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U.S. Auto Dealers Struggling To Hire Amid High Demand For Cars

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While the U.S. economy is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels as states begin to reopen and lift restrictions, many sectors are facing a sharp rise in sales. Unfortunately, there simply haven’t been enough workers available to hire, which has left many businesses in a major conundrum. This includes U.S. auto dealers, which are enjoying record used vehicle sales, as well as record profits, but can’t seem to hire enough people to compensate for that rise in business, according to new data from Cox Automotive.

“While the outlook for dealerships has never been better, dealers state that finding employees is a challenge due to people not returning to their positions or the workforce post-pandemic,” said Angela Drake, senior industry intelligence manager, Cox Automotive. “The traditional lack of interest in working at dealerships is exacerbated this year by pandemic-related stimulus money and enhanced unemployment benefits.”

The 2021 Cox Automotive Dealership Staffing Study shows that 72 percent of franchised U.S. auto dealers surveyed, which included 440 dealer staff, admit that finding and hiring suitable employees is proving difficult. However, a total of 65 percent of those dealers plan on hiring new employees this year, while just 34 percent plan on sticking with their current staff.

Service technicians appear to be in particularly high demand, as 60 percent of surveyed dealers plan to hire more. A total of 54 percent plan on hiring more new vehicle sales associates, while 48 percent want to expand their used vehicle sales associates staff.

On the bright side, Drake also pointed out that there may soon be more applicants in the pool for dealers to choose from. “The good news is that our study found overall interest in working at dealerships is growing, and a growing number of employees in non-automotive jobs view their skill sets as transferable to the dealership.”

Cox’s study also found that 32 percent of surveyed job seekers indicated that they didn’t believe they have the skills necessary to work at a dealer. However, Bob Kostkan, senior director at Cox Automotive University, notes that this isn’t often the case.

“Job seekers with restaurant and retail experience usually have the mindset, potential, and skills to be successful at a dealership but may not realize that automotive experience isn’t a prerequisite for many of the open positions,” Kostkan said. “The most successful dealers offer employees onboarding and comprehensive career development training beyond what their OEMs offer to enhance engagement and retention. In fact, the top two most popular training enhancements indicated in the Dealership Staffing Study for now and into the future are online/digital tools and communication skills.”

We’ll have more on the state of the automotive retail market soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for continuous Ford news coverage.

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Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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Comments

  1. JimL

    How do most dealers compensate their sales professionals? Is it all commission? Or some base plus commission?

    Reply
  2. Joe

    The article fails to point out that dealerships will always tell you they have a hard time finding good people. Many reasons are working 12 hour days, nights, weekend, holidays, moving and cleaning snow off cars all winter so they can plow, standing on the hot payment when it is 90 degrees. Many dealers pay either min wage plus commiission, or just off a commission draw. The percentage of healthcare costs they cover are usually under 50%, if you are out sick, you may not get any sick pay. It is not a great job to begin with so they will not get the best people.

    Reply
    1. Stephen Ketterer

      I appreciate the added perspective.

      Reply
  3. Greggt

    Maybe if dealers would not treating their sales people as an expendable commodity, they would not have such a hard time getting and keeping employees. As soon as one starts making too much money the commission structure is changed creating a wholesale turn over. Go in almost any dealer, take note of the sales personnel, go back in 3 months and you will be lucky to find anyone you saw before. Between unreasonable expectations, getting their pay and hours jerked around, and getting treated worse than dirt, no wonder there is an issue.

    Reply
  4. Patrick

    I was a dealer employee for 11 years and I’m currently 31 and just left a few months ago. I am in high demand with my younger age, experience and being a car enthusiast.

    I left to be an advisor at an independent shop and couldn’t be happier. I have already received emails from my former dealer as well as others trying to get me, but none of them want to pay anything. Pretty sad when they make WAY more money than my current shop and im already making more here than I was after 11 years. Unless your are the owner or a higher up, you wont make money at most dealers, and I was at a BMW dealer, profits were not a problem.

    Reply
  5. NCEcoBoost

    Who would want to fight tooth and nail for a few sales per month against other salespeople? They didn’t consider this when the chip shortage hit, and now Ford and some others say that they like this slow sales model.
    I’d rather try and sell insurance (another scummy occupation)!

    Reply

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