September 23, 2013
SafeAuto has expanded into California.
The Columbus-based insurance company known for offering state-minimum coverage for drivers has entered the state that has the most registered vehicles and plenty of competitors.
“We expect over the next couple of years it will be one of our top five states, just given the size of the state,” said Ron Davies, SafeAuto’s CEO.
SafeAuto began selling policies there last weekend.
Unlike in Ohio, though, drivers won’t be seeing spokesman Norm Macdonald on television commercials.
And SafeAuto’s model for selling insurance in California is different than in Ohio, where the company sells policies over the phone, online and in storefronts. SafeAuto is selling policies in California through SCJ Insurance Services, based in the San Francisco area, and its 1,800 brokers throughout the state, Davies said.
The brokers work like independent agents do in Ohio in that they can sell policies from several companies. They represent consumers in the transaction and then charge them a fee, Davies said.
So for now, no advertising is planned in California, he said.
“We want to wait and see how it pays off,” Davies said.
SafeAuto’s most-recent expansion was in 2011, when it went into Kansas and Virginia. California is SafeAuto’s 17th state.
“It’s a wide-open market. It’s very competitive” said Pete Moraga, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, an industry group.
The state has about 32 million registered vehicles, and auto-insurance premiums total about $11 billion a year. The state has registered 164 companies to sell at least auto-liability insurance.
Moraga said of SafeAuto: “Their competition would be the major players that advertise very heavily here.”