U.S. Automobile Dealers Struggle to Hire Employees While Business Booms

The U.S. economy is showing signs of returning to pre-pandemic levels, and the auto business is booming.

Like many industries, U.S. automotive retail is struggling to find enough employees for dealerships to be fully staffed, much less meet their 2021 growth goals.

In the 2021 Cox Automotive Dealership Staffing Study published recently, 72% of franchised auto dealers surveyed say that finding and hiring the right employees is currently a challenge.

A majority of dealership leaders – approximately 65% – report that they plan to increase the total number of employees in the dealership this year, while ~34% said they plan to maintain their staffing level.

Expanding the number of service technicians is the highest priority for dealership leaders, with 60% planning to increase the number of service technicians this year, followed by new-vehicle sales associates (54%) and used-vehicle sales associates (48%). 

Dealers’ desire to grow their operations comes at a time when business is strong.

According to the Q2 Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index, sentiment related to the current market reached a record high in Q2 for both franchised and independent dealers, and the profit index set a record high as well.

The 3-month market outlook index reading is an increase from last quarter and, importantly, equal to Q1 2020, the final pre-COVID-19 reading.

Job Seekers May Have Skills Dealers Desire, And Not Know It

When asking potential job seekers why they would not want to work at a dealership, 32% indicate they did not have the necessary skills.

However, the 2021 Dealership Staffing Study finds that Heavy Digital Dealers, those dealers that significantly invest in digital retailing tools, say the right employee doesn’t need automotive experience. Instead, they are looking for the following characteristics:

Willing to go above and beyond their specific job responsibilities

Good communicators across all communication channels (verbal, written, video, etc.)

Can easily adapt to a quickly changing work environment

Tech-savvy and comfortable with learning new technology

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