Rising unemployment in other technical fields helped dealers add 6,300 technicians last year, according to "NADA Data," an annual report from the National Automobile Dealers Association.
In 2000, dealers hired only 600 employees for their back shops. And since 1990, dealers have added an average of 2,800 technicians annually, according to NADA statistics.
Last year's availability of back shop personnel was important to dealers because federal statistics show a shortage of 30,000 technicians, said Paul Taylor, NADA's chief economist, who pointed out that technicians still are scarce. "Many dealers have mentioned that they have spare bays in the service area," he said.
Dealers added 15,600 employees to their payrolls last year, bringing total dealership employment to about 1.13 million and total payroll to $48 billion. Because of strong new-vehicle sales, dealers have added 100,000 employees during the past five years.
The 2001 report said that the consolidation trend for franchised dealers intensified, and the number of dealerships dropped by 350 - the largest decline since 1993. Taylor attributed the decline to slower sales during the recession, the phase-out of Oldsmobile and Plymouth and manufacturers' efforts to weed out small dealerships.
The data also showed that the average retail selling price of a new vehicle rose 3.6 percent in 2001 to $25,800 as the trend toward buying more options and upscale models continued.