In several respects, automakers are to be commended for their support of their dealers' needs. The most obvious is factory support of automotive technician education.
Many manufacturers have programs that are aimed directly at developing, enhancing and supporting automotive tech education in high schools, community colleges and technical schools.
Factory support is especially important because hiring in that field has been especially difficult. Cars and trucks become more complex every year, and the training and education needs for techs become more difficult.
Programs such as the Automotive Youth Educational Systems sponsored by General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and Ford Motor Co.'s Automotive Service Student Education Training program play an important part in increasing awareness of career opportunities among students and assisting schools in attaining and maintaining appropriate curriculums.
However, a clear dichotomy has developed in other branches of the manufacturers' operations. While one arm supports the dealers human resources need, others inhibit that need and make it more difficult to retain good techs.
A prime example is the attempt by factories to reduce the amount they pay for warranty work done by dealers. In Virginia, factories have introduced a bill that will directly affect the reimbursement of technicians.
As techs' reimbursement continues to decrease, the incentive for them to perform warranty repairs also decreases.
If a warranty repair allows one hour, but the same repair allows 1.5 hours when paid for by the customer, which will a tech prefer?
Obviously, those systems provide incentive for highly trained technicians to seek employment in service centers that do not do warranty repair.
Warranty repairs generally are due to manufacturing defects or ineffective quality control. Expecting manufacturers to pay a reasonable and fair amount to repair those situations is not only good business, it is necessary to retain experienced technicians.
Efforts by manufacturers to further diminish warranty compensation can only weaken an already difficult hiring situation for their franchised dealers.
Another manufacturer practice that has a negative influence on tech retention is the drop shipment of parts. If a tech does not have a part on hand, he or she must wait to perform the repair, which delays the tech's income for that job. And, of course, the customer must wait for the vehicle.
If manufacturers want to reduce the cost of warranty repairs, we suggest they improve their manufacturing practices and quality control. It is unconscionable to expect their franchised dealers to subsidize their mistakes through below-cost warranty repairs.
Again, I commend those car and truck makers who have developed and support technician and education programs.
But at the same time I admonish other makers to rein in those divisions and departments that do not support the future of the factory-dealer relationship so that dealers and manufacturers can focus on improving customer satisfaction.