Dealers Voice: Dealers struggle to meet demands of auto technology
Hiring and retaining automotive technicians is a continuous challenge for dealers.
My recent column about automobile trends provoked some interesting feedback from readers.
One reader, Ron, pointed out a troublesome trend overlooked in that column — the inability of some dealerships to keep up with automotive technology.
I am the first to admit many dealerships (mine included) struggle with the growing demands of automotive technology in the workplace.
Car owners might assume dealerships have technology all figured out and are ahead of the tech curve on this score. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Ron recounted a situation in which he brought his new SUV to a dealership to address an electronics issue. The service rep told Ron the repairs would be “outsourced” to a third party, and he would need to leave his vehicle for a few hours or more.
Many dealerships rely on third party suppliers to address software-hardware issues.
In this situation, the rep thought he could easily fix what seemed like a simple electronics issue. When Ron finally got the car back, not only had they not fixed the problem, but the service technician decided that rebooting the computer would solve everything and, as a result, Ron lost all of his phone contacts and personal settings.
Ron also described a scenario with a previous vehicle that was developing a lengthening list of electrical issues. The local dealer, who had won a best-dealership award many times, had difficulty fixing these issues and mentioned their electronics technician was not in that day.
I am not pointing the finger at dealerships, but illustrating the challenges dealers face when it comes to technology and automobiles.
There are two issues worth noting here. One is the ongoing training and education required for dealerships who employ computer technicians, as well as technicians who specialize in other disciplines, such as diesel, front end, transmissions and collision repairs. The training and education for all technicians never stops, and dealers incur that ongoing expense.
The second point is the shortage of automotive technicians in general and, more specifically, a shortage of technicians qualified to work on electronics issues. Hiring and retaining automotive technicians is a continuous challenge for dealers.
When a technician is hired, there is no guarantee he will stay at a particular dealership (he could be lured away to a different store, which happens all the time). In fact, many dealerships have even resorted to offering signing bonuses for technicians to ensure their loyalty.
The need to recruit automotive technicians is so pressing that the Corporation des concessionnaires automobiles du Québec (CCAQ) has taken the unprecedented step of recruiting from overseas. The CCAQ (on behalf of its member dealers) imports technicians from abroad, and the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA, representing 1,100 member dealers in Ontario) will soon follow suit.
In his letter to me, Ron hit the nail on the head with his assessment of the situation. He said that as vehicles become more reliant on electronics, a serious gap in the knowledge and capability base exists between the manufacturer and the dealership.
Dealerships do their best to provide solutions for their customers. However, automotive technology is advancing at a far quicker pace than dealerships’ ability to always diagnose and expedite repairs in a timely manner.
Once again, the TADA is proud to support Prostate Cancer Canada. This year, our association has donated two 2020 Toyota GR Supras — one in Nocturnal black and one in Renaissance red (valued at $152,000 together). The Rock the Road Raffle draw will take place at the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow. For ticket information, visit rocktheroadraffle.ca.
This column represents the views and values of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to tada.ca. Cliff Lafreniere is president of the TADA and is president of Pinewood Park Motors (Ford) in Kirkland Lake. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.