More than 2,000 mechanics from almost 140 car dealerships across the Chicagoland area went on strike on Tuesday, August 1, after rejecting a new contract proposal from the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA).

Representing the trade association, the Chicago New Car Dealer Committee (NCDC) has met with mechanics from the Automobile Mechanics’ Union Local 701 more than a dozen times in recent months without reaching a contract agreement.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, the union’s list of sticking points includes uncompensated time, work rules that interfere with members’ family time and no path toward a career in the industry.

According to a statement from the union, the automotive industry, especially the service side of the business, has “draconian pay structures prohibiting our ability to attract young, aspiring mechanics to enter the auto repair profession.”

While the strike is limited to the Chicago area, this news is a wake up call to dealerships across the country. Now is a better time than ever to refresh your people strategy in order to attract and retain auto technicians. Consider the following tips to meet the demands of today’s job applicants and build your best team.

Create a Defined Career Path

Many job seekers have the misconception that auto technicians have limited career prospects beyond entry-level service positions. But technicians at growing dealerships have many opportunities to rise through the ranks. Group Vice President at Toyota Motor Sales, for example, started his automotive career as a technician at a Toyota Service Department in Cleveland, Ohio.

Embrace your career site as a tool to outline potential career paths and highlight success stories of technicians who have seen success and promotions. Most job candidates today complete most of their research online, so your career path can help you get prospective employees excited about the career opportunities beyond entry-level service roles.

Hold Team Members Accountable for Setting and Meeting Goals

Related to technician career paths, it’s important for your dealership to determine KPIs for each role – and hold team members accountable for sticking to them. Ask yourself, are the KPIs defined, clear and communicated throughout your organization? And does your dealership provide technicians with the training and tools they need to achieve their goals? Without set goals in place, you could end up with a double-edged sword – your best employees will lack confidence in a viable career path at your dealership and you might not have visibility into low-performing employees, which will cause productivity and profitability to take a hit in the long run.

Rethink Auto Technician Pay Plans

On the sales side, many dealerships, including AutoNation, the largest new car dealer in the U.S., are doing away with antiquated commission-based pay plans in favor of base plus bonus pay plans. Similar to demands from dealership sales staff, several of the sticking points in the Chicagoland technician strike touch on the need to change technician pay structures – including claims of uncompensated time and the need for increased pay due to the complexity of today’s tech-enabled vehicles. Given these points, it means now is also the time for dealerships to rethink pay plans for employees on the service side of the business. Additionally, to ensure auto technicians are always accurately compensated for their time, consider integrating your DMS with a talent management system, which can automatically track flag time and automate payroll. 

Hire Your Best Team or Lose Business

Needless to say, if you don’t have a people strategy in place to hire your best team, you’ll end up short staffed, either due to lack of applicants, technician turnover, or, as is the case with many Chicago-area dealerships, an employee strike. Lack of technicians ultimately means you’ll end up turning away business – and risk losing customers for life if they receive good service elsewhere.

For more tips on building the best team at your dealership, download our automotive hiring guide, “Overcoming the Struggle of Hiring Auto Technicians.”



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