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Nov. 17, 2022—Effectively navigating vehicle technology is a task on nearly every shop’s to-do list. Staying educated and trained on what’s new and emerging is not a solo journey. The entire automotive aftermarket is facing these changes together.  

While the various steps to understanding these shifts can’t necessarily be checked off all at once, technician training and educational opportunities for shops can be implemented in order to help. 

Dirk Fuchs is the director of technical programs and services at I-CAR, and he understands the need for resources in this vein. He even moderated a panel about technician education during the ADAPT Summit in September of this year. 

Fuchs notes that I-CAR coined the term “technology tsunami” several years ago to describe the influx of technological advancements within the industry.  

“There’s so much technology coming to our industry, and we need to stay on top of it and really be capable of repairing that … and do the right repair and a quality repair,” Fuchs said.  

Fuchs says another reason that understanding technology and electric vehicles is important is safety. On the technician's side, he mentions the risk of someone getting hurt if the repair process is not well understood.  

Fuchs says I-CAR thoroughly supports the notion that education is a crucial component of success in this industry, and there are many areas that can be impacted by this.  

“You want to perform a quality repair, you want to have the best end result for your customer, you want to have your technicians safe and on and on,” Fuchs says.  

The importance of training for electric vehicles may be clear, but many shops may be wondering how to get started. I-CAR has resources applicable for all kinds of collision repair shops, including seven online training courses available and a 5-day EV Hands-On Skills Development course that is held at I-CAR's new Chicago Technical Center. 

“When you really [want to] learn and want to have a completely educational experience when it comes to high voltage technology, then we have … [an] educational path. You go first in those seven online training courses and then you come to our … brand new facility in Chicago and go through those five days,” Fuchs says.  

At the end of the 5-day course, Fuchs says there is a written and practical exam to ensure the knowledge is being effectively passed along to participants. Recently, this course was recognized with the SEMA Global Media Award at the 2022 SEMA Show.  

Beyond electric vehicles, I-CAR has other training resources for technology as well. This includes advanced driver assistance system training. One component is a Static ADAS Calibration 3-day Hands-On Skills Development general course that is focused on static calibration.  

Additionally, there is a Ford ADAS Calibration 2-Day Hands-On Skills Development course that allows participants to learn more about Ford Service Information (PTS) and the Ford Diagnostic & Repair System in a hands-on environment. This course and the 3-day course are also taught at the state-of-the-art Chicago center. But educational courses are just the beginning of the work being done at this new facility.  

“Research is a [big] topic for this building as well. We have all the capabilities of … general collision-related research [and] we can verify repair procedures,” Fuchs says. “We [also have] a welding lab in there … there [are] a lot of things going on around this building right now.” 

Innovative technology is part of the research being conducted at the Chicago Technical Center right now. Fuchs mentions that Learning and Innovative Technology Manger Mike Mertes is spearheading what Fuchs calls “the cool stuff.”  

“Mike is responsible for everything with new learning technologies,” Fuchs says. “We call it … ‘gamification.’” 

Fuchs says I-CAR looks to the younger generation of “gamers” to see how they can make training and the overall industry more attractive and fun for potential future technicians to pursue.  

Additionally, Fuchs points to the work being led by Mertes involving augmented and virtual reality. Mertes spoke about some of this work during the ADAPT Summit back in September.  

“We [want to] also look into how we can use those modern technologies to create a safe environment,” Fuchs says. “In training topics like high voltage, [which] is a pretty dangerous technology for technicians, you could make a mistake in a virtual environment … and learn from this mistake.” 

Fuchs mentions that I-CAR offers a vast catalog of online course options as well, all of which are all detailed on the I-CAR website. Fuchs sees the value of in-person training as well as online.  

“You can cover a lot of knowledge areas online, and that’s great,” Fuchs says.  

He says online options can help save money on travel costs because people don’t have to leave home to complete them. With shops navigating parts shortages and other industry challenges, Fuchs says the accessibility of online training can be a great solution in many circumstances.  

On the other hand, Fuchs points out that you lose the hands-on component of training when things are done online, so some courses are simply better taught in-person. He cites areas like ADAS with components that require unique processes such as calibration.  

Those skills tend to be best developed in an environment that allows participants to practice in real-time with the equipment. But overall, Fuchs says I-CAR believes it is important to offer in-person and online training options alike. Fuchs says it goes beyond that as well, with I-CAR offering other avenues to access training, and planning for more opportunities to come.  

“We try to bring training in-house with our in-shop team,” Fuchs says. “They’re going out for welding and other things to really make training accessible at the point where our customer is … and that’s the workshop. We have our Chicago training center … for me, a barrier is not everybody wants to fly to Chicago … it’s maybe also a little far, so [we are] already looking into expansion plans [and] how we can bring training into other areas when it comes to ADAS and EVs, for example.”  

To learn more about I-CAR's resources, listen to the full interview with Fuchs on the ADAPT Podcast.  

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