According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and other auto industry groups, at least 35,000 more qualified technicians are needed to service the nearly 200 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads. Nonetheless, little is being done in the nation's schools to fill those auto tech jobs, according to a study released late last month by Automotive Retailing Today (ART), a coalition representing all major car companies and dealership groups. The problem is one of image, said Jim Willingham, chairman of ART. Too many educators and parents see the auto repair industry as a place for "grease monkeys," students who don't do well academically, or who aren't college-bound, Willingham said. "But today's vehicles are very sophisticated, computer-driven machines requiring technicians who can work with cutting-edge, high-tech tools. The day of the 'grease monkey' is dead," Willingham told But according to Willingham, most of those auto tech jobs go unfilled "because most people don't understand that the industry has changed drastically." Master automotive technicians, for example, can earn $70,000 to $100,000 annually "doing something that can give them a great deal of job satisfaction," Willingham said. NADA has set up several programs to help overcome that bias in the home and in the classroom. The association, with some success, has been encouraging high schools and junior colleges to modernize their auto technician education programs, emphasizing more training in electronics and computer literacy, according to