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They don’t have a sports team, a fight song or a mascot, but it’s a major institution that can help body techs and painters throughout the country to work smarter while repairing a leading car brand. It’s called the University of Toyota and it offers the collision industry a unique opportunity to learn how to work on 27 different models of one of the world’s most popular vehicles ever made.
When the East Bay chapter of the California Autobody Association (CAA-EBC) convened for their September meeting in Walnut Creek, CA, the evening’s speaker was Chris Risdon, a senior product education and development administrator for the University of Toyota’s product education department. That means that he’s a mega-expert on how to repair any vehicle manufactured by Toyota within the last two decades.
Risdon shared his wisdom with the shops in attendance and his presentation was followed by a spirited question and answer session. The hottest topic in the room revolved around how to properly work on the Prius. With more than one million now in the country’s fleet and especially popular in California, body shops want to know more than before about this model and the manufacturer’s other hybrids.
The University of Toyota trains approximately 8,500 collision professionals every year at their three locations—in Los Angeles, Jacksonville, FL and New Jersey. The cost for the training is nominal and most classes last no more than two days. The University’s mantra is “Fix-It-Rite/Fix-It Smart” and Risdon explained that its one of the few institutions of its type in the world.
“We’re one of the few car manufacturers out there that teach collision repair,” Risdon said. “By offering collision professionals the latest tools to fix these vehicles, it helps the industry as a whole. It impacts the body shops, because their techs and painters can save time and thereby money. It’s essential information for any tech or painter and even more crucial for those who work on a flat rate/commission/bonus plan. As these cars become more and more sophisticated, the proper information and associated procedures will be more essential than ever before.”
Risdon stressed the importance of accessing Toyota’s ongoing collision repair bulletins, because new, important information becomes available to shops all the time, he said. “By staying on top of the changes, you can eliminate the guesswork. With our latest models and all of the new technologies involved, such as the 2012 Camry SE with the new Entune in-car technology, for example, you’re going to need the best, most updated repair procedures available. We want your techs fixing these cars with confidence and correctness and without training and data, they’re just guessing. If you don’t have the latest technical information, you’re probably fixing it incorrectly.”
Hybrid classes are one of the most coveted forms of training offered by the University of Toyota for obvious reasons, Risdon explained. When he asked how many shop owners in attendance had at least one Prius in their shop right now, more than a few hands were raised. “Our 100% dedicated hybrid training is world-class and our advanced hybrid training is very popular with body techs nationwide right now. By coming to the university and tapping into this training, you learn how we want it done, and that’s vital to developing a solid, safe and effective repair plan.”
As Toyota strengthens its position in the development of new vehicles using emerging technologies, the University of Toyota will be offering new training, Risdon said. “We’ve got a lot of new, exciting things on the boards right now, including hydrogen vehicles and natural gas cars. We’ve also been exploring the viability of an autonomous car, which drives itself. That’s obviously down the road, but we should all accept the reality that within the next six to eight years, conventional gas-powered cars will be the minority in this country.”
The University of Toyota was created to help the collision industry to fix its cars right, even though it’s not the manufacturer’s main objective, Risdon stated. “We’re actually in the car sales business, not the repair business. But, we know that by fixing our vehicles properly the first time they come into your shop, it provides a better customer experience, makes everyone’s lives easier and makes your techs more productive. And that’s we provide all this invaluable training.”
In other CAA East Bay news, Mike Govette from FinishMaster distributed model trucks for the chapter’s 15th annual Model Truck Customization event, to be held on Nov. 20 at the prestigious Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, CA.