I-CAR opens new Chicago Technical Center to serve as ‘neutral, mission-centric’ resource for inter-industryBy on
Collision Repair | Education
I-CAR on Wednesday marked the official opening of its new Chicago Technical Center (CTC), which CEO and President John Van Alstyne tagged as “the most recent symbol of I-CAR’s neutral, mission-centric work and purpose, and our commitment to technical leadership on behalf of the industry.”
“As a not-for-profit organization founded to serve the six segments of the inter-industry, the Chicago Technical Center is a resource to any professional working in collision repair, insurance, education, suppliers, services or OEM organizations,” Van Alstyne told Repairer Driven News. “It’s an intentional step forward to continue our mission to deliver increasingly accessible, on-demand, and relevant education, knowledge, services and solutions for the Collision Repair Inter-Industry. The incremental functional technical capabilities the new technical center brings to the industry are ADAS, Electric Vehicles and Advanced Learning Technologies; all being central to repairing cars right today and tomorrow. This expansion demonstrates our commitment to continuously provide technical leadership to our industry.”
The new 48,000-square-foot facility in Vernon Hills will have greater production capabilities because it was designed to eliminate a challenge at I-CAR’s Appleton, Wisconsin Technical Center – one operation hindering another because of the way the facility is laid out. Renovations of the Appleton facility are underway to make its function similar to that of the CTC. I-CAR calls the CTC an expansion of the Appleton center’s “expert foundational technical resources and programming footprint.”
Van Alstyne told RDN that renovations in Appleton include updated offices, training rooms, and conference rooms and new student and staff accommodations such as an elevator lift to be ADA-compliant. “The renovations will be complete this year and are modeled to look and function in a consistent manner as we have at our home office in Hoffman Estates and at the new CTC to ensure the space is optimized for multiple operations to occur at the same time for quicker technical solutions to industry and student needs,” he said.
The Aug. 24 CTC official opening included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours for about 80 members of the inter-industry.
“This investment in our industry’s technical infrastructure couldn’t have come at a more critical time, with accelerating repair complexity in areas not previously native to our industry, and we thank the countless individuals from throughout the industry who have provided untold hours of input to help guide us forward to this milestone,” Van Alstyne said.
He noted that 18 organizations have donated much of the tooling and equipment for the CTC and that I-CAR is “very appreciative of their support.”
I-CAR Technical Products, Programs and Services Vice President Jeff Peevy described the CTC as “a purpose-built research and development facility” that offers an intentional work-lab approach.
“This enables I-CAR’s technical experts to vet and test collision repair methods, best practices and educational programming for emerging technologies as these continue to accelerate and become increasingly complex,” he said. “The Technical Tsunami our industry is facing drives the need for relevant and timely solutions to support new competencies collision repair professionals must possess, and that is why, with the inter-industry’s support, I-CAR is doubling down on its commitment to expand our technical capabilities and capacities.”
At the opening event, Van Alstyne said I-CAR coined the term “Technical Tsunami” around 10 years ago to put a name to the “significant changes driven by vehicle technologies, related and new repair methods, and business model changes” that the collision industry would face in the coming years. “Well, here we are in 2022 and we now find ourselves in the midst of these significant changes. We are now ‘surfing’ the tsunami.”
“Over the past decade, safety, fuel economy, driver demands, and manufacturing innovations have significantly impacted how vehicles are designed, assembled, and, yes, how they must be repaired,” Van Alstyne said.
He noted new materials from aluminum, magnesium, advanced steels, and carbon fiber are being used as well as new processes including MIG brazing, spot welding, adhesives, and rivet bonding plus the “well-penetrated” use of ADAS. “EVs are here and coming in a much bigger way. Connected vehicles and advanced levels of autonomous driving are coming and we also see innovations in learning technologies and best practices. We should expect innovation to continue, constantly. Our industry must embrace continuous education. Recognizing these trends, we knew we had to expand our technical competencies in order to properly support the industry. Thus the need and impetus to build out a second technical center.”
Peevy added that I-CAR, working closely with the OEMs, will be able to address new technologies with greater speed and proficiency. “As technical advances show up on the horizon, we do not have the luxury of waiting to determine if it is going to become mainstream or not. We must go to it, learn it, and be able to educate the industry in a timely manner if needed.”
He previously told RDN the CTC’s “big advantage” is its ADAS and EV labs, both of which are over 6,000 square feet.
I-CAR Board of Directors Chair Kyle Thompson noted the CTC “represents a massive collaboration with inter-industry partners to reimagine the future of training solutions.”
“This is an investment by I-CAR in the industry’s future to drive us all forward and I could not be prouder of this effort,” he said.
Featured image: Mike Mertes, Tom Marek, James Busam, Jeff Peevy, Kyle Thompson, Tim O’Day, John Van Alstyne, Jon Petrillo, Bud Center, and Dirk Fuchs cut the ribbon during a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of I-CAR’s Chicago Technical Center (CTC) in Vernon Hills on Aug. 24, 2022.
I-CAR Appleton tech center to be revamped, Chicago center on tap to open soon