New-vehicle dealers have heard numerous alarms in recent years that they face a shortage of experienced service technicians as baby boomers retire and fewer would-be techs enroll in training programs. The National Automobile Dealers Association calls technician retention the "hottest topic" of the dealership performance improvement programs it sponsors.
The shortage could become even more acute. Technicians dissatisfied with their compensation or work environment are finding greener pastures in other fields, often for higher pay.
Moreover, as auto technicians acquire skills to work on advanced driver-assist systems, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, they become even more valuable to other industries that also face a shortage of highly trained technicians. They are potential candidates for poaching by industries such as heavy equipment, heavy-duty diesel, railroads and aerospace.
A survey of 35,000 dealership technicians by Carlisle & Co. found that one-third plan to leave their jobs within three years. The survey did not break out how many plan to retire, move to other auto-tech jobs or change industries. But Harry Hollenberg, a Carlisle partner, says dealerships will need to hire 20,000 to 25,000 technicians annually over the next few years to cope with the shortage, and defection from auto retail is a significant factor.
"Therein lies the challenge for our industry," Tony Molla, vice president of the Automotive Service Association, told Fixed Ops Journal. "An individual trained at a high level on the electronic side becomes very attractive to other segments of our economy, such as aerospace and fleet operations. We are competing for the same level of talent with other, more complex industries."