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Annual Minnesota Student Auto Skills Contest Kicks-Off May 11

BURNSVILLE, Minn., May 3 -- The hands-on portion of the nation's largest competition for high school auto technicians begins with a state-wide competition on Tuesday, May 11, 2004, at Des Moines Area Community College, in Ankeny, Iowa, and ends with a National Finals event June 29, at Ford Motor Company's World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.

More than $5 million in scholarships and prizes will be awarded over the next few months, as competitions are held in all 50 states culminating in the National Finals contest, according to co-sponsors Ford Motor Company and AAA.

The Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition is for high school juniors and seniors. It provides two-student teams enrolled in high school automotive technology courses the chance to test their abilities in accurately diagnosing and servicing identically "bugged" vehicles. The top winning team from each state also earns the right to compete for national honors and prizes. Those students are considered by Ford and AAA as the best student auto technicians in the country.

Contests in each state and at the national level are organized with the support of AAA's Approved Auto Repair program, Ford personnel and local educators. AAA's Approved Auto Repair program is a service for AAA members and the public that independently inspects and approves repair facilities nationwide.

Ford Motor Company provides technical assistance, vehicles and equipment for the state and national contests. Each state championship team wins scholarship funds for the Ford ASSET (Automotive Student Service Education Training) or FACT (Ford Accelerated Credential Training) programs. Participants in the ASSET program can earn a two-year associate degree in automotive service and get a chance to "earn-as-they-learn" by working at Ford or Lincoln-Mercury dealerships.

AAA Minnesota/Iowa, which includes more than 700,000 members, offers automotive, travel, insurance and financial services. It is part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the largest affiliation of AAA clubs in the Midwest, with 4.1 million members in eight states. ACG clubs belong to the national AAA federation, a not-for-profit organization, with more than 45 million members in the United States and Canada.