AGRR Magazine

Reaction to Norm Harris Leaving Diamond Triumph

The news last week that Norm Harris has retired as chief executive officer of Diamond Triumph Auto Glass Inc., Kingston, Pa., did not surprise many in the industry given the problems the company has been having.

Shawn Newport, president, Star Auto Glass in Erie, Pa., made the point that, while everyone knows that the FBI is investigating the company for alleged insurance fraud, “We don’t really know what is happening inside the company.”

However, Newport is of the opinion the personnel changes at Diamond Triumph are symptoms that show how stressed the industry is. “Lots of people have been getting out of the industry in the last year,” he stated. “There’s been a lot of financial strain on companies starting last fall when demand dropped and then the NAGS revaluation and the dropping prices the insurance companies are paying. Under the circumstances, a lot of people who’s been in the industry for a long time are getting out.”

He makes the point that while a lot of people in the industry “feel funny” about Diamond Triumph, “they spent money [in the lawsuit against Safelite] to make some things known that need to be known,” he said.

Dave Zoldowski, vice president, Auto One Inc., Brighton, Mich., agrees with him. “Norm was instrumental in taking on Safelite and what they perceive as illegal steering and for that we applaud him. We hope that DT holds course and wins its case against Safelite,” he stated.

According to Zoldowski, who also serves as president of the Independent Glass Association (IGA), illegal steering remains a major threat to the independent glass shops across America. “As we look at the amount of independent shops going out of business over the last several years, we tend to blame the insurance companies and price pressures which certainly contribute to shop failures, but no one can measure the amount of jobs that are steered away from the independent shops. I have heard our IGA members say as may as 7 out of 10 jobs being steered away from independents if they don't get to the customer at first notice of loss before they call Safelite. I believe it’s a crime to our industry that a company can make glass, sell glass, install glass, and answer the phone for the insurance companies dispatching, some say, up to 40 percent of the glass claims across America.”

An executive at one large regional company who spoke on condition of anonymity pointed out that the timing of the announcement seemed “fishy” and added that it would be a sad, bad day for the entire industry if any company was indicted on fraud charges. “If there was an indictment followed by a conviction, it would be a black eye for the whole industry,” he stated.

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