MIDLAND, Mich. -- Today marked the official launch of CIRAS –- The Center for International Retail Automotive Standards in the United States. It is dedicated to the professionalizing of the international automotive industry, and will offer a series of Web-based certifications in a variety of key positions in the automotive trade.

Under the direction of Northwood University’s retired Vice President of International Programs, Prof. Robert W. Serum, PhD., CIRAS has assembled a team of respected automotive specialists from around the world. “CIRAS is not the usual training or teaching facility,” stresses Dr. Serum, “We fully recognize the contributions made by the many excellent educational institutions now serving the automotive industry.”

Instead, CIRAS’s multi-media, web-based “content reviews” and certifications are designed to complement a candidate’s existing work experience or education, according to CEO Dr. Serum. Candidates who pass the exam will receive a certification from CIRAS, as well as a two-year professional membership in this prestigious organization. This certification comes with professional designation, which can be noted on the member’s business card next to their name. For example, candidates who successfully pass the F&I certification exam would earn the designation C.F.P. – Certified Finance Professional.

At the end of the two-year membership term, candidates will be able to re-certify at a special discount, provided the re-certification occurs within 60 days of membership expiration. Candidates have the option to skip the certification reviews and go directly to the exam, if they feel their experience or training has sufficiently prepared them to do so.

It was the underlying philosophy of CIRAS that prompted the need for re-certification. “This is a dynamic industry,” says Dr. Serum, “So it is important for professionals to re-establish their expertise periodically.”

The ability to remain at the vanguard of industry standards often determines the success or failure of a venture. “Dealers do their finance and insurance business in a hostile legal and regulatory environment,” says Thomas B. Hudson of Hudson Cook, LLP, content provider for the legal compliance portion of CIRAS’s F&I certification and CIRAS Advisory Board Member. “Training dealer personnel to understand that environment can mean the difference between good business and class action lawsuits,” he reports.

The content of each certification area was designed by a team of experts in each respective area. For example, the certification for F&I Managers includes content from Arzu Algan of the Automotive Dealership Institute, and Tom Hudson and Emily Marlow Beck of Hudson Cook, LLP. Other key members include Joseph Lescota, Chair of Automotive Marketing at Northwood University, who prepared and presented the Sales Associate and Used Car Management certifications, and Jim Schalberg, head of the Auto Rental Board of Standards, who prepared and presented the Rental Car Risk Assessment certification.

The certification exams cover a wide variety of key positions, including Sales Associate, F&I Manager, Service Writer, Used Car Manager, Rental Car Manager, and a CSI review designed for personnel at all levels of the dealership.

CIRAS will offer two of its certifications - the F&I certification and the CSI certification – at the 2008 F&I Conference. These workshops will be facilitated by Dr. Robert Serum, CEO and President of CIRAS. Certification presenters will include Dr. David E. Fry (President & CEO emeritus, Northwood University), Thomas B. Hudson (Managing Partner, Hudson Cook, LLP, and Principal of CounselorLibrary.com), Emily Marlow Beck (Partner, Hudson Cook, LLP), Arzu Algan (CFO and Dean of Education, Automotive Dealership Institute), and Marguerite Watanabe (Director of International Programs, Automotive Dealership Institute and Principal of Connections Insight).

Registered attendees will be able to take advantage of a special, deeply discounted price. Participants will receive four full months of free access to CIRAS’s online certification review, allowing them to train and retrain at their convenience; the certification comes with a two-year membership in CIRAS. F&I certification participants will also receive a complimentary copy of CarLaw: F&I Legal Desk Book from CounselorLibrary.com, and a free 6-month subscription to Spot Delivery, a monthly legal newsletter for motor vehicle dealers. Upon successful completion of the certification review, participants will be awarded a C.F.P. or C.S.P. designation, which can be displayed on their business card.

CIRAS will be available on the web starting September 18, 2008, at www.ciras.org. However, many of the certification areas will be showcased at various industry forums prior to the official launch at the 2008 F&I Management & Technology Conference in Las Vegas. For more information, please visit www.fi-conference.com.