Training days: Stewart Motors opens regional auto school in Jamaica
Brian Bonitto, Special Assignment Editor
STARTING the end of April, Stewart Motors - local BMW and Mini dealer - will transform a section of its Orchard Road-based operations into a state-of-the-art regional training facility. However, training of local BMW representatives has been taking place at the facility since early this month.
Christened the BMW Regional Importers Technical Training School — the institution is geared towards upgrading the skills of all personnel working at BMW dealerships in the English-speaking Caribbean to first-world standards.
"So far, we have pumped J$14 million into this project," said Diana Stewart, matriarch and director of the family-owned business, which will this year celebrate five years since it has been representing BMW locally.
Stewart said she was expecting BMW personnel from Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia to attend the intensive training sessions, each of which will run for about five days."
"School hours will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and they [the students] will be expected to go online to complete some of the courses for about eight hours a week, at the end of which they will receive international certification," she said. "And, the courses will offer both practical and theoretical training in such areas as the planning of technology fora and model launches, as well as the operation of the latest diagnostic and drive components."
According to the Stewart Motors director, each person who successfully completes the course will qualify to work at any BMW dealership around the world.
The school will be able to accommodate up to 18 trainees for each training period, all of whom will be selected by their managers from the respective territories.
"We already have the equipment we need, thanks to BMW [Germany] which has given us some of the diagnostic tools," she said.
German BMW trainer Manfred Vogt, has been brought to Jamaica to lead the training sessions and has been conducting courses with technicians employed to Stewart Motors ahead of the official opening of the regional training facility.
"I've been with BMW for 39 years now," said Vogt, with a thick German accent. "And I've been an overseas after-sales consultant and trainer with BMW since 1982. My assignments have taken me from the Middle East, through West Africa and South Africa."
Vogt also had tours of duty in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, before coming to Jamaica.
In addition to BMW and the Mini marques, the Stewarts Automotive Group are local dealers for Suzuki, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, and Honda motorcycles.
According to Richard Stewart, co-director of Stewart's Motors: "We recognise that after-sales service is paramount to our long-term objective of being the number one dealer for premium vehicles in the local marketplace." And he believes that continuous training of representatives of the BMW brand is key to achieving that goal.
He and Diana Stewart were upbeat about the school's prospects.
"There are too many young, bright people in Jamaica who need a skill. And, I know the school will help in this regard," she said.
Local automotive students at the BMW Regional Importers Technical Training School on Orchard Road in St. Andrew.