San Luis Obispo Students Finish Fifth in National Automotive Skills Championship

(DEARBORN, MI, June 16, 2009) – Two students from San Luis Obispo, Calif., took fifth place at the 2009 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Championship this morning. The competition, sponsored by Ford Motor Company and AAA, is designed to find the future stars of the automotive industry.

San Luis Obispo High 2009 graduates Eric Reed, 18 and Doug Rinell, 18, took just 50 minutes and 29 seconds to repair their bugged Ford Escape at AAA Michigan headquarters in Dearborn. They were coached by San Luis Obispo High Industrial Tech Instructor Jeff Lehmkuhl, and accompanied to the contest by the Auto Club’s Motor Sports Manager Rick Lalor. The California team received just one demerit on their deliberately bugged car. They also took a written exam which was part of their final score.

The repairs included repairing the air conditioning blower, power windows and mirrors and interior and exterior lights as well as properly diagnosing and repairing problems to the starter motor and air flow sensor.

More than 9,700 high school juniors and seniors competed in this year’s competition with a record-high $10.7 million in scholarships offered. The Fifth place team received $14,000 scholarship per student to Lincoln College of Technology; $10,000 scholarship per student to Ohio Technical College; $8,500 scholarship per student to University of Northwestern Ohio.

In addition, the San Luis Obispo High students and instructor will receive a 2008 Ford Edge for future automotive technology students at their high school to train on. The team had a choice of a Fusion, Taurus or Edge vehicle. They also will receive a trophy for their school.

“We’re really pleased and the kids are thrilled,” said Jeff Lehmkuhl. “The team fixed the problems with the car, and had the second highest score in the nation, but the one demerit took us down several places. But the students are happy with how they represented their community and the state of California.”

“We want to thank Perry Ford in San Luis Obispo because without the car they provided the student team to train on, our team wouldn’t have done as well as it did,” said Lehmkuhl. “The dealership, owner Perry Faulk, and his group are great supporters.”

Ford and AAA have partnered to assure that the new generation of automotive technicians is well trained to serve the public’s motoring needs. Demand for well-trained technicians remains high with 60 percent of the independent mechanics reporting sales up last year over the previous year and 76 percent saying they expect more work, according to an Automotive Service Association survey.

This year marked the 60th year of the annual competition, which first began in 1949 when Harry Truman was in office. This year, AAA marks its 25th year with the competition, serving as a co-sponsor since 1984. Ford Motor Company celebrates its 15th year involved in the competition.

In April, the San Luis Obispo High team earned the California state competition by achieving the highest score among the 10 two-student teams at Wally Parks NHRA Museum in Pomona, as well as beating the scores of 10 two-student teams who were competing simultaneously in Northern California. The San Luis Obispo students each won scholarships, tools and other prized for finishing on top in the California competition.

In previous years Lehmkuhl has taken San Luis Obispo High student teams to the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Championship where they finished 1st (2007), 2nd, 4th, and 20th.

The top five finishers in today’s national competition were: Minnesota, Colorado, Alabama, Texas and California.
Broadcast-quality video of the 2009 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills is available to download on the national AAA media relations website.
The Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills contest is also on Facebook.