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The auto industry is changing — so are technicians

With the transition from ICE to EVs, hiring will become even more critical because of a new type of service technician.

Most dealers are experiencing relief from the past couple of years’ difficulties. So, admittedly, there’ll be no argument or complaint about the increased inventory and sales. But a new challenge of finding service technicians is becoming more prominent than ever.

Dealerships have historically kept technicians on an hourly pay scale and haven’t been concerned with departmental promotions. Some of that had to do with a glut of service techs—supply and demand determining value. However, hiring hourly techs and not giving them a pathway to promotion is coming back on dealerships.

The economy, hiring practices, and long memories keep techs from beating down the dealership doors today. Technician availability is an issue, but there’s something more prominent on the horizon. With the transition from ICE to EVs, hiring will become even more critical because of a new type of service technician.

Electric Vehicles Require Different Techs

electric vehiclesThe truth is, “grease monkeys” haven’t been grease monkeys for a while. They’re now hybrid technicians. Computer technology, sensors, and testing equipment offer technology that wouldn’t have been conceivable ten years ago.

Dealers are footing the bill for more training and equipment, but without OEMs’ help, it’s going to be a challenge to meet the needs. However, some OEMs are doing their best; one is Tesla.

Recently, in Granite Geek, Marc Bellerose, chair of the automotive technology department at Manchester Community College, said, “Tesla reached out to us. They were looking…to bring new technicians into their industry.” Tesla realizes that a wrench is useless when a battery management system decides it doesn’t want to work. And schools like Nashua Community College are working to fill the future need.

That’s what it’s going to take. Manchester and other schools offer continuing education, even teaching teachers on the latest models like the recent Mustang Mach-E. In a recent seminar, teachers from other community colleges gathered from around New Hampshire to train with a stripped-down Switch Lab electric. If it hasn’t hit you in the face yet, it will soon become clear that engine oil changes may become a thing of the past.

Related: Car dealerships and auto techs must start preparing for an EV transition

Dealership Training and HR will Need to Change

If what’s happening in New Hampshire is the future, dealerships will most likely bring in new techs who don’t have a history with vehicles as much as they do computers. And these new techs have unique needs, and ways of working that will require workstyle changes. That is if dealerships want to keep them.

If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you know it’s not the first time dealerships have needed to change. Carbs changed to fuel injection, and AM/FM changed to telematics, but this is different.

Looking to the Not-So-Distant Future

It has been a transformative few years. Dealerships have weathered no sales to online-only sales and no inventory. But, if you were betting, the good money would be on the possibility of more changes on the horizon.

What we do know, however, is that the industry is aware that technician’s work is expanding and growing exponentially, but the talent pool isn’t. So, on top of working with community colleges like Manchester, hourly pay for technicians may need to turn to salaried. And dealerships may need to start including kitchens and free food like a tech startup.

Pay and work-life balance will be a key to acquisition and retention. In addition, forward-thinking dealerships will respond to the need for broader discussions with regional and national leadership. Otherwise, this brave new world will be more difficult than it should be.

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Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell
Steve Mitchell is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News. He earned bachelor's degrees in Marketing and Television from the University of Texas in Austin and a Masters of Theology study from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas. His passion for automobiles lead him to become a creative director for automotive marketing ad agency. Most recently, he was the manager of interactive marketing for Mitsubishi Motors, NA.

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