The Akron Beacon Journal from Akron, Ohio on December 23, 1984 · Page 57
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The Akron Beacon Journal from Akron, Ohio · Page 57

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Akron, Ohio
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Sunday, December 23, 1984
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Page 57
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Akron Beacon Journal Sunday, December 23, 1 984 G 1 48-year-old in a wringer Big Boy has his buns Public to decide if he heads for corporate-symbol heaven : By Katie Byard e. Beacon Journal business writer You remember Big Boy. I He's the chronically prepubescent, chubby character who in recent years has taken a back seat to more heavily promoted restaurant characters such as Ronald McDonald and Clara Peller the "Where's the Beef?" woman). Big Boy recently picked himself up by his famous red and white checkboard suspender straps and found himself the star of a series of commercials. I But he may not be all that happy to be upstaging the restaurant chain's newly introduced salad, soup and breakfast bars, which have dominated previous Big Boy television ads. For the commercials ask a big question, whose answer could determine the fate of the 48-year-old corporate symbol. The question: "Should he stay, or should he go?" In the commercial, Big Boy is seen first with his trademark smile and then an uncharacteristic frown. The question is repeated on placemats, hats and banners in Big Boy restaurants and is being hotly debated among customers and discussed widely in the media. The idea of letting the public decide whether Big Boy could co-exist with the restaurant chain's new image grew out of what was originally a rhetorical question, said Vince Webb, director of marketing for East Coast Big Boys, which includes Big Boy restaurants in Northeast Ohio. "It was initially just an advertising tool, then all of a sudden it became bigger than what we had expected," he said, explaining that originally, Big Boy's fate was to be largely a corporate decision. "This thing (reaction to the promotion) is a little on the scary side. We were being kind of light. We thought people would take it lightly. People are adamant with their opinions," said W. Anthony Sturm, Northeast Ohio regional manager for Bob's Big Boy Restaurants. In the first commercial, which was aired initially in early November, "Mr. Big" a ficticious chairman of the Big Boy company tells his board in so many words that it is time for Big Boy to go to corporate-symbol heaven. Mr. Big brags to his board that company- owned Big Boy restaurants are undergoing an image change and, well, Big Boy, with his pompadour haircut, out-of-style duds and cherub cheeks, doesn't quite fit in with their new "upscale" look and menu. (Mariott Corp. owns Bob's Big Boy Restaurants and the rights to sell Big Boy franchises. Company-owned Big Boy outlets are in Northeast Ohio, the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area and Southern California. These outlets go under the name of Bob's Big Boy, while franchised operations have their own first names.) Big Boy restaurants are becoming "more trendy, much more upscale than in the past," Sturm said. Indeed, many Big Boy outlets are shucking their white-tiled floors and heavy-on-the-orange-col-ored vinyl decors in favor of interiors and exteriors for that matter that are a bit more subdued. And many outlets now have soup and salad bars and breakfast buffets, all de rigueur for trendy, upscale eateries. See BIG BOY'S, page G6 S3 r t fir p tm$ Beacon Journal photo bv Lew Stamp Tom Babcox displays his company's eight publications that look at the automotive aftermarket business Read an auto repair book lately? Babcox has a magazine for every phase of the business By Marilyn Geewax Beacon Journal business writer Few people would tell you that their longing in life is to come home from work, put on their slippers, and curl up with a good story about rack and pinion repairs. But at least 26,300 auto repair shop owners, managers and mechanics do want to keep up with the latest news about brakes and front ends. Those people subscribe to Brake & Front End, one of eight trade magazines published by Babcox Publications, a small company founded in Akron nearly 65 years ago. Together, the eight magazines have a circulation of nearly 230,000 while the company has annual sales of about $7.5 million. Each magazine caters to a small niche in the automotive aftermarket business that segment of the auto industry that deals with repairs and service. They deal with topics such as tires, rebuilt parts, imports, body repairs and brakes. The publishing company was founded in Akron in 1920 by Ed ward S. Babcox Sr. and now is headed by his son, Tom B. Babcox. The third generation, namely daughter Becky Babcox, is preparing to take over as father Tom, 64, begins contemplating retirement. Tom Babcox said his father came to Akron from Cleveland in 1913 after landing a job as the advertising manager at Firestone. At the time, the auto industry was just taking shape and people were growing hungry for information about cars, tires and other parts. In 1920, Ed Babcox decided to leave Firestone to start his own magazine, the India Rubber & Tire Review, to keep tire dealers abreast of developments. The magazine prospered in the 1920s and survived the 1930s, never missing an issue despite the tough times, Tom Babcox said. Ed Babcox wisely provided for the long-term health of his family business by having three sons, Edward Jr., Reid and Tom. After the three young men served in the armed forces during World War II, they returned to the family business with dreams of expansion. The founder retired in the 1950s, leaving Reid as president and Tom as vice president, while Edward Jr. dropped out of the business. In the mid-1970s, Reid retired and Tom was left to handle the company. While continuing the original magazine, now called Tire Review, Babcox Publications has expanded considerably in recent years, keeping up with the industry trend toward producing a family of magazines. "You can't afford to put out just one magazine," Babcox said. "You have to spread your costs over a wide base." To create more magazines,, the staff has expanded from 35 employees in 1979 to 60 today. The amount of office space has grown to include the main building at 11 S. Forge St. and an adjacent building on the corner of E. Market Street and S. Forge Street. Space also is leased in a nearby office building facing S. Forge Street. Babcox said the reason for the growth has been the compa ny's ability to successfully identify new niches in the automotive aftermarket. With more than 4,000 trade magazines being published today in the United States, a publisher must be careful to choose a niche that hasn't already been filled. "It's easy for a field to become overcrowded," he said, noting that hundreds of magazines about computers have sprung up in recent years. One of the most recent addi tions to the Babcox group of trade publications is Body Shop Business, a magazine aimed at body repair shop owners. "That was a success from the very first issue," he said, because no other publisher was adequately serving that particular marKet. The great majority of Babcox subcribers get their magazines at no charge because all revenues come from advertisers. The advertisers are willing to bear the full cost of publishing the elossv. color magazines in exchange for reaching the spe cific group of readers most like- See AUTO REPAIR, page G6 9 uiu oi a aea coming at GM 9 chairman says; By Edward Miller Associated Press DETROIT General Motors Corp. shook up the car business forever when it spent $2.5 billion to merge with a huge computer company, and now chairman Roger B. Smith says another big move is in the works. "It's going to take a lot longer" than did GM's acquisition this fall of Electronic Data Systems Inc. of Dallas, Smith said.'lt takes a long time to bake some cakes." Smith teased the auto industry early in the year and started a guessing game when he told a Detroit newspaper that he had "a lulu coming." At the time, Smith already had racked up some real lulus such as the start of his drive to reorganize from top to bottom the world's largest manufacturer and employer of 700,000 people. Another lulu was the historic linkup with Toyota Motor Corp. for joint production of Japanese-designed subcompact cars in California under the Chevrolet Nova name. The car debuted this month. Then the Electronic Data Systems deal came along, a marriage of GM's gray flannel brains and blue-collar muscle with the personal empire of H. Ross Perot, the Texan who made billions by selling computer time to corporations. Many in Detroit thought Electronic Data, as GM's biggest acquisition ever, was Smith's lulu. It wasn't. "This lulu is something different. It's still in the works," he said in a recent interview. "But then again, it's not behind schedule, let's put it that way." Smith would not say how or even if the move was related to the car business and he would not predict when it would come. But he did say it would fit in with the GM he has tried to mold forward-looking, bent toward entrepreneurship and looking for companies to link up with both inside and outside the world of automobiles. For example, GM could tap the resources of scores of other carmakers, including its Japanese partner, Isuzu Motors Ltd., which makes tiny cars, huge trucks and products in between. Or GM could make another move in basic industry. It has a Japanese partner in the robot-making business. And, during the T !FJ 'WM fear, iy a smMM Roger B. Smith . . , No. 1 at GM summer when it was working out the Electronic Data purchase, GM bought equity stakes in five com-; panics that have developed sys-: terns that let robots see. : One of Smith's latest projects is; unleashing the numbers and know-how of GM's largest group of professional employees its tens of thousands of engineers. Look out, Smith says, when they no longer are working with their hands tied behind their backs. "When the government literally dumped on us the safety, emissions and the fuel-economy regulations; it took everybody we had just to get those things handled," Smith said of the engineers. "We're coming out of that area where we've got some time." He said changing the company bureaucracy has made for a slow start and "we're transferring from one type of organization to another (and) that takes some extra duplication and extra engineers." " "So, we are under tremendous pressure still. But, having said all that, we still are finding that we've got enough engineers to put on extra little things where I think we can make some good developmental products that would come out of it." On the way to putting Chevys and Cadillacs on the road, GM's engineering army has discovered many things like how to make a super magnet that could revolutionize the making of small motors. GM gave it a name, Magnet Quench, and eventually may market it. : "That thing's got potential in clocks, you name it, about anyplace a motor goes," Smith said. "I imagine there are a hundred projects or better out there that each guy in the research lab hopes can be a MagneQuench." ;New rules in effect for depreciating autos used in work Q. A few months ago, I bought s new car to use in my business. Previously, I always depreciated cost over three years. Must I now use a longer period? A. The answer depends on when you purchased the car and how much you paid for it. For cars purchased on or before June 18, 1984, the entire cost can be depreciated within three years: 25 percent of the cost in the first year, 38 percent in the second year, and 37 percent in the third. ' If you purchased your car after June 18, 1984, these percentages still apply, but only so long as they do not exceed . the new annual dollar limitations: $4,000 for the first year and $6,000 for each year threreafter as needed. In other words, if the percentages, when converted to dollars, exceed the annual-limitation amounts, then you must use the limitation amounts. What all this means is that if the car costs more th.a $16,000, Tax answers Merlin Briner you'll depreciate it over more than three years. An example helps to illustrate the distinction. Let's assume that on Nov. 1, 1984, you purchased a $24,000 car, and that you want to figure the depreciation. The first step is to convert the three-year percentages into dollars. With this example, you can stop calculating immediately because 25 percent of $24,000 is $6,000, $2,000 more than the annual-limitation amount. Therefore, you'll have to go to a longer depreciation period. Please note that the annual limita tions are only base amounts. After 1984, these figures will be adjusted annually to keep up with inflation. In all likelihood, that means they will increase. Q. My Job requires a car; however, since I have only one vehicle, I also use it to go to the store, visit friends and take my Lids to school. Can I still take a deduction for depreciating the car's Initial cost? A. Before getting to your question, remember that any business use of your car must be sufficiently documented for a business-related deduction. As stated in a previous column, new rules require "adequate contemporaneous records," meaning a daily log for many taxpayers. As for your question, the fact that a portion of the car's use is for personal purposes does not necessarily mean that you cannot take advantage of depreciation. However, there are some limitations. First, you must determine from your recosds what portion of the car's use was for business. If the business-use portion accounts for at least 50 percent of the car's total use, then the three-year depreciation period or the new annual limitations can be used. To compute your depreciation deduction, first determine the total depreciation for the particular year, which means you ignore any personal use. Next, subtract the percentage of personal use from the total depreciation deduction allowable for that year. This adjusted amount becomes your permissible deduction. Although your depreciation deduction has been reduced for personal use, the amount remaining of the cost yet to be depreciated must be reduced by the full amount allowable, as if no personal use accurred. Once again, an example helps. Assume you purchased a car for $12,000 and determined that your personal use of the car was 50 percent. The first-year depreciation percentage for a 512,000 car is 25 percent, or $3,00. But with your personal use of the car, you subtract 50 percent, or $1,500. This leaves you with a $1,500 deduction. However, for purposes of next year's depreciation deduction, the full $3,000 must be subtracted from the car's original cost; The whole point here is to keep the taxpayer from later depreciating a portion of the car's cost for business when the use actually was personal. If the personal use accounts for more than 50 percent of the car's use, the straight-line method for calculating depreciation applies. The straight-line method for automobiles takes a 20 percent rate annually over a five-year pert od. : (Merlin Briner, a professor at the University of Akron's School of Law, will answer your tax questions. Send them U: Tax Answers, Beacon Journal Business Desk, 44 E. Exchange St, Akron 44328.) (

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