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Guest opinion: Turning technicians into IT guys

As a result of new models arriving in dealer showrooms over recent months, there are some huge changes happening within UK workshops, and here’s why: the F35 Fighter jet has about eight million lines of code and the large hadron collider has about 50 million.

However, relatively recent software developments now mean that the average modern car has over 100 million lines of code. 

Combine this with the fact that in 2017, there’s been an increase of 70% in the sale of electric vehicles and it’s really quite hard to imagine just how significant the impact that these changes are having on unsung technicians, often relied on as a vital source of dealer profitability.

And yet every day drivers drop thousands of vehicles into garages and workshops, expecting them to be fully repaired and maintained.

So what is the tangible impact of these changes?

Due to the ever-increasing pace of automotive technology, today’s technicians have to be far more technically savvy than ever before.

They are having to become adept at diagnosing faults not dissimilar to PCs or server networks of a large modern offices. In short, the average automotive technician is essentially becoming an IT guy, with added mechanical knowledge and skill.

The rise and rise of ‘mechatronics’ systems (combined mechanical and embedded electronic systems) in the industry has meant that, in order to effectively work on a modern gearbox system, a multidisciplinary skill-set is needed: mechanical, electronics and control programming.

And as electric vehicles become more prevalent, the day-to-day need for mechanical knowledge will become less important for diagnosing the main drivetrain systems.

However, electric vehicles will still use mechanical and mechatronic systems for braking, steering and suspension systems.

So what we are likely to see is a reclassification and greater differentiation between what we know to be an automotive engineer and an automotive technician, with the higher skilled, multi-disciplinary engineers who have combined electronics, mechanical and node communication knowledge and ability working on Drivetrain and Body electric systems (battery, drive motor, comfort and self-drive systems) - let’s call these guys the ‘powertrain engineers’.

And then we will have the automotive technicians at the lower end of the multi-disciplinary skill range able to work on only aspects of the chassis system (braking, steering and suspension systems) – let’s call these guys ‘Chassis Techs’.

What’s clear from the constantly evolving aftersales industry is that, as ever, the winners will be those businesses that quickly recognise and adapt to the new reality, and recruit or train technicians accordingly. And equally, the losers will be those that do not.

Roger Bagg, managing director, ECU Testing



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