San Luis Obispo High School Wins Ford/AAA Auto Skills State Championship


(LOS ANGELES, April 17, 2009) – Two students from San Luis Obispo High School beat a field of 38 other students to win the California 2009 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition today. The competition, sponsored by Ford and the Automobile Club of Southern California, is designed to find the most talented young auto technicians in the U.S.

San Luis Obispo High competed in the Southern California portion of the contest, held for the first time at the Wally Parks NHRA Museum in Pomona this morning. It earned the state championship by achieving the highest score among the 10 two-student teams at the museum in Pomona, as well as beating the score of 10 two-student teams who were competing simultaneously in Northern California.

San Luis Obispo High School students Eric Reed and Doug Rinell completed the Southern California hands-on competition in 88 minutes and 10 seconds, finding and correctly repairing all problems with the vehicle. They each won college scholarships, including a $20,000 scholarship to United Technical Institute and a two-year, $2,000 scholarship to one of 60 higher education schools participating in the Ford Motor Co.’s ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) program. The winning San Luis Obispo High School team instructor is Jeff Lehmkuhl. The pair also won sets of tools from Snap-On.

“The car that Eric and Doug worked on today was perfectly repaired,” said Rick Lalor, event competition chairman and the Auto Club’s motor sports manager. “The pair is from a high school which has won this competition for the last three years in a row. It has a long tradition of first class teams who have competed on the national level and have demonstrated professional workmanship and high-tech knowledge needed to repair today’s vehicles.”

In 2007, the San Luis Obispo High School team was crowned national car repair champions at the national Ford/AAA Auto Skills contest held in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ramona High’s team, coached by Michael Saavedra, finished second in the Southern California competition, while Arvin High took third place. Chris Houts and Austin Torres made up the second place team. The Arvin High team of Miguel Chavez and Santiago Verduzco were third. Their instructor is George White.

The competition winners were determined by the combination of an online qualifying exam and the team’s performance in a hands-on competition to repair quickly and accurately a deliberately disabled 2009 Ford Focus.

As statewide champion, the San Luis Obispo High School team advances to the national finals in Dearborn, MI in June, where $10 million in scholarships and prizes will be distributed.

The Auto Club co-sponsors the annual Southern California portion of the competition to draw attention to the need to attract qualified students to high-paying automotive professions.

The automotive services job sector forecast includes:

  • Parts and service departments are expected to see a revenue gain of about 3% this year, forecasts Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association. That would be up from 1.8% for the first 11 months of 2008.
  • Some 60% of the independent mechanics responding to a survey by Automotive Service Association reported sales up last year over the previous year. Only 14% reported a decline. This year, 76% say they expect more work.
  • The average age of the entire U.S. fleet of cars and trucks averaged a record 9.2 years in 2007 for the second year in a row, the most recent figure from research firm R.L. Polk. The 4.8% of vehicles scrapped was the lowest since 1996.