With 2011 drawing to a close, we decided to crunch some numbers and find out what news stories really got our online readers clicking this year. Not surprisingly, three of the top five stories involve the nation’s largest insurer, State Farm. A ticked-off shop owner allegedly assaulting a post-repair inspector and NACE’s move to Orlando also piqued your interest.
Here’s how the top five news stories of 2011 rank:
1. State Farm Changes Shop Locator to List Top Performers First
In October, State Farm changed its consumer website’s repair facility locator to rank Select Service shops based on performance scores as determined by State Farm. Commenters couldn’t agree whether the move was helpful to consumers or "one more insurance company letting the power go to their heads," as reader Rich Masters put it.
2. Post-Repair Inspector Files Assault Charges Against North Carolina Body Shop Owner
Just last week, we reported on the alleged scuffle heard ’round the country. Billy Walkowiak, owner of Collision Safety Consultants in Belmont, N.C., claimed that Rick Russell of Rick’s Body Shop in Gastonia physically assaulted him for exposing bad repairs that the shop allegedly performed. Readers seemed to be divided on whether Russell was right to be angry or if he simply gave a "black eye" to the industry.
3. NACE Moving to Orlando for 2011
In early January, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) announced that it would relocate Automotive Service & Repair Week (ASRW), which includes NACE and CARS, to Orlando for its 2011 show after polling exhibitors and attendees. In 2010, ASRW was held in Las Vegas two weeks before the SEMA and AAPEX shows, and attendance was noticeably down.
4. Avery vs. State Farm Case Back in Spotlight After Petition Filed to Restore $1 Billion Verdict
A petition was filed Sept. 8 by the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the 1997 Michael Avery, et al. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company case, asking the Illinois Supreme Court to reconsider their case because the defendants allegedly committed an "intrinsic fraud" against the court. A judge’s ties to the insurer have been questioned by the plaintiffs.
5. State Farm Settles Three Lawsuits with Gunder’s
This is yet another chapter in Florida shop owner Ray Gunder’s ongoing battle with the insurer, and he has vowed to continue to "pound the rock" in the hopes that his success will encourage other shop owners to take on insurers.