The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) will launch a certification program for wheel and tire specialists-designed to test and endorse installers' knowledge of proper tire/wheel fitments-starting next year.
The Custom Wheel & Tire Specialist Exam, dubbed ``Z5,'' will first be administered May 6, 2004, SEMA said. It will measure real-world knowledge and skills for wheel and tire professionals who install custom applications on passenger cars and light-duty trucks, the Diamond Bar-based association said. The certification does not include hands-on training but is designed instead to test installers' knowledge.
The Z5 program builds off of other certification programs for installing automotive accessories developed by SEMA with help from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). The four modules include Z1, electric sunroofs; Z2, exterior components; Z3, leather interiors; and Z4, roof treatments.
``With today's market changes and innovations in wheels and tires, a great deal of knowledge is required to provide correct fitment for custom wheels and tires,'' said Christopher Kersting, SEMA president and CEO.
For this segment, SEMA worked with ASE and also held three workshops to garner input from tire and wheel manufacturers, equipment suppliers, wheel and tire dealers and installers, educators and other groups such as the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and American Auto Care Centers.
To earn the custom wheel and tire designation, an installer must have at least two years of hands-on experience in the specialty segment as well as pass the written exam. The SEMA credential will be valid for five years.
The next test date for the first four exams is Nov. 13, but all five programs are scheduled to be administered May 6 at more than 700 test centers in the U.S. and Canada, SEMA said.
Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of education and technical services for TIA, said the trade association plans to eventually establish a master program to include automotive aftermarket and original equipment tires and wheels. That program will include both training and certification, he said.
``We will never offer certification without training,'' he said. ``To us, the two go hand in hand.''
AutoWare Technologies L.L.C., a Panama City Beach, Fla.-based software company, is offering on-site training for tire dealers looking to have their technicians take the SEMA test.
Scott Blair, technical trainer for the company, was part of the planning sessions SEMA held with industry experts in compiling the test. He said it is very difficult and all-encompassing.
The need for training beforehand, however, depends on the technicians' level of knowledge.
``If they have not been exposed to handling tires and wheels, they're going to need help,'' Mr. Blair said.
AutoWare's training lasts a full day and is half classroom teaching and half hands-on work. Since the training is separate from SEMA's test, it carries a separate fee.
Technicians who complete the training do not necessarily have to take the SEMA test, though the program is geared toward that result, Mr. Blair said. The on-site training uses AutoWare's existing software packages.
TIA's Automotive Tire Service (ATS) program is slated to be available this summer.
The first course is a basic training for new hires, while a second certificaton program after the first of the year will be aimed at experienced techs looking for more training. But while both the SEMA and TIA programs are open to non-members, Mr. Rohlwing doesn't expect the two to compete.
``I would think our members would go for our certification, and (SEMA's) members would go for their certification,'' he said, adding TIA members may be more interested in other general topics covered by TIA's program, and SEMA members may look for more focus on aftermarket products.