The automotive retail sector is suffering from a fundamental lack of investment in systems and staff – and dealerships must adapt to survive in a post-Brexit, post-pandemic world, says motor trade expert Fraser Brown.
Whilst issues around the major shortfall of lorry drivers remains in the public eye, a range of other sectors – including car dealerships – are also paying the price for decades of under-investment.
Fraser, the founder and managing director of MotorVise Automotive, which provides a range of services designed to maximise dealership sales and profits, said: “The major question is how the automotive retail sector will respond in a post-Brexit, post-pandemic world amid predictions of a seismic shift towards a high skill, high wage economy?
“The media is intent on blaming the government for the lack of workers across various sectors, including logistics, but this doesn’t help address the fundamental issues at play in our economy.
“Like many areas, the automotive retail sector, is suffering a fundamental lack of investment because of a previous reliance on cheap labour. It appears those days are over.
“It’s never been more difficult for car dealerships to attract technicians, salespeople and service advisors, which has led to higher wages and a willingness to improve the work-life balance.”
Fraser said that dealerships must take the lead from businesses like McDonald’s and automate tasks wherever possible, including giving customers the ability to interact with self-service screens. Money saved through automation can be reinvested in reskilling staff to raise customer service standards.
He said: “Inevitably, as wages increase and competition around recruitment grows, those dealerships not investing in their systems and staff will be the ones that go out of business.
“At the start of the pandemic, some dealerships ditched their training to run a lean operation. Sadly, this approach is still all too common among UK businesses.”
Motor manufacturers have already invested in automation as part of its shift towards electric vehicle production, something that has not been matched at the retail end of the supply chain.
Fraser added: “Dealerships need to invest in a whole new cohort of apprentices that can focus on electric vehicles, or in five years’ time there will be no-one to service the fleets of EVs on our roads.
“The quality of sales training in the industry also remains poor because it’s led by manufacturers that still believe a five point walk around of a car is the way to engage with customers.
“The reopening of showrooms has confirmed the value of face-to-face interactions and dealerships need to reflect this by removing the need for retyping, paperwork and admin so staff can be liberated to focus on delivering an awesome customer experience.”