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Garage Gurus opens its doors to techs in first training facility grand opening

State-of-the-art automotive training center brings online, mobile, classroom to technicians.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 06:00
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SKOKIE, Ill. — Written around the walls of a new, state-of-the-art training facility in suburban Illinois is a simple, three word phrase: “Onsite. Online. On-Demand.”

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It symbolizes the three ways Federal-Mogul Motorparts is expanding its training initiatives, reaching technicians around the country with expanded training centers, mobile vans and revitalized online offerings. A Garage Gurus regional training center celebrated its grand opening Tuesday evening in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Ill.

“Training has always been a key part of what we do,” says Daniel Ninivaggi, CEO of Federal-Mogul Motorparts, which has had a large training facility in St. Louis for many years. But the difference now is technicians no longer have to travel there. Training is much closer.

The 15,000-square-foot Garage Gurus facility features all the equipment a shop would have as well as a classroom and other learning areas. Each Garage Gurus training center includes include multiple vehicle repair/training bays and classrooms and serves as the operating base for one or more “Gurus-On-The-Go” product technology vans.

 “It’s a mini St. Louis in all of these training centers,” says Brent Berman, director, training and consumer experience.

“The thing we really pride ourselves on is the hands-on (training),” he notes, adding that nothing is staged in the classes that are 50/50 hands-on and classroom information. “We want to simulate the same problems we see in the shop … then point out new techniques.”

Getting out of the shop and socializing is a part of the training, as evidenced by the product images and Twitter hashtags painted on walls around the facility.

The Garage Gurus curriculum comprises more than 100 diagnostic and repair courses, including onsite workshops, field clinics, and distance learning modules and webinars offered at www.FMgaragegurus.com. All training, product demonstrations and related assistance are available in English and Spanish languages.

“Every successful shop needs trained technicians,” Ninivaggi says. This new format with the training centers is virtually free, and their jobbers are encouraging the shops to use it. More centers are opening in Los Angeles and New York City this month, with the network expanding to 15 Garage Gurus centers by the end of the year.

Tying together the shops and training facilities are the mobile vans and online courses of Federal-Mogul Motorparts’ Tech First initiative. Ninivaggi acknowledges that online training courses are more accessible and convenient, but are just one part with the training centers and mobile vans rounding out the training trifecta.

“We think we’ve dramatically expanded our reach,” he notes. “Unfortunately, online isn’t always user-friendly. We have a new platform that’s easier to use with better content and more content.”

The regional training centers are the center of an ecosystem of training, which also includes the mobile training vans. There are 30 vans now, with 50 on the roads by the end of the year, says Mike Proud, director of marketing.

Gerard DeGelder, technical product specialist, is one of Federal-Mogul Motorparts van drivers. He works a territory in the Midwest, stopping by shops at the requests of the owner or a jobber, spending at least 15 minutes with the technicians going over any problems they might be experiencing with vehicles or leading longer lunch and learn events. He explains how he teaches the technicians how to solve the problem, not just throw parts on the vehicle. With the training centers now opening, there is an added bonus that technicians can come in to work on the vehicles and learn from one of more than 100 ASE Master technicians about these and other problems. 

All of the facility and two of the vans were on display Tuesday evening at the grand opening event, which also included a visit from Danny “The Count” Koker, host of star of History’s popular “Counting Cars” reality TV series, and nationally recognized graffiti artist Antonio “Shades” Agee, who was commissioned to “tag” one of the Skokie training center’s classrooms.

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