Zurich, one of the world’s largest property-casualty insurance companies, held its 5th Annual Aftermarket Industry Conference on November 2 at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas during the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week. Each year, Zurich brings industry leaders together and offers attendees the opportunity to network, learn from each other and address key industry issues.
Bob Tschippert, Sr. vice president for automotive specialty markets, opened the conference with a brief overview of Zurich’s 2007 integration with Universal Underwriters Group (UUG) and the re-launch of Unicover VI, an enhanced coverage program for independent shop owners and small business owners. The change from UUG to Zurich, allowed them to expand the breadth of their product offering by working closer with Zurich’s systems. Zurich provided much more capabilities to the U.S. team, and during the transition, Zurich grew their connection to the consumer and the automotive market. One of the ways Zurich shows their commitment to the automotive business is by continuing to provide association leaders and other industry professionals with a forum to discuss and share best practices.
Another exciting announcement Tschippert made was Zurich’s $10,000 commitment to GAAS, to support the continuing education of technicians and to encourage people to join our industry. “The initiative with the scholarship allows us to partner more closely with the associations. We can help educate the shop owner. We built our reputation by being a trusted advisor. It is important to us, that we continue to remain actively involved in providing solutions for various issues,” said Tschippert. Tom Bradley, president and CEO of Zurich Direct Underwriters had this to add, “this is all we do automotive. We want to continue to build on our relations, and be a part of this industry. Our contribution to GAAS is not only important to the industry, it is extremely gratifying on a personal level.”
This year, the conference was divided into two parts: the first part featured guest industry leaders discussing recent developments within their associations, and the second featured a dynamic keynote speaker.
Ron Pyle, president of ASA, briefly discussed the changes coming to CARS. For 25 years, CARS has been held in conjunction with the NACE show, but in a separate, smaller venue. The inaugural combined event will be held Nov. 5 8, 2008, Pyle announced, with CARS being co-located with NACE at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. This change was made to enable ASA to market to any mechanical repair center in the country. It also creates an umbrella “Automotive Service and Repair Week’ to generate a robust education, training and network event for the industry.
Dr. Roy Littlefield, TIA, spoke briefly about the recent merger at TIA and their continuing push for technician training. After more than 45 years as separate and rival associations, NTDRA and ITRA merged to form TIA (Tire Industry Association), representing manufacturers and distributors. Littlefield also discussed recent additions to their training program. “So far we have trained more than 33,000 technicians and our training is growing at a tremendous rate. We’re working closer with our manufacturers. They, along with our members, see the value of the TIA training”. TIA has created certification programs for automotive and heavy-duty truck, and is developing a program for mining vehicles.
The third speaker was Sandy Blalock, new president of Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA). ARA is currently working with U.S. Senator Lott to improve salvage title branding and developing a national standard regarding safe use of used air bags. They see this as a safety issue for the motoring public. They look for their new “Gold Seal” program to advise the consumer that any Gold Seal technician is best in class and has met rigorous goals to reach the highest performance standards.
The second half of this year’s conference featured keynote speaker, Walter Bond, first rookie free-agent ever to start opening night with the Dallas Mavericks. At 6’4” and 240 lbs, Bond strode down the aisle, booming out “No One Can Stop You But You” and promised to challenge the way the audience thought. His presentation focused on confidence, and what it takes to be a leader. “Confidence is arrogance under control,” he said. And, “there’s nothing you can do in your life well, without confidence.” His easygoing style of storytelling won the crowd over. But his a capella rendition of Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” had them eating out of his hand. Bond told of the trials of his teen years as the son of his high school principal, and his college years, when he thought being “AAAAAAALLLLL-State from Chicago” meant he was the biggest and best on campus. Through these experiences and the guidance of his father and coaches, he grew to understand that being big and strong meant some things in some venues, but that discipline, hard work, focus, and passion are all necessary and important qualities of a leader. He closed his presentation with this thought, “a great leader can lead you and you’ll never feel you’ve been led.”
Zurich is one of the world’s largest property-casualty insurance companies. They are a dominant provider to the collision repair and service markets. For more information regarding Zurich’s annual conference or any of its programs, contact Stacey Singer at (913) 339-1385 or [email protected].