Fixed Ops Journal - May 2016 - (Page 32)

FIXED OPS JOURNAL " "If I do some warranty repairs for Chrysler with an unskilled person, I eat it, I pay for it."JUSTIN SHORES, service manager, RocketTown Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram SELF-INDUCED SHORTAGE ■ FCA says fixes in place for technician certification bottleneck TIM MORAN B y any measure, Lompoc, Calif., should be a fruitful market for Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler and Ram vehicles. The community of about 40,000 is 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles and 8 miles from the Pacific coast. Major local employers include Vandenberg Air Force Base and a large federal prison complex. Lompoc, the "flower seed capital of the world," is a hub for agriculture, wineries and other businesses that favor the pickups and SUVs that Fiat Chrysler emphasizes. At RocketTown Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, though, owner Chris Zikakis finds himself stymied by a warranty service bottleneck. It's not that he doesn't have enough technicians - Zikakis also owns the adjacent Lompoc Honda, and the two stores can share staff - but that his technicians can't easily get the highest FCA certification needed for warranty work to be reimbursed. "If I do some warranty Zikakis: Use repairs for Chrysler with other brands' an unskilled person, I eat techs. it, I pay for it," says RocketTown Service Manager Justin Shores. Shores says that some 70 percent of the warranty work that comes to RocketTown requires involvement of a technician with Level 3 certification, FCA's highest. Level 3 is a brand-specific master technician equivalent. Gaining that certification can be a multiyear process, and a costly one. "I have a Honda master technician, and I can't get him up to speed with Chrysler any sooner than three to five years. He's a 30-year tech that Chrysler sees as an oil change guy," Shores says. Top-rated FCA technicians are scarce in the market. Recruiting and retaining one at a small dealership such as RocketTown is tough. FCA-specific But more broadly, at a time of an industrywide technician shortage, FCA is particularly hard hit. The company's 2009 financial difficulties led to cutbacks in its service education program. A reduction in education facilities, PAGE 32 MAY 2016 With FCA dealerships hurt by a shortage of techs in the pipeline, some dealers call for accepting other brands' certifications. FCA certification levels Level 0: Basic workplace safety, use of scan tools, customer relations, new-car prep, Mopar terminology Level 1: Semiskilled training in 7 areas, including automatic transmission, chassis systems Level 2: Skilled training in 7 areas Level 3: Brand-specific master technician equivalent Source: FCA US for example, at one point left just 30 schools nationwide where technicians could put in the required classroom work for certification. The result is a shortage in the technician pipeline that leaves some dealers scrambling to fill lead technician positions and paying high hourly rates to keep the techs they have. Many, including Zikakis, wonder why FCA can't simply adopt a blanket program that would accept other brands' certifications as equivalent to FCA's program. "Wouldn't it be a win if a Ford master tech switched over to work on Chrysler?" Zikakis wrote in an email. John Fox, FCA director of dealer training, says he knows many dealers are frustrated. But he says the issue primarily has been one of communicating efforts the company has made to streamline the certification process and allow technicians to do work they previously couldn't. "The largest issue we have is awareness. When Fox: Programs you look at the programs in place to help. we have developed and offered and growth in our technician base, I'm not sure how we have dealers who are missing it," he says. 'Exemption' In January 2015, FCA issued a "technician exemption" policy that allows technicians to work one level above their certification if the technician is in training for the next certification level. SEE SHORTAGE, PAGE 34

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fixed Ops Journal - May 2016

Fixed Ops Journal - May 2016
Editor’s Letter
Service Counter
Legal Lane
Profit Builder
‘Grease monkey’?
Photo story
Richard Truett
High light
Service satisfaction
90-second oil change
Financing fixes
Supreme Court
Tech trends
Top 50
5 Minutes With
Shop Talk
Fixed in Time

Fixed Ops Journal - May 2016