Published in Autobody News
by Chasidy Rae Sisk
The new year has arrived in full force, and though many of 2020’s challenges have not yet been completely eradicated, progress occurs daily. The National Auto Body Council® (NABC) saw progress last year, despite the many health and societal concerns that froze much of society, and their leaders are hopeful that this year will be even better. Newly elected Chairman Clint Marlow of Allstate joined NABC® President and CEO Bill Garoutte to share the organization’s “very positive” outlook for 2021 with Autobody News.
For NABC, 2020 concluded with its annual meeting, which included executive committee and board elections. During that meeting, three new board members were elected, with four seats being reelected. “We have history and familiarity with all of the board members since they’ve been working with us for several years,” Garoutte noted. “New leadership is good news, and most notably, Clint was elected Chairman of the board.”
For many years, Marlow has been involved with NABC through Allstate’s long-time partnership. A few years ago, Immediate Past Chair Darren Huggins “asked me to get more involved, which led to me joining the board. The more involved I became, the more I enjoyed it,” Marlow recalled. “I’m excited to serve as Chair, but I have some big shoes to fill!”
“Darren has a unique talent for bringing people together and encouraging closer involvement with the organization – he’s larger than life!” Marlow continued, “Luckily, he’s still around, offering guidance in his current role. Even though he’s passed the torch, he’s very supportive – that’s something the entire executive committee does really well.”
The past has a tendency of informing the future, and 2020 is bound to heavily influence the industry in 2021 and future years. By the middle of last year, most of the world had hit the brakes, and “it would have been easy for NABC to close up shop and come back next year,” Marlow pointed out, “but we didn’t. We quickly learned how to do things differently, how to act in our new environment to keep partners safe and still continue to serve our members and the communities where they do business.”
Garoutte added, “I’m proud that we were able to continue the momentum of our programs by thinking outside the box. It’s not about NABC – it’s about providing our partners with resources to help them stay engaged in the communities where they live and work. Implementing our programs in their markets allows them to be local heroes.”
During the second half of 2020, NABC and its partners gifted nearly 90 NABC Recycled Rides® in safe, socially distanced scenarios. Some of the giftings were broadcast on Facebook Live, but many were conducted privately, with only one or two individuals delivering the vehicle to its recipient. “Recent giftings have been more low-key, but these shops and partners don’t mind – they feel just as good being able to connect with their communities and provide a hand-up to someone in need,” Garoutte explained. “They leave feeling just as energized and satisfied as they would if TV cameras were present.”
Marlow contributed, “Folks may walk out of a NABC First Responder Emergency Extrication (F.R.E.E.™) or a NABC Distracted Driving Initiative™ (DDI) event without having their heart strings pulled, but no one walks away from a NABC Recycled Ride gifting without feeling passionate.”
NABC intends to continue gifting NABC Recycled Rides this year, but they currently have over 100 vehicles close to being gifted, many delayed by DMV closings. “All our partners showed their commitment to NABC by staying as engaged as ever,” Marlow said. “They prepared the vehicles without skipping a beat, even the trade schools who work on some of these vehicles. The only hiccough we’ve had is related to the DMV and titling.”
Even outside of the COVID-era, titling tends to be the most challenging part of the process in the NABC Recycled Rides program. “It’s more difficult than average to get that titling completed in today’s environment,” Marlow elucidated. “Due to DMV closures and appointment requirements related to the ‘new normal,’ we have around 20 vehicles that are complete and just waiting to transfer title. It’s a hurdle, but we’re figuring it out.”
Most of the individuals who will receive the completed vehicles have been informed and made aware of the situation, but there are plenty of other vehicles whose recipients have yet to be identified. NABC partners with 1.800.Charity.Cars, which vets the vehicle recipient for each NABC Recycled Ride. Unfortunately, there is a larger pool of potential recipients than normal.
“The number of people requesting vehicles through NABC Recycled Rides has grown by nearly 20% due to COVID,” Garoutte noted. “There’s more need because many people have lost their jobs and vehicles. This is an important way the industry can help these folks get back on their feet – reliable transportation allows them to hold a job. We aren’t looking to give handouts; we’re working with our partners to give a hand-up. Our mantra is changing and saving lives every day, and providing reliable transportation for someone in need is literally life-altering.”
The NABC F.R.E.E. and DDI programs are also impactful and support the organization’s goals. Due to social distancing mandates, those programs have largely been postponed, but NABC is hopeful about “figuring out how to work around it in the environment we’re in because our initiatives are very critical,” Garoutte emphasized. “All the firefighters and police officers who’ve taken advantage of a NABC F.R.E.E. event has expressed appreciation for the insights into hold to extricate people quicker and safer because every minute, or even each second, moves us forward in potentially saving lives. NABC is well positioned and staffed to make all this come to life in 2021.”
NABC knows their efforts would not be possible without the support of their industry partners. “We’ve been very fortunate that our partners have continued to stay engaged, despite things slowing down,” Marlow stated. “We’re very blessed to have such loyal partners. It’s been a tough year for everyone, but their support demonstrates the relevance of what we bring to the table and the value we’re adding to the industry.”
Some of that relevance and value can only be experienced by participating in the NABC initiatives. “Shops that want a robust marketing plan for 2021 only need to join NABC,” Garoutte challenged. “Host every firefighter in your area, and train them on how to extricate people, or do a NABC DDI program for a local school. Some shops have completed 10-15 NABC Recycled Rides and make that a big part of their marketing plan.”
“It’s a no-brainer,” he continued. “For a $500 annual membership, you gain access to all three of these initiatives and the full support of our staff to help you execute the programs you choose. It’s a marketing plan in a box – we’ll find the vehicles, work with the charities, and help gift the vehicle when you’ve completed the repairs; we’ll even coordinate with the media if you want. You just can’t put that kind of marketing power in place any other way for such a reasonable price!”
The secret to the success of the NABC programs is engagement. “We seek partners’ input and feedback to continually refine our products and programs,” Garoutte explained. “As long as we do that and keep them engaged, we’ll continue to be relevant. We celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2020, but we miss hosting our golf fundraisers. There’s a lot of camaraderie that occurs on the course, and if conditions are safe and it can be done responsibly, we’re looking forward to being able to do that later this year.”
For more information on NABC and its initiatives, visit nationalautobodycouncil.org.