• History of Auto Glass Repair

    The history of windshield repair is filled with entrepreneurs and individuals that overcame great many hurdles to become successful. While this history mainly deals with the companies that manufacture the tools required to produce a repair, it is not meant to downgrade the activities of service technicians who actually did the repairs. Without the great efforts of individual pioneering retailers the industry would not have prospered and grown. People like Lucille Massey (Houston), Bill Batley (Seattle), Bruce Quande (Missoula) and Cindy Rowe Taylor (Harrisburg) were responsible for talking to consumers and doing repairs. Also, this brief history deals only with work that was started in the United States. Many of these companies later spread around the world, forming other companies and associations. Without the efforts of all these people windshield repair would not be where it is today.

    Automobile glass repair or what is generally called windshield repair is a recent innovation when compared to the history of the automobile. The technology needed to repair glass relates to the introduction of multiple layers of glass (laminated safety glass) in windshields. Laminated glass allows the windshield to remain basically intact, and for a repair to be done by removing the air in the damaged area and replacing it with a resin. Although laminated glass in automobiles dates back to the 1930’s, real improvements came in the 1960’s with the improved plastic inner layer of Poly Vinyl Butyral (PVB). Prior to the early 1970’s when the first windshield repair process was invented, the only improvement that could be done was purely cosmetic. Typically, an oil-based fluid was poured into the area to fill the damage and to "hide" the break. It has been said that some used car dealers did this to try to sell a vehicle without installing a new windshield. It should go without saying that this was not a permanent repair.

    The first company to produce a repair system was Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M) Company in St. Paul, Minnesota. The 3M Company first introduced a system they called "Scotch Weld" in 1971. This system employed ultra sound vibrations to clean the break and a syringe to inject a resin, or adhesive into the damage. The equipment successfully repaired "bullseye" type damage, but unfortunately was very large (filling the bed of a pick-up truck) and was very expensive to build and thus to lease to others. It is said that 3M did a good job of introducing the concept of windshield repair to insurance companies, but decided to pursue other products when the repair equipment failed to attain the volume that they required.

    In 1972, Origin Inc., a Research Company founded by Dr. Frank Warner in Jackson Hole, Wyoming developed a process for repairing stone damaged windshields. Dr. Warner had personally experienced stones breaking his windshield, and had directed work on a solution to repair the glass, rather than replace the entire windshield. A key member of Dr. Warner’s company, was Bill Wiele, a chemical engineer who developed adhesive resins that would be clear and optically match the windshield glass. Dr. Warner decided to license his invention to a former associate, Gerry Keinath. Keinath had recently started a small company, Novus Inc. to market innovative products. Novus was responsible for much of the early pioneering work with insurance companies and fleet operators to convince them of the merits of repairing windshields. During the early days of Novus, the efforts were concentrated towards selling equipment to glass replacement shops and automotive dealers. While a significant amount of equipment was sold, not many repairs were being done. At the same time, Keinath noticed that there was a small and growing group of individuals who were offering the service of windshield repair using the Novus equipment. He decided to concentrate on working with "repair only" specialists. He began by licensing the process to these individuals, and later in the mid 1980’s moved into full-fledged franchising of the business.

    In the mid 1970’s, as Novus was establishing its "repair only" specialists, another company began by selling a "vacuum" windshield repair system within the glass replacement market. Mort Gallub in suburban Philadelphia founded Glass Medic. Gallub owned one of the largest auto reconditioning operations on the East Coast and found that replacing windshields meant his profit margins on used vehicles became very slim. He had heard of the early progress of repair, and experimented with various systems. Mort hired a research engineer to improve on the system and eventually developed a "vacuum pump" process that he used within his reconditioning business. Gallub hired, Bill Matles, a young glass replacement specialist to market the product. In the 1980’s Glass Medic became the largest selling product within the glass replacement industry.

    As the 1970’s came to a close, the word of windshield repair began to spread, a number of other companies began operations. Many began by first doing repairs, and then by producing their own equipment. Tony and Gerry Jacino started Clear Star in New York, Hap Alexander founded Glas-Weld Systems in Oregon and John Surdich started Kemxert in Pennsylvania.

    In the early 1980’s two companies that were very big in auto glass replacement produced and sold repair equipment. Harmon Glass in Minneapolis manufactured a system they called the "Harmonizer", and Auto Glass Specialist under Bob Birkhauser formed a division called AEGIS which produced and sold their equipment. In 1984, Walt and Darlene Deines formed Delta Kits in Oregon. Their son Brent Deines now runs Delta Kits.

    In 1981, Gene Curwick started doing windshield repair in Minneapolis and in 1985, he started marketing his own resins and tools. In the mid to late 1980’s more companies started producing equipment. Dan Wanstrath produced equipment that was automated and formed Glass Technology in Colorado. Tom Sloan, Steve Ameter, and Steve Beck formed Liquid Resins International in Illinois with specialization as an independent supply house with multiple resins. Joyce Newsome started Tri Glass in Washington State. Ken Einiger, concentrating on sales to people wanting to start their own businesses, founded Glass Mechanix in Florida. Rich Campfield started Ultra Bond in California by specializing in equipment to repair long cracks. Rich later moved his company to Colorado.

    In the 1990’s windshield repair continued to grow with more companies entering the business, and some changing ownership. While we can't list all of the new companies and changes, here are a few of the more prominent ones. Keith Surdich left Kemxert and formed his own company Poly-Lite W/R Supplies in Pennsylvania. Dave Casey founded Super Glass Windshield Repair with Bill Costello and became one of two companies offering windshield repair as a franchised product and Bill Penrod formed US Windshield Repair in Orange, CA. In the very early 90’s Glass Medic was sold to its largest international customer, Belron International, the largest glass replacement retailer in the world. The North American rights were sold to Dave Schuh, a former manager of Novus. Dave operated the company until the late 1990’s when Belron purchased it back. It is now operating as Glass Medic America under the leadership of Paul Syfko. Also in the 90’s, the Keinath family sold Novus to Trans Canada Glass International (TCGI).

    By the year 2000, significant changes occurred in the repair versus replacement marketing. Although repair had been done by independent replacement dealers, and to a limited amount by some of the larger US retailers, many replacement dealers, and most large retailers did not devote a major effort towards repair. While repair was being done by leading replacement companies in Europe, such as Belron’s Carglass and Autoglass divisions, it was not done to the same extent in the U.S. In 1998 the marketing of windshield repair changed dramatically when Safelite Auto Glass, the largest glass replacement retailer in the US, decided to embrace windshield repair by forming a unit specializing in repair. Safelite’s Repair Medic program was developed under the leadership of Paul Gross. The Repair Medic operation spread to major markets in the United States offering repair directly from Safelite. In early 2002 another of the large US auto glass replacement dealers, Harmon Auto Glass, founded its own repair only division under the name RepairOne to concentrate on windshield repair.

    While companies concentrating on "repairs only service" continue to do the largest number of repairs, windshield repair has also proven itself as a viable alternative product offered by most retail service companies in auto glass. And the predictions are that repair will continue to grow as insurance companies and consumers understand the cost and product benefits. Today windshield repair is an accepted product, not only in the United States, but also within almost every country around the world.

  • Insurance Premiums

    Now Pay a Lower Car Insurance Premium if You Are Married 

    Factors like profession, gender and marital status, among many others, are now being used by insurers to determine the premium. Preeti Kulkarni shows how you can bring down your auto insurance premiums. 
    Are you a doctor? Do you have a covered parking lot? Do you use your car sparingly? 
    If your answers to these questions are ‘Yes’, you may get a discount on the insurance premium on your car at the time of renewal. Faced with huge losses in their motor portfolio, general insurers are exploring various options to reduce the losses. Differential pricing is one of the options considered, which means premiums will go up if the insurer believes the incidence of claim is going to be higher or vice versa. 
    “Traditionally, car premiums were decided upon the basic factors i.e. engine capacity, age of the car and geographical zones. Over the last four years, insurers in India have started using several other asset-based parameters such as the type of fuel used in the car, effective anti-theft devices etc. Further, few insurers now are trying with demographic parameters as well these include the occupation of the insured, the age of the driver/insured etc.”, says Sanjay Datta, Chief, Underwriting & Claims, ICICI Lombard. 
    In fact, industry-watchers say your marital status and gender, too, could affect the premium figures. 
    “In terms of demographic parameters, we have started taking into account the insured’s age, gender, occupation and driving experience. Even marital status plays a role in influencing the premiums. For instance, married individuals in the age group of 32-60 are entitled to discounts as they are perceived to be more responsible drivers and we are thinking of using this as a rating parameter. They can also be counted upon to take good care of their vehicles. Discounts on the basis of such personal information can go up to 20%. Likewise, the loading on premium, too, can be as high as 20%”, says Madhukar Sinha, National Head, Personal Lines, Tata-AIG General. 
    However, the possibility of discount in one category being cancelled out due to loading in another cannot be ruled out. For instance, higher premium due to the fuel type may nullify the discount earned on account of occupation or age.
    Simply put, the information you provide can swing the premium for you. For instance, Berkshire Insurance, which sells Bajaj Allianz’s motor policies, offers a 5% discount to policyholders if they share personal information. 
    “We have started offering discounts in premiums to certain professions (like doctors, software professionals, those with desk jobs) and also on the basis of income brackets and gender. The discounts will be in the range of 5-7 % on policies bought online”, says Vijay Kumar, Head, Motor Insurance, at Bajaj Allianz. 
    You are also likely to score high on insurers’ preference meter if you sparingly use your vehicle, as that would translate into fewer chances of making claims. This apart, you could be charged lower premiums if you park the car in a covered space. Again, the reason is lower possibility of claims. On the other hand, a car parked in the open is always at the risk of getting damaged.
    If you are buying your policies through an intermediary, it is unlikely that s/he will encourage you to provide such details in the proposal form. Besides, going online has direct benefits too. “One can save money on car insurance premiums by buying the insurance policy online. Some companies offer better rates for customers coming directly onto the company’s website”, says Datta.
    Policyholders who have not made any claims in the previous year receive rewards in the form of No-Claim Bonus (NCB). On renewal, the cover could increase by up to 50%. Therefore, you need to make efforts to earn this NCB. At a broader level, you can do so by following driving rules and taking adequate care of your car. Moreover, you can also retain the NCB by forgoing smaller claims. If the claim amount is not significant, it is better not to make a claim. 
    “You should look at getting the vehicle repaired at a garage that charges reasonable rates. You can negotiate hard to bring down the costs. If you avoid smaller claims, you stand to gain 20% in the first year and up to 50% in the subsequent years as NCB”, says Kumar.
    Simply put, if the amount is lower than the NCB you are likely to accumulate, you’d be better off forgoing the claim. Also, remember, since the NCB is linked not to the vehicle or the policy but to the policyholder, it will be transferred to your new car too. You should ensure that when you sell your old car and buy a new car in the same segment, you can claim NCB on the premium for the new car also. The savings in such a scenario can be significant as the premium for a new car is always high. 
    If you are confident of your driving abilities or are unlikely to use your car extensively during the year, you can explore this option. Here, the customer agrees to bear a part of the expenses before the company steps in to foot the rest of the bill. 
    “If the customer is confident of his/her driving skills and feels that s/he is not going to make a claim during the year, this is a good option. The deductible ranges from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 7,500 and the savings in premium can be as high as 30%”, says Kumar.
    While diesel cars have gained popularity due to lower cost of the fuel, the effect on premiums is just the opposite. Petrol cars attract lower premiums compared to diesel or CNG-run vehicles. Therefore, you need to bear this point in mind while deciding on the right vehicle.
    Further discounts can be availed by installing Automobile Research Association of India (ARAI) approved anti-theft devices in your car. “This is another form of reward to the owner of the car for showing responsibility by installing such a device”, says Datta. It is estimated that installations of such devices have brought down claims by up to 80%. “At the time of buying a car, ensure that it is fitted with a manufacturer-fitted anti-theft device. Devices procured later may not help much as the insurer will have to assess whether it is certified, which could result in hassles during policy issuance”, adds Kumar.