Automobile Club of Southern California
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California|
|Region served||Southern California|
|Parent organization||American Automobile Association|
The Automobile Club of Southern California is the Southern California affiliate of the American Automobile Association (AAA) federation of motor clubs. The Auto Club was founded on December 13, 1900, in Los Angeles as one of the nation's first motor clubs dedicated to improving roads, proposing traffic laws, and improvement of overall driving conditions. Today, it is the single largest member of the AAA federation, with 6.2 million members in its home territory of Southern California, a total of 13.6 million members across all subsidiaries in 20 states, and an annual budget in excess of $4 billion.
The Auto Club was an early advocate for the construction of the Ridge Route, the first highway through the Tehachapi Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains, which directly linked Los Angeles to Bakersfield and the Central Valley. The completion of the Ridge Route greatly facilitated automobile travel through this significant mountain barrier.
Starting around 1910, the Auto Club sent teams of cartographers to survey the state's roads for the production of maps and to create a uniform signing system. The Auto Club posted thousands of porcelain-on-steel traffic signs throughout the state and continued to do so until the State of California took over the task in the mid-1950s. The signs were produced by a local company that manufactured porcelain-on-steel bathtubs. A few of these signs remain in service today, though they are extremely rare.
The year 1923 marked the completion of the Auto Club's main office on the corner of Figueroa Street and Adams Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. Designed by architects Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns, and built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the building now serves as the Los Angeles branch office. The club's headquarters are still in Los Angeles but its administrative offices are in Costa Mesa.
From 1934 through 1941 the building's courtyard served as the site of the Auto Club's annual "Outing Show," which promoted motor vacations and camping. These events were halted after the start of the war and were never revived. During the course of the war, the Auto Club played a leadership role in scrap rubber and metal drives and printed numerous posters for the war effort, including the "Give Them a Lift" campaign, which encouraged motorists to give rides to hitchhiking servicemen.
The Auto Club has also experienced its share of scandals. In 1970, the Auto Club incurred the wrath of Los Angeles city councilman Marvin Braude when it opposed an initiative that would have authorized diversion of state fuel tax revenues away from road construction to reducing smog and expanding mass transit. Braude ran for the Auto Club's board the next year and lost, then promptly sued the Auto Club over alleged unfairness in its election procedures that enabled the incumbent board to make itself self-perpetuating. His lawsuit dragged on for over 15 years and involved two trials and three appeals, all of which Braude ultimately won. In the end, the Auto Club was forced to revise its election procedures to give board outsiders a better chance of actually winning seats, and it was ordered to pay Braude's attorney's fees. Furthermore, the Braude case revealed that the Auto Club had been exploiting several loopholes in California corporate law, which caused the state Legislature to enact a comprehensive revision of the California Nonprofit Corporation Law in 1978.
Today, the Automobile Club of Southern California's affiliated insurance company, the Interinsurance Exchange of the Auto Club, is one of California's largest insurers. It provides coverage for homes, recreational vehicles and watercraft as well as cars and trucks. Unusually, it is organized as a reciprocal inter-insurance exchange rather than as a conventional insurance company.
The Auto Club is the largest member of the AAA federation. The Auto Club is still a membership organization, and provides as a member benefit maps, travel planning, emergency roadside service, and DMV services. Members also receive Westways, a magazine published eight times a year and devoted to travel and automotive subjects. Branch offices stretch from Chula Vista, near the international border with Mexico, to the small town of Bishop, in California's eastern Sierra mountains.
AAA expansion program
In 1996, the Auto Club began an expansion program that involved the purchase of or affiliation with several other AAA motor clubs across the country by acquiring AAA Hawaii, AAA New Mexico, and AAA Texas. It went on to affiliate with AAA Northern New England (serving New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine) in 2003 and AAA Missouri (serving Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and portions of Illinois and Indiana) in 2006. AAA Alabama was acquired in 2007. The Auto Club later affiliated with AAA East Central (serving portions of Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia); it affiliated with AAA Tidewater in 2012.
Other affiliated programs
From Central California northward, the California State Automobile Association, now called AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, provides services to ACSC members who travel north. AAA Northern California and ACSC are both members of the AAA federation of motor clubs. While membership is not interchangeable among AAA clubs, each club provides certain services to all AAA members on a reciprocal basis, notably roadside assistance.
In recent years, the Auto Club has returned to its roots with involvement in auto racing, sponsoring the annual Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (Fontana) and NHRA Auto Club Finals (Pomona). The tracks where both events are held (Auto Club Speedway and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, respectively), along with a drag strip in Bakersfield (Auto Club Famoso Raceway), all have naming rights held by the Auto Club.
- John W. Baumgartner, Los Angeles City Council member, 1933–35, opposed Auto Club signs on city streets
- Braude v. Auto. Club of S. Calif., 178 Cal. App. 3d 994 (1986).
- Auto Club Is Acquiring Sister Affiliates in Texas, Hawaii, N.M.
- "Auto Club Expands Reach to East Coast: AAA Northern New England Affiliates With California Club; Strategic Business Move Designed To Expand Business Lines and Member Service for Both Clubs." (Press release). Business Wire. December 18, 2002. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- Auto Club of Southern California and AAA Missouri Reach Agreement to Affiliate
- Auto Club thinks it is stronger with affiliation
- Automobile Club of Southern California Assumes Responsibility for AAA Alabama
- AAA Tidewater Virginia announces plan to provide new and expanded benefits for club members