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PR campaign will greet 5,000th ATA

With the Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) scheme on target to hit 5,000 technicians by March next year, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is preparing for a publicity push with national media.

A new website will go live in January with improved navigation between three ATA groups – car technicians, motorcycle technicians and bodyshop technicians – while enhanced functionality will make it easier for the public to find their nearest repair centre with ATA-registered staff.

“We have just over 3,000 ATAs now and we believe 5,000 will be a significant landmark for a big PR push,” says Stuart Brooks, head of PR at the IMI, which governs the programme.

ATA has already been extended to autoglazing, while both roadside assistance and motorcycling are being piloted and will be launched early next year. Pilots have also started this month on an ATA for bodyshop estimators, while a crash repair ATA is also on trial with a view to linking it with the PAS125 Kitemark launch in February.

“We anticipate having around a dozen centres for crash repair ATA accreditation,” says Brooks. “There are also some manufacturers that want to do it in-house and we are talking to them about accreditation.”

Meanwhile, the Finance and Leasing Association has shown an interest in F&I accreditation, while a fast-fit ATA programme is being developed with independent chains and manufacturer fast-fit operations. The IMI does not rule out extending the programme to include non-technical functions such as parts, sales and service receptionists. Exploratory work is already underway.

In addition to its work with ATA, the IMI is keen to raise its membership levels, which have been around 25,000 for a number of years. It reports early success with the National Union of Students deal announced last month and has already received 500 applications from a mailing to 19,000 students.

“We would like a response rate of more than 15% by the end of our financial year,” says Brooks. “This deal will help to bring down the average age of membership from 45-50 to below 40. We are also targeting 2,500 new members with a net gain of 500-700.”

The IMI will meet the cost for the first 1,000 NUS cards at £7 per card. The cards are valid until the end of September 2007, when the IMI will review the scheme. At those levels, however, it’s likely to be extended into 2008.

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