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Donated Kias rev up technology programs
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Automotive technology students at Lanier Technical College and North Georgia Technical College will see a substantial addition to their classes this fall — a new Kia Sorento.

Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia donated 20 new cars to the Technical College System of Georgia this week, and college presidents received a “key to the future” to jump-start the relationship between Kia and college students.

“There’s a lot of interest in our program, and we’re actually doing an expansion to add onto that building,” said Lanier Tech Interim President Russell Vandiver. “This really fell into place and will allow us to expand the capabilities of the program.”

Kia first announced it would build an automotive manufacturing facility in Georgia in 2006, and the Kia Georgia Training Center opened its doors in 2008. Technical college presidents toured the Kia plant in West Point when they received the keys to the cars.

“I’ve seen a lot of manufacturing plants, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Vandiver said. “I saw sheet metal go in one end of the building and a car come out of the other end. Their processes are so good it makes the facility look small.”

The donation will help technical college students grasp new technology available in cars.

“We can’t go out and get new vehicles with all the bells and whistles to really work on them. You’re talking a lot of money there,” Vandiver said. “This gives the opportunity to teach maintenance in a way we wouldn’t be able to do.”

The Lanier Tech automotive technology training program, featured at the Dawson County campus, has seen an increase in enrollment during the past few years as the demand for local auto services went up locally.

“Our automotive program includes theory and practical application of service and repair of all vehicles sold in the United States,” said Chris Cooper, automotive technology instructor. “The addition of the Kia Sorento will further enhance our training abilities by providing the latest year model for student diagnostic and troubleshooting routines.”

North Georgia Tech’s automotive technology program emphasizes hands-on training in electrical, fuel, ignition and emission systems. Students assemble motor parts in the classroom, and advanced classes feature diagnosis and various problem-solving scenarios.

“We’re really excited about it. It’s been at least nine or 10 years since we’ve received a new vehicle from manufacturers with the way the economy is,” said Kevin McCurry, one of the automotive technology instructors. “We have a good fleet of vehicles, but this is a great addition with the latest and greatest technology to use in lab demonstrations.”

McCurry hopes to use the vehicle in a few weeks while teaching brake systems but said he needs to learn the technology first.

“In all reality, this is the latest vehicle on the road by Kia, so we need to get up to speed on the car before we transfer it to the students,” he said with a laugh. “Basic technology is the same, though, so we can start using it for that.”

McCurry is looking forward to the diversity the Sorento will add to the collection. Most graduates in the program work in independent garages, where local residents bring many types of cars. With a downturned economy, people are also seeking more repairs rather than buying new cars, he said.

“Diversity is important, and I speak from experience. I went to a General Motors school and worked on GM for 10 years, and that can be an advantage but also a handicap,” he said. “The more makes and models we can expose the students to, the better it will be for them in the field.”