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3 automakers, CREF donate vehicles to support first responder training & collision repair education

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Collision Repair | Education
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Subaru has donated dozens of vehicles to first responders for vehicle collision response training, and the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) has shared more details about its recent donation of vehicles to repair programs across the U.S.

Subaru of America donated pre-production vehicles to the North American Vehicle Rescue Association (NAVRA) during a training event held in Chester, Pennsylvania in May. First responders from six fire departments attended, which included live rescue scenarios with “victims” using lifesaving tools including saws, cutters, spreaders, pneumatic chisels, and more.

The three-day rescue workshop session and competition benefits the training of emergency responders and offers a second life to pre-production cars that would have otherwise been crushed.

NAVRA provides education and training for firefighters, first responders, paramedics, nurses, physicians, manufacturers, and other related groups.

“Our mission is to reduce the number of motor-vehicle-related injuries and deaths by enhancing the skills and knowledge of expertly trained emergency professionals, and partners like Subaru are essential to this progress,” said John-Paul Shirley, Chester Bureau of Fire battalion chief, in a news release. “We normally only have the opportunity to train on older vehicles from junkyards, and it’s important that we are familiar with newer vehicles with strong construction to help us better adapt lifesaving procedures and skills when dealing with accidents and emergency scenarios.”

“Not only are we helping to provide training that will allow first responders to improve lifesaving rescues across the region but this donation also helps Subaru find new life for cars that can’t be sold and would otherwise go unused,” said Shira Haaz, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Subaru of America.

In addition to the 40 trainees from six fire departments, members of the public and local community stopped by Subaru Park to view the training and competition and learn about how firefighters and emergency workers practice the lifesaving skills they use.

Last week, CREF provided more details about a recent donation of vehicles from Audi and Volkswagen to collision repair programs in six states that the foundation helped coordinate.

The vehicles sustained damage during shipping, and though intact and functioning, they weren’t fit to be sold. Audi and Volkswagen employees decided that wasn’t the end. Instead, they decided on a new purpose, with CREF’s help: to enhance education opportunities for students.

“In a rapidly changing industry, it is critical that students have access to the latest vehicles and technology,” a CREF news release states.

“We want to advance the next generation of technicians, and we’re committed to a more sustainable future,” said Mark Allen, Audi of America collision, equipment and EV after-sales service manager. “This was an opportunity where creativity and an open mind enabled us to live our sustainability values and map out a new way to help our industry.”

Allen partnered with Tony Russo, Volkswagen Group of America damage prevention and port policies senior specialist, to reimagine the use of many vehicles damaged beyond reasonable repair. The Audi and Volkswagen team worked directly with CREF to help facilitate the donation of the vehicles.

Allen and Russo also coordinated with Audi and Volkswagen dealerships and collision centers near the schools to ensure there was career, parts sourcing, and technical question support for both the students and the schools.

“Audi and Volkswagen are giving back to the industry and the communities they work in by connecting their certification programs to the donation.  They aren’t just donating the cars; they are also connecting local dealerships and national training staff to the schools receiving the donations to ensure the sustainability of these programs,” said CREF Director of Marketing and Project Management Amber Ritter. “The Foundation is incredibly grateful for this donation, and we are looking forward to seeing how the donation of both ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles and EVs benefit students’ ability to better prepare for industry careers.”

The donated vehicles range from large SUVs like the Audi Q7 to comparatively smaller cars like the Audi A3. There is also a mix of both internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle and electric vehicles (EVs), including the Volkswagen ID.4 and Audi e-tron.

The schools that received donations are:


    • Center of Applied Technology North (Severn, MD)
    • Center of Applied Technology South (Edgewater, MD)
    • Gaithersburg High School (Gaithersburg, MD)


    • Oakland Community College (Rochester Hills, MI)
    • Oakland School Technical Campus (OSTC)
      • OSTC Southeast- (Clarkston, MI)
      • OSTC Northeast (Pontiac, MI)
      • OSTC Southeast (Royal Oak, MI)
      • OSTC Southwest (Wixom, MI)

New Jersey

    • Passaic County Technical Institute (Wayne, NJ)


    • Bradley Central High School (Cleveland, TN)
    • Chattanooga State Community College (Chattanooga, TN)
    • Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT)
      • TCAT (Crossville, TN)
      • TCAT (Knoxville, TN)
      • TCAT (Livingston, TN)
      • TCAT (Morristown, TN)


    • JB Hensler College and Career (Manvel, TX)


    • Academies of Loudon (Leesburg, VA)
    • Northern Virginia Community College (Alexandria, VA)

School leaders emphasized the importance of their students having the opportunity to work on newer vehicles with current technology. Having this access will put their students in a position to become higher-skilled entry-level technicians when they graduate.

“The donations will have a major impact on providing engaging, hands-on instruction for 480 students across four CTE [Career and Technical Education] campuses throughout Oakland County,” said Christopher Vraniak, campus dean for Oakland Schools Technical Campus Southwest. “The donated vehicles that are assembled and equipped with the newest technology provide our students with the opportunity to train on the cutting-edge of the industry. Moreover, the EVs will put our students well ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest industry trends. This is greatly important; our advisory committee has shared that the industry is rapidly moving towards EVs, so the donation of four EVs to our campuses was a very significant donation for which we are very, very grateful. This is one of the largest donations we have ever received and will be a foundation for our students moving forward.”

Cris Perkins, College System of Tennessee associate vice chancellor for strategic advancement and executive director, said it’s important for schools to be prepared and ahead of the technology curve in the industry.

“This partnership and donation help further the mission of the Foundation for the College System of Tennessee to continually look for ways to bring in equipment and funding to help train our students as they learn at our colleges and make great employees,” he said.

Audi and Volkswagen also recognize the need for students to receive the proper training on modern vehicles, especially at a time when the nation is experiencing a significant shortage of collision repair technicians. It’s also a plus that the donations further the goals of Audi and Volkswagen to attract and educate technicians on state-of-the-art vehicles, the automakers said.

Tim Pfeifle, of Tysons Corner Collision Center in Vienna, Virginia, noted that the collision repair programs are often underfunded, making it difficult and costly to find parts and cars.

“They operate on a shoestring of funds, making it incumbent on the instructor’s ability to trade, buy and sell cars or have fundraising events to fund their program,” he said. “This donation will help many local programs, and I am so proud my supporting manufacturer is making this very generous donation, which will pay dividends to our industry for years to come.”

Once the vehicles can no longer provide value to classrooms, the schools will pass them on to their local first responders to use them to learn cut points and other hazards during extrications. The remains will then be recycled.

Industry members interested in getting involved and supporting CREF’s efforts to assist secondary and post-secondary collision repair training programs can contact them here to learn about the many ways to get involved. Monetary donations can be made online.


Featured and secondary photo: Subaru of America donated dozens of pre-production vehicles to the North American Vehicle Rescue Association (NAVRA) for a training event, held May 24-26, 2023, in Chester, Pennsylvania.

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