A special report in this issue of Fixed Ops Journal examines the acute shortage of service and collision technicians to staff the shops of new-vehicle dealerships, now and in years to come. That shortage threatens dealer profitability — and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.
The evidence is unrelenting. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a need for 46,000 more automotive techs by 2026, in addition to the 750,000 techs who now work across the auto industry (about 317,000 of them for franchised dealerships). About one of every four veteran dealership techs leaves each year.
Where the new and replacement techs will come from is unclear. The TechForce Foundation reports a big drop in enrollment in auto tech programs offered by for-profit trade schools. The consulting firm Carlisle & Co. warns of an imminent industrywide shortage of as many as 25,000 techs.
Tech vacancies that aren’t filled mean service work that doesn’t get done. That afflicts the service department’s — and the dealership’s — bottom line, big time.
More heartening is the industry’s response to the threat. We report that dealerships and dealership groups understand they’re not going to meet their needs merely by poaching techs from competitors. They’re growing and nurturing their own techs, often working with colleges, trade schools and high schools to identify and train tomorrow’s techs.
Automakers and suppliers are doing their part to broaden the pool of techs, providing scholarships, sponsoring apprenticeships, recruiting military veterans and setting up their own training programs. Industry groups, notably the National Automobile Dealers Association, are working aggressively to promote tech careers and centralize information about training opportunities.
All of these efforts are necessary, but they’re not sufficient. Every part of the industry must work even harder to close the tech gap.