Thursday, 31 January 2002 17:00

Toyota expands collision repair and refinish program

Written by Autobody News staff
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While many auto manufacturers have cut back on technical training offered to body shops, relying instead on paint makers and collision equipment manufacturers to deliver their "approved collision training," University of Toyota is serving more students than ever in its repair and refinish programs. 

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The school features classrooms with the latest audio-visual equipment.

Classroom and shop instruction is provided in 15,000 sq. ft. training centers at West Caldwell, New Jersey and at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. headquarters in Torrance, California. The one to two day courses run throughout the year.

With courses ranging from structural and non-structural body repair to color matching and advanced painting techniques, Toyota is training both independent and dealer body shop technicians in the right way to fix a Toyota or Lexus. University of Toyota's mission "is not to teach people how to paint, weld or pull a car, but what to do when fixing a Toyota or Lexus," said John Saia, Toyota's national technical training manager.

In the case of Toyota, the school provides the training for both dealer and dealer-sponsored independent technicians. Toyota dealer body shops can use the training to qualify as a Toyota Certified Collision Center, of which there are presently 90 nationwide. Technicians from independent shops are more than welcome, however. "Since only 38% of our 1200 Toyota dealers operate a body shop, we train a lot of independents - maybe 60 per cent of our students," said Saia.

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Instructor Shawn Hart shows how to make a spot weld look like it came from the factory.

Lexus does not have a certified collision center program, but instead Lexus dealers recommend authorized independent body shops. Shops seeking to become authorized Lexus repairers will send their personnel to University of Toyota and must be sponsored by a Lexus dealer. The Lexus courses are CASE certified by ASE.

Because the classes are very hands-on, they are limited to eight students. "Our goal is to give them something they can use tomorrow," Saia explained. Tuition for a two-day course is $200 and enrollment, up 32% in 2000, is expected to continue growing as the school offers more free, one-day classes and more highly specialized classes such as "Prius Collision Repair" for Toyota's new hybrid (electric) vehicle.

"Our students rate the classes, and we get a 95% satisfaction level. One painter from a large shop told us as he returned for a second class, 'From what I learned last time, I've avoided one full come-back a week'."
"We know this is a science," said Saia, "and we teach it that way. Take bumper covers. We have experienced students refinish them their way, and then we do it our way. When both are dry, we take out the duct tape...."

Saia noted that the advanced refinish classes will focus on difficult problems such as matching certain gold colors or pearl whites. "Those colors drive painters nuts, and we can really help them achieve a quality match."

Refinishing is by no means the only skill taught at the University. "Actually, we're seeing a slight trend towards more metal training," said Saia. The technicians learn structural repairs on a Car-O-Tronic frame measuring system and bench, while they learn how to make a weld look like it came from the Toyota factory using Pro-Spot's latest gear.
Independent shops interested in Toyota collision repair and refinish training should contact the service manager at a local Toyota dealership regarding sponsorship; further information on classes is available from the Torrance facility at 310-468-7171.


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