Ontario (CLICK HERE for more), but it seems it was the initial announcement about the Michigan plant that generated the most industry attention of the two closings. Like many other auto glass manufacturers that have had to reduce plant capacity, lay off employees and close facilities this year, PGW cited the automotive industry's downturn and the reduced demand in the automotive arena as the reasons for the closings.

- Inside the New York Insurance Agent Kickbacks-One Shop Owner's Story: It's never been a secret that some glass shops choose to offer incentives to insurance agents to generate business from those agents' customers. In fact, in October 2007, AGRR magazine took an in-depth look at this practice and how it affects industry participants (CLICK HERE to view). But two years later, this October, several New York insurance agents incurred massive fines for engaging in the practice, after two shop owners decided they could no longer afford to offer incentives and went forward to the state's insurance department with their concerns about what this was doing to the industry. (In New York, it's legal for auto glass businesses to provide the incentives, but illegal for the agents to take them.) Shortly after the fines were announced, Rick Galluzzi, owner of Bison Auto Glass in Buffalo, N.Y., one of the two companies that had brought the matter to the state's attention, spoke out and explained not only how he became involved in the practice, but also what led him to quit.

Which of these stories impacted you most? Do you see any omissions from the list-anything you expected to make the list that didn't? And, what do you think 2010 has in store for the auto glass industry? Please e-mail pstacey@glass.com.

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