AAA consolidates 700 employees in new Tampa office and looks to diversify beyond the ‘auto’ in its name

Published September 26 2018

TAMPA — For its new Florida administrative office, AAA — The Auto Club Group chose a location easily seen by 65,000 motorists who drive by every day on the Veterans Expressway.

No surprise there. Auto club, right?

AAA has 3.5 million members in Florida and 59.2 million nationally. It responds to 32 million calls for tow trucks and roadside assistance per year.

But increasingly its business is not about your car.

"We talk about the car all the time but … as we advocate for our members in the marketplace, we think well beyond the automobile," Auto Club Group president and CEO Joe Richardson Jr. said during a visit to the new building Tuesday.

Headquartered in Dearborn, Mich., The Auto Club Group is the second largest AAA club in North America and has more than 9 million members in Florida and 10 other states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Yet club memberships account for just 10 percent of AAA business, Richardson said.

Eighty percent comes from property and casualty insurance and financial services, including insurance and banking. AAA will sell you a flood insurance policy, a car loan or a certificate of deposit. It already includes identity theft protection in AAA memberships. It has put its traditional "TripTik" travel guidance, plus a lot of other stuff, on an app.

The new office at 9125 Henderson Road, south of Linebaugh Avenue, brings together three offices previously located in West Shore and Hidden River. Four stories tall, it includes 155,000 square feet of space, and has an open floor plan where most everyone has a view out the window, desks that quickly convert from sitting to standing, and lights that dim or brighten as weather and sunlight change.

"When you’re 116 years old, you would think that you’re tired and you’re old and you’re not thinking about new things," Richardson said. For the future, he said, it is talking with makers of autonomous cars and technology companies "to better understand what an autonomous environment will look like."

Two things it expects: Even autonomous vehicles will still sometimes get damaged in hurricanes or other catastrophes. And some will still end up immobile, needing battery service or other roadside help.

Currently, 55 to 60 percent of AAA’s members are baby boomers, while millennials make up the rest, Richardson said. Some millennials in urban markets don’t own cars, but book travel through AAA or sign up for hotel and other travel-related discounts and rewards.

"Today, more people are saving for travel than they are for anything else… and our members are seeking traditional travel agents to be able to travel," Richardson said.

And while a lot of members want savings, some are ready to spend big. On Monday, AAA’s Tampa call center booked a world cruise that cost $160,000.

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.

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