By Jessica Dinapoli
Published: 2:00 AM - 02/27/13
HARRIMAN — A mini-parade of flashy new cars — some not yet available to the public — will cruise in and out of a new training academy opening up on Commerce Drive South this spring.
Chrysler Group, the manufacturer of Jeep, Dodge and Fiat vehicles, among others, will open up a Chrysler Academy that will mainly train technicians working at dealers across the tri-state region, said Al Motta, the head of technical training for the company. Independent mechanics can also participate.
The academy, moving to Harriman from Westchester County, will employ three full-time instructors who will teach classes of between eight and 12 students each.
The classes cover everything from rebuilding an engine to high-tech work with PC-based diagnostic tools and in-car software, he said.
Instruction lasts between one and four days, Motta said. When Chrysler rolls out new models — like the Fiat 500 or the new Viper — the lessons extend for the full four days.
"It takes a lot of time to go through it from top to bottom," Motta said of new cars.
The academy receives cars after the public relations unveiling but before it's for sale, Motta said.
The next closest Chrysler academies are in Philadelphia and Boston. There are 24 across the country, Motta said.
Campaign attracted company
The Orange County Partnership's Wall Street Journal campaign attracted Chrysler to Harriman, said Maureen Halahan, president and CEO of Orange County Partnership . The space, owned by the Frassetto Cos., was featured in one of the advertisements.
"It was a well-thought out strategic campaign," Halahan said. "The fact a deal closed out of it is monumental."
Space is 19,000 square feet
The 19,000-square foot industrial space — half of a 44,000 square-foot building — had been vacant for about six to seven months, said John Frassetto, a principal with the Frassetto Cos.
That's a very short period of time for the current commercial real estate market, where many potential deals are stretched out over as many as six or seven site visits, Frassetto said. The norm was two site visits, he said.
High ceilings beneficial
Frassetto said one reason he thinks Chrysler picked the building is because of its high ceilings. Technicians and instructors will use lifts to work on the cars, he said. Drivers can also guide cars into the building through the back and then into the classrooms inside.
Halahan said the academy is a boon for Orange County, partly because it will bring hundreds of people to the area from elsewhere each year.
"It's another thing we can point to and say, 'Hey, Chrysler's here,' " Halahan said.