I think it’s fair to say that automotive technicians are getting harder to find. These days, less people are choosing a career in automotive repair, even though technicians make great money and many need little or no formal college education or previous experience. Look at independent repair facility employment ads and you’ll no doubt find plenty of messages stating, “no experience necessary!” While that may be the case at some dealerships for their quick service, things are rapidly changing.
A recent article in Automotive News discusses the many challenges dealerships are facing as qualified technicians become more scarce, while service department revenue becomes even more vital. According to the article, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the automotive industry will need 796,000 technicians by 2026 – an increase of 46,000 techs from just two years ago.
While this will present a challenge for dealerships, it also represents opportunity. Dealerships have an edge that independent repair facilities will never have: OEM training. As vehicles become more technologically advanced, dealerships will have the support and information available to them – as well as the staff on-site to train them – whereas independents will not.
While eight years in the future may seem a long way off, now is the time to find these technicians, train them and continue to keep them up to date. That will give you, as a franchised dealer, a compelling value proposition and a competitive advantage over your competition and the independents.
I’m not suggesting that you have to go recruit Master Technicians and pay a premium right now. I know of a Master Technician at a very established and respected high-line dealership who started as a bike mechanic. He worked his way up, with no automotive technician experience, to become one of the best technicians in the world, winning global technician contests.
Yes, this may well be the exception rather than the rule, but my point is to plan ahead and start hiring, training and building up your service department resources now. It is possible for an entry-level employee to be well trained, to become competent and bring value to the dealership.
I’m sure that you’ve been hearing a lot about how the industry will change with the arrival of self-driving and autonomous vehicles. How much technology do you think is included in those vehicles? Do you think you’ll be able to advertise, “no experience necessary!” for such an advanced vehicle? Probably not. And, with regards to recalls, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight, especially as cars become more dependent on software and electronics which are prone to failure over time.
However, if you place a priority on recruiting and training technicians now, in eight years, you will likely be in a position to provide exceptional service to your customers. And, not only that, you’ll also acquire new service customers from those independents who won’t have the knowledge or experience to handle even the most routine maintenance.
And that’s how you remain profitable and win the battle.