I’ve been taking a break from writing mainly due to a case of AGR blues. As news filters in concerning the automotive glass industry, there is so little to be hopeful about the way the industry is trending from this observer’s perspective that it is simply too painful and pointless to comment on. Say it ain’t so, Joe!
I view blogs on leadership all the time on this very site. They may be useful to motivate employees but since far too many of us are one- to two-man single point outlets, the advice or homilies aren’t as relevant, or better said, universally applicable to the majority of us.
What we need is real industry leadership. That concept is sorely lacking and even more so desperately needed. Is this writer mistaken in his observation that it feels that AGR is lost in some sort of desert and is condemned to wander aimlessly into mediocrity or worse? Where are the captains of our industry who are willing to act, much less even speak out to improve the product, professionalism and craftsmanship instead of trying to please a stock analyst. I haven’t heard one yet but I should be reminded that miracles do occur as evident by the fact the Kansas City Royals have a winning record and should make the baseball playoffs this year.
What constitutes leadership these days? To me, there are far too many of us that have become either sheep or lemmings and meekly accept the downward spiral that has either been imposed upon us or embraced by us.
Is there a comfort that cheaply made products and hacks that install exists in other trades? My dear wife made a water heater purchase decision six years ago based on price. We replaced that water heater three months ago at almost double the cost of the first one, a fact that I had to mention to the owner/operator of the plumbing business who installed the replacement. Not only was the brand of the old heater a generic one, I was shown the poorly soldered copper joints of the first “plumber” and two other major installer no-no’s were pointed out. The venting system was not to code and since California is seismically active, water heaters are physically strapped in place. The installer secured metal straps to the heater by using sheet metal screws into the heater itself. In short, I told my wife, this was an everyday object lesson that I endure as a shop owner about price shopping a craft service. The public is deserving of a poor outcome when it bases it choices purely on price.
This writer is not aware of a single CEO of a major installation or glass manufacturing company that has been consistently outspoken on the major issues that confront this industry. Those being easy entry for practitioners, poor product quality, monopolistic and incestuous practices that exist in the insurance sector and zero accountability for all of the above.
Why would they speak out? Almost every one of those companies directly benefit from the lack of regulation, oversight and let’s not forget consumer ignorance.
Take steering, since Connecticut enacted a law that required a certain third-party administrator (TPA) to give out a name of a secondary glass company as well as its usual presumptive practice of handing the glass replacement over to its in-house self, the company has subpoenaed job acquisition records from glass shops in the state as well as other TPA competitors. What’s next? Subpoena car wash establishments that entice ignorant customers to have a chip repair done after the hot wax? One can be very assured that this company will fight like a cornered grizzly bear in order to keep its monopolistic golden funnel intact because it fears that if even a small diversion occurs, more will follow. However one’s ears will burn as the company will howl about its philosophical attachment to the free market as it seeks to retain its stranglehold on its own.
Since a windshield is just glass does that mean all brands are all of the same quality?
This myth (and this is a myth) is one that is embraced by far too many consumers and promulgated by glass shops selling on price or corporate relationships. In many cases, there is a significant difference in finish quality, visual acuity, weight and most likely product longevity meaning; does it crack easier?
I recently ordered a FW2047 from one of our corporate manufacturer/suppliers. When the part arrived, I realized that I had somehow missed that the lite did not come with rain sensor hardware and since this was for an older Mercedes SL, I was uncomfortable about using a replacement pad. I contacted my only independent distributor and for almost three times the price I brought in a Sekurit windshield. My customer was unhappy about the inevitable price change until he saw the actual differences between the two lites. The cheaper glass was far lighter, had a somewhat rippled top line and the customer noted that the Sekurit was “easier to see through.”
Globalization has brought vast changes to our economy and we in AGR are in the catbird’s seat to view and react to these forces. More competition equals more product. More product means the need to expand markets as prices drop and saturation of existing accounts takes place. Sad to say, the craft side of automotive glass requires little proof of proficiency and low demands for licensing and start-up capitalization. Many see the only way to break into the retail marketplace is to price product cheaper and accept lower profit margins. They are encouraged by customer-hungry distributors which offer them pricing factors equal to many long-time businesses. AGR has created a very vicious and self-defeating circle of destruction by demanding lower prices but accepting lower quality as well. On any given day, I have to deal with scratched or distorted glass, mis-bonded parts, mouldings that do not fit, nozzles that won’t thread properly on tubes, etc. Many of these issues start at the manufacturing level where the same economic pressures exist to squeeze profits out for shareholders, Wall Street analysts and executive bonuses, all at the expense of the product itself.
So, I for one, would like to see some real leadership from those who really matter. Improve our products! Increase prices if need be to do so. If TPAs are the way of the insurance future, ban ownership and management of them by anyone that has a remote interest in glass production or installation. Push for ways to improve the craft of auto glazing and those who practice it. Demand a higher entry bar and back it up with continuing education with proof of proficiency.
A gadfly blogger can only raise issues. CEOs have the ability to effect internal changes and attempt to gain consensus from their peers. The lobbying groups they finance can be used to promote laws that can raise professionalism instead of restricting change or oversight. One’s bottom line may hurt briefly but if the, “Please stay on hold. Your business is important to us” really was important, you would hire more people to answer the phone.