Tesla has made it slightly easier for auto body shops to get certified. However, the process is rife with numerous challenges, including the availability of information.
A key advantage of becoming certified is the support body shops get from Tesla. The automotive maker provides many powerful resources to their body shops once certified.
However, the process requires time, investment, and patience.
How Tesla Helps Certified Body Shops and the Challenges
Becoming a Tesla-certified body shop is a different process compared to other automakers. A defining feature of the onboarding process is that it is mostly virtual. The Tesla team is incredibly helpful at all stages of the process.
So why should you become a Tesla-certified body shop in Michigan?
Acquiring certification with Tesla gives you access to work on complex repairs. Certified body shops can also place orders for restricted parts. Non-certified repairers may not always have access to these parts and components. Moreover, Tesla-certified body shops can receive a discount of nearly 30% off for parts.
Body shops must ensure that all parts received are compatible with the correct Tesla. It can take longer for non-certified body shops to acquire certain parts. During this time, the car can take up space in the garage. This could be a costly process.
Model 3, in particular, is very complex. This is primarily because it uses a mix of aluminum, steel, and composites. The unusual combination allows Tesla to balance affordability and functionality. However, this approach presents a unique set of challenges to certified body shops.
Mixing steel and aluminum requires access to a dedicated set of tools and skillset. To qualify, body shops must be willing to depart from nontraditional joining methods.
Tesla Welding Training (in partnership with I-Car)
Body shops that seek Tesla certification will be required to complete the following certifications:
- Aluminum GMA (MIG) Welding and Training (costs $1500 to train with a duration of 6 hours)
- Steel GMA Welding (costs $1400 to train with a duration of 4 hours)
These certifications are currently being offered at I-CAR.com.
Body shops must have at least two technicians with certifications in each course. Technicians must apply for renewal of the welding certificates with I-CAR every three years.
In addition, a shop must be equipped with the right tools to perform repairs. These tools represent a significant expense to body shops. However, the process should be easier if you already have certification with other automakers.
Body shops are required to have matching frame bench packages. They must also have Tesla-specific fixtures.
These tools and their prices are mentioned in the table below.
|Piece of Equipment
|1000 to 25,000
|Frame bench packages
|30,000 to 140,000
|25,000 to 50,000
|Blind rivet gun (14,000 N pulling force)
|Complete Xpress kit or Bollhoff and Huck 254
|2000 to 3000
|Basic aluminum dent station (to repair external body panels)
|Subframe removal equipment
|Battery manual lift table
|Powertrain scissor lift
|Various prices (starting at $100 for gloves)
Note that different Tesla models may require access to different tools. For example, a Model-3 compliant auto body shop must include a powertrain scissor lift and a tool subframe jig.
The body shop must have access to welders with appropriate certifications.
All workshops must have access to the following dedicated areas:
- Repair planning area for blueprinting and estimating
- Aluminum repair area (a curtain is acceptable)
- Paint mixing room
- Paint booth
- Car cleaning area for detailing
Body shops are required to provide their staff with PPE equipment. This is to protect the staff from electrocution. Durable safety gloves capable of protecting staff cost nearly $100 a pair.
Shops also need access to high-speed internet to communicate with a car via Wi-Fi. The shop also should have the ability to charge these vehicles inside the facility.
Most of these tools are provided by Tesla – at a price. However, the price for these tools can quickly add if you account for other equipment. For example, laptops capable of interfacing with Teslas are not cheap.
The training for the use of these tools is covered by Tesla in partnership with I-Car.
These courses can start at around $1000 per technician. Pricing for the training depends on the type of training provided.
Technicians are required to have a good understanding of various the following topics:
|Energy management hardware systems
|Fundamentals of electricity
|Permanent magnet electrical machines
|Power inverter systems
|Development of Electric Vehicles
|Battery Management Systems
|Steering and suspension
Steps to Become Tesla Certified
Here are the steps that all body shops must go through for certification.
The first step is to sign up for Tesla’s registration process. The body shop will be required to meet Tesla’s Body Repair Program Operating Standards.
The terms of the operating standards are not negotiable. The program has three key objectives:
- Quality: To restore Tesla vehicles to their original state of safety and performance.
- Time: To speed up the recovery process for Teslas.
- Cost: To perform repairs affordably.
As mentioned earlier, Tesla only sells certain parts to certified body shops. These parts include high voltage components that must be secured with welding or adhesive.
The operating program standards are subject to change without notice. It is up to the certified body program to keep up with these changes. Failure to comply is grounds for removal from the program.
The prospective body shop must provide Tesla with information about their business. This information is helpful for critical KPIs, tracking, and benchmarking. It also helps Tesla evaluate the capability of the shop to host tools needed.
The shop’s repair capabilities are compared against Tesla’s list of certification requirements and industry standards. According to Tesla, body shops must have one of the following welders:
- A GMA welder
- Squeeze type resistance spot welder
The prospective body shop is required to complete the following:
- Sign and submit the Non-disclosure agreement
- Sign and submit the GTC
- Pay for required training
- Demonstrate ownership of all mandatory equipment required by Tesla in their tooling list
- Gain access to the Electronic Parts Catalog
- Start work on all cars referred from Tesla
The body shop must be prepared for an on-site audit of the premises. This detailed audit will provide proof of compliance with Tesla and the necessary documentation.
Tesla doesn’t easily hand out certifications to body shops. It requires technicians to meet very high standards before rewarding certifications.
Tesla-certified body shops are required to completely dismantle the vehicle. This includes the removal of every nut, bolt, and glass to make repairs. Prospective body shops are required to maintain permanent physical documentation by technicians.
This documentation may later be required for review by external auditors. The documentation could be reviewed by an insurance inspector.
It may be tempting to store the parts inside the car. However, Tesla clarifies that all parts must be stored on a dedicated cart.
More importantly, body shops are required to take complete responsibility for defects due to repairs.
In addition, certified body shops are required to be protected with the following:
- Floor mats
- Car covering
- Glass protection paper (to protect from welding)
- Seat covers
- Steering wheel protection
Customers must be updated about their car every 3 days or less. Customer complaints about repairs could be grounds for removal from the program.
Tesla keeps revising the language on its terms and conditions for certified auto body shops. There is no wiggle room for mistakes. The goal of their program is to exceed customer expectations for the quality of the repair.
Shops are expected to use the tools specified by Tesla. This applies even if the equipment is expensive for the shop. Tesla can assess for compliance on these points by conducting physical and virtual audits.
All certified shops are required to maintain detailed and complete records of their participation. Tesla reserves the right to inspect the shop and conduct audits from time to time. Of course, these audits are to be conducted during normal business hours.
The repair procedure from Tesla will make it difficult for body shops to comply.
Tesla recommends prospective technicians complete training under I-CAR
I-CAR was first established in 1979 as a center of education for auto body technicians. The Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR), is a respected body. The certification is an easy way of indicating that a body shop is reliable.
I-CAR continues to play an important role because the industry is always changing. This also applied to electric vehicles, including those belonging to Tesla Motors.
Their certifications indicate a high level of skill and training in the industry. I-CAR provides detailed information on high voltage vehicles that is useful for technicians.
Tesla’s cars represent the zenith of tech wizardry. A regular auto shop may not have the tools and skills to handle a Tesla. This is why auto shops are required to undergo training to become certified. Less than 1% of auto body shops end up receiving Tesla certification.
A major advantage of becoming a certified body shop is gaining access to Tesla parts. These parts are important for Tesla cars, including Model 3, Model X, and Model Y. Only factory-certified shops have the ability to repair a Tesla without voiding its warranty.
Moreover, Tesla-certified body shops are provided with information on how to properly repair Teslas.
Tesla is less worried about sharing proprietary information than about unqualified people working on Teslas. To maintain a Tesla’s value and functionality, only certified body shops may attempt repairs.
The barriers to entry for becoming a Tesla certified body shop are many. For example, shops will need to invest money into equipment even with cheaper training. These major capital expenses are unavoidable and too cost-prohibitive for some businesses. Despite these clear difficulties, Tesla will not lower its standards.
In addition, Tesla-certified body shops are required to renew their training.
All prospective body shops are required to meet Tesla’s standards within 30 days. Tesla training is only complete after they meet all the requirements of the Operating Standards.
A major barrier is the delays by insurance carriers.
The industry is full of inexperienced adjusters. They may write incomplete estimates or erroneously claim that Teslas are similar to regular cars. This complicates negotiations and can add more cost to the process.
Tesla has switched to an online collision repair training program. Certified shops criticized this move because online classes are alleged to be ineffective. All welding certifications are to be handled in partnership with I-CAR.
Tesla explained that their Model 3 was the reason for making the switch. The automaker decided to ‘simplify’ the training process and reduce the cost of required tools.
However, most certified shops alleged that Tesla switched to sub-par technology and lowered the bar. A common criticism of online training is that technicians require visual demonstrations. Online training may impede the learning process.
Tesla has been criticized heavily for recruiting and poaching certified technicians from body shops. These body shops claim that they have invested their time and money in their employees. This is why it is unfair for Tesla to recruit these technicians.
Furthermore, Tesla-certified shops are required to sign NDAs that prevent them from discussing their situation. However, email leaks allege that Tesla is attempting to recruit these technicians.
So how easy is it to become a Tesla certified body shop? And is it worth it?
Very few body shops are certified by d arduous process. Most auto body shops will find even with cheaper training it is worth the investment to achieve Tesla certification.
Is your auto body shop certified by Tesla? If so, what was the process like? Share your feedback with us, and we might update this space with more information.
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My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.