The Mustang Mach-E will be rolled out to dealerships across the US starting in late 2020. But Ford is not waiting until then to train technicians to service the all-electric SUV. The company developed a virtual-reality training tool with Bosch, the tier-one supplier, to get the training started sooner rather than later.
Dave Johnson, director of Ford service engineering operations, said:
Technicians will be immersed in a simulated and gamified world, meaning they won’t need to rely on actual Mustang Mach-E vehicles to learn about its components, including the electric SUV’s new high-voltage system. This new virtual reality training tool allows technicians to understand the components and steps required to service these high-voltage systems, then confidently perform diagnostics and maintenance.
Technicians will don an Oculus Rift VR headset and then perform service tasks on the EV, like removing and installing the battery pack.
Jason Mase, Ford’s electrification marketing strategy lead, told us earlier this month about how the company is prepping the 2,100 dealerships that will sell and service the Mustang Mach-E. “We want to make sure they have the right equipment for safety in the service bays,” he said. “Something as simple as a table to put the battery on, if you lower it out of the vehicle.”
Thanks to the VR training program, those dealerships don’t have to wait for the Mach-E and related equipment to arrive. Technicians can navigate through a set of training modules as if walking through classrooms. The process prepares the technicians for all the necessary repair tasks, including niche skills in Ford’s training program. The technicians can access the system from any location.
Bosch developed a proof-of-concept for the VR training in 2019. Ford now becomes the first automaker to pilot the application using repair courses designed for the Mach-E.
We’ve seen time and time again how dealerships are not prepared to sell and service EVs. Making sure that shoppers and owners have the best possible experience with an electric car is essential to an automaker’s success. Many legacy automakers are struggling to turn the corner from internal combustion to EVs.
It looks like Ford found a clever way to get technicians fully prepared for the Mach-E’s arrival. While using VR might not be quite the same as hands-on experience, the creative approach shows that Ford is starting to make a serious effort. Every Ford dealership will also have an EV specialist. “We will have a specialist at the store that thinks, sleeps, and breathes EV,” said Mase.
Using VR for training is a small step. But it bodes well for the company’s broader campaign to introduce a lineup of EVs, including the Mach-E SUV and an all-electric Ford F-150.
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