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Industry Pulls Trigger, Hits Foot

It’s easy to get into debt/hard to get out.
It’s easy to gain weight/not so easy to shed the pounds.
It’s easy to make a technician career look attractive/hard to make that image a reality.

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Dissention in the auto industry is wide-spread and actions by employers continue to raise the high watermark on why techs hate their jobs, causing the technician blog boards and social media groups to light up like a summer lightning storm. You can’t imagine how vile the forum messages from techs can be about dealers. 

Below are some common, unedited comments posted on on one of their forums (by the way, why would any employer post their technician job on this board when techs can see these right by their job ads?). 

Forums > Job > Automotive Technician

– Please, anyone considering this field, learn from what I have to say. This field is a black hole. The money isn’t there, the (training school) commercials are a lie to get you in the door so they can profit from your student loans. 


– I flagged 13.7 hours last week…22.7 this week. I was there for 50 hours both weeks. I am drowning in student loan debt and tool debt. Customers are stupid blockheads who just look for the cheapest oil change deal that week and never do any needed maintenance. This industry is broken, you will be broken, this isn’t fun like your hobby car, this is hard work, low pay and bull crap pay systems to make your pay even lower. 

– I don’t care how much you know or how much you love working on cars, you will be starved out at the beginning stages unless you live at home with Mom and Dad, no wife, no kids and they feed you. 


– Don’t learn the hard way like me. I doubt I can afford rent this month.

– Couldn’t agree more, been doing for 12 years and the only thing I have to show for it is a busted back, bad knees and a severed tendon in my hand. Flat rate is a total joke and should be illegal. I thank God every day that I will never have to turn wrenches for a living again!

– I have been turning wrenches since the early 80s and couldn`t agree more. It was a good living in the beginning but as the years have gone by, it has steadily gotten worse. I wish I could get into something else that has a more steady income (this roller coaster called a paycheck sucks!).  


Joe, that’s hogwash, techs make BIG bucks!

Have you ever turned wrenches for a living? I have. I put myself through college working on everything from race cars to diesel trucks and heavy equipment. I am still a weekend warrior tech at age 66, working on cars and trucks for a friend’s hot rod shop. I can attest with scars on my arms and hands, it is hard work. (By the way, as much experience as I have, at age 40 I could no longer even come close to flat rate, never mind today.)

On top of my tech background, I have a history of being one of highest producing dealership service advisors. That earned (or cursed) me with all sorts of fixed ops manager dealership positions through the years.


In my many years of dealership experience, I have had to: break up technician fist fights; was nearly run over in the service drive on purpose by a tech’s girlfriend who was mad at me because I back flagged her boyfriend; had a tech lure me out to the parking lot, pulled his 44 magnum out his vehicle and warned me not to screw with his pay; and finished fixing cars after hours because a tech screwed up the repair. You get the idea.

So when I read articles by self-proclaimed “experts” who say most good techs make a great living and have the potential to make $100k+ like it is common, I want to puke.


Can they make that much? Yes, but indulge me. You must understand the perfect storm that has to happen in order for this vision to become reality. 

The tech MUST:
• Flag at least 50+ hours every single week no matter the repair difficulty, rechecks, warranty rate reductions, low paying recalls, weather, sick days or holidays;
• That includes in the middle of summer and it’s blasting hot in the shop, to an ice-cold floor and snow dripping on techs’ faces from melting off the cars;
• Tech needs to work on at least two to three cars at a time and plenty of carry-overs;
• Techs must have the lifts and flat stall space to support cars that are apart, or are waiting for approval or waiting for parts;
• Techs’ service advisors must have a strong following of customers and not afraid to present in a very professional way, including all recommendations the tech lists on the inspection sheet;
• Did I mention there must be a large car count each day? Just a couple of slow days in the beginning of a tech’s pay week and it deflates the tech’s attitude for the rest of the week;
• Parts fulfillment or parts delays kills production; and 
• How many times have you said, “do me a favor” (translation: do this for me or a customer for free).


So, if techs are paid this amount hourly (flat rate) / this is how much they make at 50 hours annually. And remember, it must be done each week:
$24 / $62,400
$27 / $70,200
$30 / $78,000
$35 / $91,000
$40 / $104,000

What is the average flat-rate dealer pay? About $24 an hour. Despite the recent NADA study, most other studies on the internet show the average dealership tech makes $49k a year. When you average that figure out, that is way below our 50-hour week average.

Now you may say, “Joe, I have techs who turn 60 and 70 hours a week, most weeks.” I did too. However, their warranty was always bumping the rev limiter. Also, we did not have “fluids for life” back then, so does your menu ignore this dilemma? Plus, I had a customer following from years of customer relationships that bought most anything I presented.


The Lowest Hanging Fruit Is Now Spoiled

Where are my techs today? Almost all of my seasoned techs are: disabled, retired early, in management or in another field. And over the years, I managed 50+ techs.

When those techs came into the industry, high schools were still providing options of trades vs. college. How about now? You know the answer. 

There is no more deadly trap than the trap we set ourselves. Let’s stop doing that! I know I’ve sounded louche so far, but here is my two-pronged approach to try to correct the Titanic’s course:


1. Most importantly: Raise your door rate and submit a warranty rate hike so you can have the gross to save the techs we have from leaving the industry. Let’s start visualizing paying and treating techs like the professionals they are. Granted, we can’t slay all of their dragons, however we have to get their job satisfaction up in order to promote this trade to others.

2. Start thinking about establishing a weekly 40-hour guarantee. Yes, A- and B-level techs probably want to stay on flat rate or production bonus, but study after study of techs’ job dissatisfaction shows the No. 1 buzz killer is flat rate! You see that in the tech forums. Also, I just read where the state of New Jersey is sponsoring a tech apprentice program and the director has already found that pushing these entry-level candidates off of a guarantee in six months washed most of them out like a rinse cycle. D techs, C techs and even some B-level techs can’t keep up on flat rate these days. But why lose a tech by shoving 25- to 35-hour paychecks in their hands when they have been in your shop for 40+ hours a week?   


We have to have more door rate for more gross so we can think about weekly hour guarantees. But until we participate in conflict resolution with our current techs in the hostile environment, we will continue to drive down a cul-de-sac in a speeding car with bad brakes.

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