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
■ FCA says fixes in place for technician certification bottleneck
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
repairs for Chrysler with
an unskilled person, I eat
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
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Fixed Ops Journal - May 2016