A defense contractor will offer new web-based simulated training to Chrysler dealership sales and service employees.

Raytheon Co. first did simulation training to help Air Force technicians repair and maintain bombers and fighter planes.

It extended its training to General Motors service dealership staffers 10 years ago. The expanded program for Chrysler dealerships begins next year.

As the co-developer of dealership re-learning strategies, GM and its dealers were instrumental in broadening the Raytheon operation, and plan to expand it into vehicle sales, parts, finance and insurance and service write-up activities.

“For decades, dealership technician and salesperson training has been done in off-site classrooms,” says Russ O'Brien, executive director of Raytheon's North American Operations.

“The new approach, entirely online except where interactions with customers are involved, covers more than a dozen dealership functions and can be accessed at home or anywhere a laptop can be plugged in,” he says.

O'Brien was involved in adapting the Air Force technique for dealerships.

Here's briefly how the program works:

A technician or salesperson first receives a work order or vehicle description sheet, showing tools needed for repair or highlights of vehicles being considered for purchase.

Virtual instructors or sales reviewers appear from time to time to guide employees with repairs or sales presentations. Sessions end with the virtual coaches appraising the presentations and answering questions from viewers.

Among early users of the simulation program are Roy Campbell Chevrolet in Thomasville, GA, and Merollis Chevrolet in Eastpointe, MI.

“I jumped for the training courses as soon as they were available,” says Merollis service manager Daniel Hathaway.

The training for service employees replicates three dealership service shops as shoot sites, complete with hoists. There also are telecast studios.

For GM, the Raytheon studios in Troy, MI, produce instructional and how-to repair videos on new products.

Questions are taken online and videos can be accessed by participating dealer personnel on a 24-7 basis on almost any laptop or in any location.

GM dealers are charged all-inclusive fees for access to the videos. Chrysler dealers will use a pay-as-you-go plan.

Raytheon has set up a special team near Chrysler's world headquarters in Auburn Hills, MI, to develop training films for Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealers.

Raytheon began spreading word of its unique GM program in January.

“We are keenly aware amid the vehicle sales downturn of the key role service and parts are playing in keeping dealers healthy,” says Lisa Kennedy, Raytheon's North America communications manager.

But broadcasts for service writers, vehicle sales and F&I managers are being developed, she says. “Eventually, we plan to cover all the bases.”