Government Employees Insurance Co. is reducing some premium rates as part of a new marketing program designed to retain and attract drivers wth safe-driving records.
At the same time, the Washington compant plans to seek increased homeowners insurance business and a more balanced geographical distribution among its auto insurance customers throughout the nation.
The company's historic orientation toward auto insurance (94 per cent of annual premium volume) and the concentration of Geico's auto policy-holders in just half a dozen states worked to the disadvantage of the insurer over the past two years. Not only did all insurers suffer losses on auto policies but also many of the losses were concentrated in several of the larger states.
With no broad base of business in other types of insurance, Geico was dramatically and adversely affected by soaring inflation and auto repairt costs - to the point that the local company was near insolvenvy a year ago, following a net loss in 1975 of $126.5 million.
To help regain stability, Geico set out last year to reduce its base of customers by weeding out those with poor driving records. In addition, Geico premium rates soared an average publicity surrounding the firm's financial problems led many customers to switch from Geico to other insurers.
By the end of 1976, auto insurance policies in force were down 27.1 per cent from the same period a year earlier, to 1.6 million.
Now, Geico chairman John J. Byrne said in an interview yesterday, his firm is planning "a start on the way back" with a goal of adding 150,000 new auto and homeowners customers in 1977. That's a far cry from Geico's boom years, when it was attracting more than 400,000 new customers annually, and Byrne emphasized that the insurance company plans "much higher attention to selectivity" among consumers who seek Geico policies.
For auto insurance, Geico is offering a new safe driver rating plan, already in effect in Maryland, Virginia, the District and about a dozen other states. Under this plan, drivers with no accidents or moving violations over the past three years will have rates reduced 10 per cent; drivers with two serious accidents over the same period face a rate increase of 40 per cent or more.
In Virginia, Geico has added an additional reduction of 10 per cent for customers who have been with the insurance firm for five years and who have had no accidents or filed no claims over that period, Byrne revealed.
The rates are based on about a dozen different levels of sage driving with the highest premiums charged to the people with the worst records. Allstate Insurance Co. has implemented a similar plan that ties rates to how recently an accident or violation occurred.
Geico homeowners policy rates also are being reduced in some areas. In the District, for example, Geico has cut its rates by between five per cent and ten per cent as part of its drive to increase this type of business.
A series of radio commercials is planned to promote Geico homeowners insurance and combined radioprint advertising campaigns have been launched or will start soon for auto and homeowners policies in Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Indiana, other areas of the Midwest, and the San Diego area in Calofornia.
At the depths of its financial crisis last year, Geico had halted all advertising.
Byrne said yesterday that although Maryland, Virginia and the District already are among the jurisdictions where Geico business is heavily concentrated, marketing for new customers would be strong in this region because business always was "good" - even when the firm was losing money nationwide.
The other states where Geico business is most concentrated are New York, Florida and California.
Geico has stopped writing insurance in New Jersey, which had been a major market for the company, because of continued losses there and lack of state action on requests for higher rates.
Bryne said yesterday that Geico has continued to lose business in the early weeks of 1977 but that the "pace of attrition has slowed remarkably." It should level off in the March-May period, after which business is expected to begin a gradual recovery, he said.
In Geico's annual report, mailed to stockholders over the weekend in advance of a March 30 annual meeting at the Kennedy Center, Byrne and his associates also revealed:
The company began 1977 with a $137 million tax loss carryforward benefit, of which $117 million expires in 1980 and the balance in 1983, to tbe applied against profits in the coming few years.
Despite continued losses from underwriting auto insurance, the firm is "cautiously optimistic" the losses can be wiped out in 1977. Last year, underwriting losses fell progressively in each quarter to $3.7 million by the final three months, creating a total loss for the year of $60 million compared with a similar loss in 1975 of $191 million.
Loss reserves - money set aside to cover eventual costs of claims already incurred but nut finally settled - were $403.5 million on Dec. 31, up 17 per cent aside for major auto business totaled $393.2 million, oirwithin $5.3 million of the needed reserves estimated by an independent consulting actuary firm.
In certifying the Geico results, the accounting firm of Ernst said that the only unknown factors that could affect the financial statements were several lawsuits, including stockholder class actions directed at alleged securities law violations by the company's former management.