By Ed Sunkin
As the Fuel Pump Manufacturers Council (FPMC) strives to better provide professional technicians with the resources, tools and information to more effectively diagnose and service automotive fuel systems, we asked the latest incoming co-chairman of the council about their upcoming plans for the group.
While both Tom Thompson, product manager, fuel management, Delphi Product & Service Solutions; and Steve Gonzales, product manager, fuel systems, DENSO Sales California Inc., were both selected to the council in August to serve through the end of 2009, neither is a stranger to the organization.
Thompson was one of the founding members of the council when it was conceived in November 2005 at the AAPEX show and Gonzales has served on the council as a member since July, 2006. This is his first opportunity to serve this council as an officer.
The council has been working on developing a website on fuel pumps and fuel systems to educate professional technicians and DIYers on the proper procedures for diagnosing, disassembling, cleaning, repairing and replacing fuel systems/fuel pumps. Thompson explained that plan is moving forward and will be launched soon.
“The site will contain pages that allow the technician to reference proper diagnostic and repair FAQs when diagnosing a fuel system, manufacturer TSBs and endorsements of various fuel pump bench and on-car testers,” Thompson said. “We are planning to launch the site (www.fuelpumpinfo.org) by December 31.”
Besides the website, the FPMC is working on improved training programs for technicians. Gonzales said at a recent council meeting, the group discussed the future direction of the council and began formulation of a three-year goal and objectives plan.
“One of the key areas that has been identified previously is in the area of training, testing and certification for technicians,” he said. “The council has been in contact and looks forward to working with ASA (Automotive Service Association) to identify areas where the council could make an impact.”
Both chairmen said technical education continues to be an issue the council is determined to improve.
“One area that the council is putting a lot of focus on is warranty return percentages to sales, which can, in some instances, reach double digits. This issue can be taxing for the entire industry both from a time consumption and financial perspective, so we think it is important to address," Thompson said. “However, upon inspection, we have found that many of these returns can been avoided. With that in mind, we are working to educate professional technicians to help reduce the impact of returns and to help create a model that can be used with other automotive products.”
“The lack of (emphasis on) training and testing to keep techs ‘at the top of their game’ needs to improve,” Gonzales said. “Technology has changed very quickly over the last five to 10 years, and the training/certification process has not kept pace. This is terribly disappointing when you think about how important the fuel system is to the operation of any vehicle.”
To get their message out on education and other issues, Thompson said the council is pairing up with other automotive associations to distribute its information via their direct-mail listings, websites and training programs.
“We are also writing newsletters and educational articles for publication in trade magazines and customer newsletters to ensure that we reach our audience,” he said.
Gonzales agreed. “Education is an industry issue, not just a fuel system issue. Technology will continue to change at a very quick rate, and the health of the automotive aftermarket will depend on the quality of its technicians,” he said.
Thompson said the success of our industry relies on the education of our people, and it is a key to stopping the returns at the shop-owner level. He explained that the council has a mandate with a timeline to reduce warranty returns within the industry and to set a standard for other product groups.
“Each council member knows what their companies’ current warranty rates are for fuel pumps as a percentage of sales in both units and dollars sold,” he said. “That will be our starting point and we have an overall industry percentage goal that we want to achieve, so the results are measurable. We will not give up until we reach that goal!”
The FPMC is a division of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), which exclusively serves suppliers of aftermarket components, tools and equipment, and related products. For more information, visit www.aftermarketsuppliers.org.