• 2018

Quite a Character

The Unique Approach of Chrysler Corporation’s Old Master Tech Program

In the automotive service business, one of the most difficult jobs of a repair shop is training employees. But time and data have proven that the most efficient — and most profitable — shops are those in which the service staff has been properly trained. Over the years, Mopar® Service Tech training programs like MCAP (Mopar Career Automotive Program) have been proficiently helping service techs succeed in the business by providing them the proper foundational training. This has proven to be beneficial for the employee, the shop and the customer.

But training isn’t always just about knowing car parts and how to install and repair them. A big part of the job is being able to recognize what a vehicle needs and communicating those needs to the owner. Then, finding an affordable and sensible solution that ensures the customer can drive out of the service bay with confidence.

Training is as important to our business today as it was back in 1946. That was the year that Chrysler Corporation embarked on the “largest training initiative ever undertaken by any American business” (according to the original press release). It was called The Master Tech Program, and it was an idea that would endure for almost 40 years, featuring arguably the most adorable and endearing character ever associated with the automotive service training business.

A Star is Born … Or Drawn

The answer to better, more efficient training came in the form of a small, round-headed, knowledgeable animated character who went by the very appropriate name “Tech.” This cute, handy little guy, voiced by character talent Allen Swift, who also voiced Saturday morning cartoon characters in the ’60s and ’70s, would become a prominent expert (despite his animated form) to Mopar, Chrysler, Dodge, Imperial, Plymouth and DeSoto service bays across the land. He would appear in most Master Tech Program service training films for years to come. As the program itself would grow, so would the popularity of “Tech” among employees.

The brainchild of Plymouth’s Director of Service, W.B. Rice, “Tech’s” primary function was to present the Master Tech Program to trainees in the most digestible and entertaining way possible. The theory was that serving up the same training straight from a manual would be deathly boring. “Tech” gave the company a vehicle by which to deliver what could be rather specific (and dry) content. Rice felt that the training would give Chrysler Corporation a competitive advantage in the marketplace. And it proved to be the case as, in 1950, service did outpace the competition with 1.3 million customers served. All of which would further the value of the training program and the animated character known as “Tech.”

Distribution of A Different Kind

Distributing parts was one thing. Distributing training materials was another for the corporation. By 1956, over 225,000 mechanics in 70 countries were being trained by the Master Tech Program and the bold little character.  Mechanics were learning about HEMI® engines, fuel injection, new power door locks and the industry’s first cruise control. The serving mechanism for all that training was a breakthrough. Dealerships were sent a Dukane filmstrip projector with a built-in 33 RPM LP record player. That way, they could sync the training films to the sound provided on the vinyl record for a full multi-media experience. A follow-along booklet with instructor guides was also included in the package.

Each of these short training films walked service techs through common problems and experiences they might encounter in the bay. Teaching them not only how to diagnose the problem, but how to fix the problem with the appropriate parts. Each film featured a hands-on instructor offering a younger mechanic tips and techniques to get the job done, and “Tech” stood nearby, providing color commentary and light humor to each film. All while driving home the importance of every task when servicing a Chrysler Corporation vehicle.

The program set a new bar for service training while proving the importance of utilizing creative and engaging content in teaching, which has been a real linchpin in getting service techs to get the message.

While training has always been essential in the vehicle service business, how it’s served up has certainly evolved over the years. The Mopar College Automotive Program (for instance) has played a crucial role in preparing almost 4,500 students with the technical skills now required to service FCA US LLC vehicles. While Chrysler Corporation’s Master Tech Program has long been shelved, the principles that it delivered live on.

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