The Latest Thing?: TPMS Training's Slow Growth Runs Parallel to Industry - Tire Review Magazine

The Latest Thing?: TPMS Training’s Slow Growth Runs Parallel to Industry

To auto and tire technicians, training is like a candy bar to a chocoholic – they can’t get enough.

However, in the constantly changing TPMS world, training activities seem to mirror the industry itself. There remains no consistency, except for one source – the Mitchell1 Guide, a.k.a., the technician’s bible.

“There’s nothing new in training,” admits Kevin Rohlwing, TIA’s senior vice president of training. “There are some dealers out there who still aren’t seeing enough TPMS issues to be concerned, and don’t see a need to invest in a lot of equipment and training. On the other hand, TPMS has sneaked up on other dealers, and some have grown with it.”

Rohlwing referred to these as the traditional “mom and pop” shops.

“This doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with training,” he said, “but as TPMS grows in the next couple of years, we will see an increased awareness from them. The second tier of dealers are seeing more TPMS issues and are getting accustomed to them.”

Tire manufacturers are trying to keep up with the training trends, but the products continue to proliferate and by the time another program is designed, it’s already out-of-date.

“About the best we can do right now,” said Rohlwing, “is to continue offering the original training program. It provides a basic understanding and lets them know the logical steps to take.”

He said that in addition to the variety of systems available, the growing number of tools also adds to the dilemma. “There are at least 10 to 15 different tools in the marketplace and it’s difficult at best for a dealer to decide which is best for him.”

In addition to the Mitchell1 Guide (TPMS2-200), TIA’s own basic program covers recalibration guidelines for many popular models and includes an appendix with relearn summaries and installation torque values for valve stem sensors. Each kit includes a 50-minute video and DVD as well as a 120-page workbook. TIA does not have an online course.

There are some tire manufacturers, however, who have developed or are in the stages of developing online TPMS training courses, including Goodyear.

“Currently, an online course is the format offered,” said Dave Stoltz, Goodyear’s manager of sales training, “and more than 6,000 people have taken the course. We also conducted four 25-minute TPMS seminars (the same program four times) at our dealer conference this past February.”

Stoltz said the Goodyear courses are available through two technical training sites, TotalSolution or Gemini Online Academy. Cost of the training is $29.95 for three months and includes unlimited course completions “so an entire shop could take the course for that price, or only one person,” he said.

Goodyear offers a guideline to TPMS tools and equipment while providing continuous updates to its online courses. “We are also creating a Web course on how to sell TPMS at the front counter,” said Stoltz. “This is the current challenge; most dealers understand the technical side fairly well, but it’s how they take that knowledge and turn it into a proper sales and service presentation, because servicing these systems is time-consuming.”

Continental is preparing to unveil its new online training program early in the second quarter of this year. While not totally dedicated to TPMS, the Conti360 “will include product training of current Continental and General brand tire lines, selling skills and tire basics training including TPMS systems and proper maintenance of TPMS for vehicle safety, said Amy Spears, Continental’s sales training manager for its passenger/light truck division.

Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire’s approach to training is similar to TIA’s offerings; the company provides Mitchell1 TPMS guides to its dealers “at a greatly reduced cost,” said Bill VandeWater, director of consumer products and technologies for BFNAT, “and it gives them reset instructions for all the TPMS systems in vehicles as of 2007.”

“Of the TPMS issues that our dealers have expressed to us,” VandeWater said, “the one thing that keeps coming back is that no two TPMS systems are the same. If you are a GM dealer or a Ford or Toyota dealer, you have about five different systems to learn. But if you’re a tire dealer, now suddenly you have hundreds of systems to deal with.”

VandeWater believes the Mitchell1 guide is still the best available “training resource” right now for tire dealers.

“The last thing the tire dealer wants to do is put on a new set of tires and then have to send the customer to the car dealer just to have the TPMS reset,” he said. “The consumer will just skip the tire dealer next time and go straight to the auto dealer. Obviously, he doesn’t want that.”

VandeWater said BFNAT does not have any online TPMS training available nor does it have anything “in the works.”

TIA’s Rohlwing echoes VandeWater’s premise on how to handle TPMS training. “We want to make sure that the technicians are trained to use the tools,” he said. “Our TPMS training program is designed to provide technicians with a basic understanding of how different types of systems interact with the vehicle. It also includes the various types of service that technicians will need to perform in order to maintain the system.”

VandeWater predicted that many TPMS training issues could be resolved in two or three years. “Then, technicians will be able to get back to their core business and won’t have to have a master’s degree in electronics to work on cars,” he said.

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