The shortage of talented auto service technicians is acute and growing. The turnover of service advisers at new-vehicle dealerships has come to resemble a revolving door. Workers younger than baby boomers aren't especially interested in dealership jobs, including those in the service department, parts desk and body shop.
Even as franchised dealerships must rely on service revenue for an ever-greater share of their profits, such dreary workplace realities may seem permanent facts of life for dealers and fixed ops managers. A new report, though, offers cause for hope — but only if dealerships are prepared to change the way they treat their employees.
Cox Automotive's 2019 Dealership Staffing Study notes that nearly one-third of the members of Generation Z and younger millennials — roughly, people from ages 22 to 28 — who were surveyed for the report express interest in working for a dealership. That rate is 10 percentage points higher than it is among older millennials and members of Generation X (ages 29 to 54). And these younger employees are at least as attracted to technician jobs as they are to sales and administrative positions, the study says.
The study also concludes that the alarming annual turnover rate among service advisers — nearly one out of two, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association's most recent Dealership Workforce Study — may be moderating, at least for now. These findings are good news.
Now the bad news: The Cox study warns that half or more of service advisers and other service employees are likely to feel disengaged from their jobs.
That lack of enthusiasm is an obstacle to worker retention, especially at a time of low overall unemployment. The loss of good, experienced workers can depress satisfaction among a dealership's service customers, and thus fixed ops profitability.
"Talent and technology are key to the future of the service department," Tracy Fred, general manager of Cox Automotive's Xtime brand, told me. "Dealers need to figure out how to lean into this profit center."