Seven-day swaps at new-car dealerships are back under the microscope – amid an exodus of staff seeking a better work-life balance – as COVID changes the way we buy cars .
The seven-day exchange cut for new car showrooms in metropolitan Sydney – to match the six-day exchanges at dealerships across the rest of the country – is back on the agenda after the pandemic taught Australians more efficient ways to purchase new motor vehicles.
The weekly grind of seven-day trading hours at new-car showrooms has contributed to an exodus of staff from dealerships.
As part of the auto industry’s “war on talent,” it’s trying to find new ways to attract and retain dealership staff that experts say will deliver a better customer experience.
Only new car showrooms in metropolitan Sydney are open seven days a week, most other parts of Australia operate five and a half or six days a week.
The latest data shows that regions with shorter opening hours still offer the same new car sales per capita figures as the Sydney metropolitan area, seven days a week.
Lee Peters, of market research firm Deloitte, told the Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA) conference in Brisbane last week that COVID had changed the buying habits of new car buyers – and that could help the industry deal with a chronic shortage of personnel.
“We have now built flexibility into our workforce and made sure that we as an industry are nimble enough to deal with that flexibility,” Peters said.
“We’ve unlocked a lot of talent that historically didn’t come knocking on our doors.
“The way we compensate, incentivize and orient people has been very important in continuing this process towards becoming more of an employer of choice.”
Deloitte’s auto industry expert said new car showrooms needed to find ways to attract a younger generation of employees who could grow with the business.
“Preferred dealers currently spend 10% more on training, development and career paths than the average dealer,” Peters said.
“It’s interesting to see that the best (in the industry) are spending more than average…on talent development and future pathways to retaining top talent in our dealerships.
“The future of (car dealership) work is going to change, and I think COVID has really reset that forever.”
Meanwhile, service centers and dealer shops – as well as independent mechanics and breakage repairers – are struggling to find technicians.
The head of the Motor Traders Association of Australia, Richard Dudley, told the conference that the skills shortage was at a critical level in the automotive sector.
“We are currently short 33,000 qualified professionals in the automotive trades (nationally). The vast majority of these are in the mechanical repair and collision repair sectors,” said Mr. Dudley.
“Isn’t it strange enough that on the priority skills migration list, you can have a CEO at the very top of the list, but we can’t have a panel beater or a spray painter.
“So those are the anomalies that we’re hoping to fix with the (newly elected federal government). We currently have 10,000 apprentices in training as we speak, but that’s still not enough.”
Mr Dudley said with the unemployment rate falling to around 4% ‘you are effectively starting to talk about zero unemployment because (there are people on) welfare, NDIS, who are not able to work , etc.”.
“So the labor pool as such is almost exhausted. Skilled migration is part of the solution, but so is learning from abroad,” he said. .
The head of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, Stuart Charity, told the conference: “All automotive industries around the world are experiencing the same thing (staff shortages).
“We’re competing with all these other countries for talent. We need a system that we can speed up and that’s business-friendly. That’s something we’re going to bring to the new government.”