OEM certification programs are increasingly prominent in the collision industry. The trend started with high-end vehicle manufacturers, but has quickly caught fire with mainline OEMs, too, says Johnny Dickerson, performance training coordinator for I-CAR. But there can be extensive costs and requirements associated with joining the programs. Doing so could be beneficial for some shops, and a waste of time for others.
FenderBender talked to Dickerson about how to decide whether obtaining an OEM certification is right for you, and which one is best for you to pursue.
The certification process is growing in popularity within the collision repair marketplace. The purpose is to ensure shops repair vehicles back to quality standards established by manufacturers. Certification programs are one way for product vendors to establish repair standards for the collision repair industry, which shop operators have been looking for.
Many paint manufacturers have refinish certifications. Those are important to make sure your refinishing process is meeting a high standard. That’s nothing new, but many shops don’t utilize those opportunities or keep them current. The certifications usually require some intensive training from your refinish supplier. There may be some equipment requirements, most of which are relatively inexpensive to obtain. Your paint supplier can tell you how to earn a refinish certification for your shop.
Most recently, auto manufacturers began implementing certification programs. That’s because technicians really have to know what they’re doing to work on modern cars. You can’t let just anybody turn a wrench, take a part off or even refinish new model vehicles and expect that the vehicle will be back to its original state and quality.
Becoming OEM certified carries numerous requirements: Training, facility location, reputation and financial stability requirements are all possibilities. You may even need to be in partnership with a dealer.
Shops have to do their research before spending the time, money and effort to earn an OEM certification. Certifications can be very valuable to the right shop. But not every certification will bring benefit and value back to every shop.
Know your marketplace. If you want to get certified with a particular OEM, for example, know how many of that type of car exist in your area. Is your business located where those customers are? Getting someone to travel 200 miles for a car repair is not likely to happen. Determine how feasible it is to win those customers.
Identify whether your business location suits your
target customer. For example, drivers of high-end vehicles tend to want easy access in and out of your facility. You’ll want to be in a high-visibility location, potentially along a major freeway.
Find out what the required equipment is for a particular manufacturer. Know what you need to buy and value your investment. It’s a wise decision to go right to the company for that information. That’s because some of the equipment you need is so specialized that it has to be purchased directly from one particular source.
You might notice a number of OEM certifications that would be valuable for the area you’re in. It’s impractical to do all of them at the same time because each OEM has different requirements. Acquire your certifications one at a time, starting with one that will be easy to benefit from. To do that, identify any dealerships near your shop that don’t have a collision repair facility. You might be able to build a partnership if that dealership sublets collision work.
Obtaining preliminary training through I-CAR is the first step toward earning an OEM recognition or certification. I-CAR provides training required for many of the OEM certified processes. Go to the I-CAR website to view a list of courses available that meet various OEM requirements.
Check your I-CAR training transcript. You might find that you’re not that far from obtaining the training courses for a certified program. If your business has already achieved the necessary training requirements, then it might be beneficial for you to take the additional steps to earn that OEM certification.
Pay attention to other available certifications in the future. The government has already told us that we’re going to have “smart highways.” We have already seen some cars that will park themselves. We have been told that cars will eventually drive themselves. Features like these are likely to require some specialized repair training.
We may not even recognize today’s cars by the standards that will be built within the next 10 years. Just to meet federal guidelines on fuel economy alone, it’s going to drastically change the way cars are constructed and the way they’re repaired. You must evaluate the skills and abilities of your technicians. It’s critical to establish a direction for the continual training of the technicians you have today. In an industry that’s constantly changing, you need technicians who can conquer the obstacles of the future—not complain about them.