DETROIT -- Chrysler Group is offering additional diesel-engine training to its dealerships to help them sell and service light-duty diesel variants of its two best-selling nameplates this year.
Diesel-powered 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokees are being assembled in Detroit, and a diesel-powered 2014 Ram 1500 will enter production this fall. Both vehicles will be outfitted with a 3.0-liter V-6 diesel from VM Motori S.p.A., which is owned by Chrysler parent Fiat S.p.A.
So far, just more than half of the automaker's 2,300 dealerships have completed the additional training, according to John Fox, Chrysler's director of dealer training. Service and sales personnel are given the added instruction.
Chrysler sells other diesel models, including several diesel-powered heavy-duty pickups, and previously offered limited numbers of light-duty diesels in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty and Dodge Sprinter.
But placing the VM Motori 3.0-liter in its two most popular vehicles is likely to drive up demand for diesel service.
Diesel service technicians are in short supply in certain areas of the country and are often heavily recruited by trucking and heavy-equipment companies. With those sectors recovering from the recession, dealers who delay hiring diesel techs could have difficulty finding qualified candidates.
Dealers are taking extra steps to make sure they have diesel techs. Some have begun advertising positions or sending their service personnel for diesel certifications.
Tom Miller, service manager at Jim Riehl's Friendly Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Lapeer, Mich., began advertising for a diesel tech to fill a vacancy and to gather resumes as diesel work expands at the dealership.
"There is no question that the future of vehicles in the country that have improved fuel economy will be diesel, but it also takes a special talent to work on these vehicles," Miller said.
The store, which averages about 110 new and 40 used sales a month, went through Chrysler's additional training last month, Miller said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average diesel mechanic nationwide is paid about $40,800 a year. The bureau estimates that the United States had about 242,200 diesel mechanics in 2010 and that an additional 35,200 would be needed by 2020.
A spokesman for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence said the institute has begun working with the military to move diesel mechanics in the armed forces into similar civilian jobs.