Bow grad has a shot at being a Mazda national mechanic 

Colby Rousseau uses the pointing hand as he videotapes himself showing a customer what he has done to repair their car at a bay at Grappone Mazda on Manchester Street in Concord on Tuesday, October 10, 2023.

Colby Rousseau uses the pointing hand as he videotapes himself showing a customer what he has done to repair their car at a bay at Grappone Mazda on Manchester Street in Concord on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Colby Rousseau uses the pointing hand as he videotapes himself showing a customer what he has done to repair their car at a bay at Grappone Mazda on Manchester Street in Concord on Tuesday.

Colby Rousseau uses the pointing hand as he videotapes himself showing a customer what he has done to repair their car at a bay at Grappone Mazda on Manchester Street in Concord on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Colby Rousseau€™ holds the pointing hand he uses to show customers what he has repaired at Grappone Mazda on Manchester Street in Concord on Tuesday, October 10, 2023.

Colby Rousseau€™ holds the pointing hand he uses to show customers what he has repaired at Grappone Mazda on Manchester Street in Concord on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Joe Marceau (left) has been mentoring Colby Rousseau at Grappone Mazda, He is one of the top 10 finalists in Mazda’€s Master Techician Contest.

Joe Marceau (left) has been mentoring Colby Rousseau at Grappone Mazda, He is one of the top 10 finalists in Mazda’€s Master Techician Contest.

Colby Rousseau holds the pointing hand with which he shows customers what he has repaired at a bay at Grappone Mazda on Manchester Street in Concord on Tuesday.

Colby Rousseau holds the pointing hand with which he shows customers what he has repaired at a bay at Grappone Mazda on Manchester Street in Concord on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 10-13-2023 10:17 PM

Every good mechanic has a trick or two up their sleeve. Colby Rousseau’s trick is a sleeve, with a cartoonish pointing hand at the end of it, and it’s one of the reasons he’s headed to California and maybe to Japan.

“He’s pretty amazing. And he’s got the finger pointer,” said Amanda Grappone Osmer, owner of the Mazda dealership in Concord where Rousseau works. “I think that’s what got him in,” agreed Joe Marceau, lead technician and Rousseau’s mentor at the shop.

Both of them laughed but they were serious, too.

Rousseau, a 2021 graduate of Bow High School who attended Concord Regional Technical Center, is a top-10 finalist in Mazda’s annual Master Technician Contest, having won in three earlier rounds. He’ll be going to the company’s U.S. headquarters in Irvine, California, to compete in the national contest and if he does well enough there he’ll go to Hiroshima, Japan, for the company’s international competition.

The contest won’t lead to any big reward aside from free trips, but it’s still a feather in the cap for the company, which just opened its new dealership in south Concord after a half-century in Bow. And it’s a potential lure to youngsters for an industry that is anxious to keep the supply of mechanics coming as the baby boomer generation retires, especially with all the changes coming due to electrification.

As Rousseau and others explained in a recent interview, it all started with videos.

When a car comes into the Mazda dealership service area, the mechanic makes a short walk-around video about work to be done that gets sent to the customer’s phone. Rousseau found that pointing out details in modern engines, which are crammed to the gills with material, was easier if he had a way to extend his arm.

“In the CX-9,” he said as an example, “the drive belts are so far down there, half the time you don’t even know if the customer sees it.”

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Enter the finger, whose bright colors show up well against dark machinery.

This matters because the first step in the Mazda competition was based solely on customer reviews. Entertaining and informative video explanations are a big hit with customers and the reason Rousseau made that cut to be one of the top 400 Mazda mechanics in the country.

Then came a 20-question test about how vehicles work – “how many volts you should see if you touched right here? things like that,” he said – which got him down to the top 100 in the country, followed by an interactive repair-order diagnostic exam that put Rousseau in the top 25.

Next up was creation of their own diagnostic video, the hard part being keeping it tight and efficient. “I had to sit around for a week figuring out what I could cut out of the video,” said Rousseau. Rest assured he didn’t remove the finger: “That was the big thing I wasn’t cutting out!”

The video has gotten him into the top 10 nationwide, leading to the California contest.

Readers may know Rousseau from his years wrestling at Bow High School – he’s now a coach of middle-school wrestling – a time in the spotlight that helps him keep the contest in perspective. And although he’s just starting out in his career, he’s also got the future in perspective, too.

After a century of relative stability, the job of auto mechanic is increasingly uncertain as vehicles switch over – slowly in the U.S. but faster elsewhere – from internal-combustion engines to electrical motors. The thinking is that because electric cars have far fewer moving parts they will require less servicing and thus fewer mechanics, although so far that’s mostly theoretical.

Rousseau, just at the start of his career, is taking the possibility in stride.

“I think they haven’t been out long enough to see the issues,” he said. “No vehicles is going to last forever. Every brand of gasoline vehicle, they break in different ways; EVs are going to break, it’s just in a way that hasn’t been seen yet.”

“There’s always going to be work to be done on vehicles.”