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Dealership employment trends for 2018

We thought that we would take a moment to reflect on some of the key employment trends at dealership level over the last 12 months and take a look at some predictions for 2018.
Used Car Specialists
Dealership groups have been actively expanding their used car departments.
With a 32% increase in used imports in 2017, dealers have been faced with an increasingly competitive used car market and as a result, demand for used car specialists has sharply risen.

2017 provided a renewed focus on the used car market and several dealership groups have been actively expanding their used car departments and/or creating standalone used car premises.

We have seen a clear trend whereby large stand-alone dealerships and dealer groups are investing in the appointment of Used Car Controller positions and/or Used Car Managers. With this in mind, we have noticed considerable movement from within the independent sector towards main dealers.
Data Specialists
With the new GDPR legislation strong CRM specialists will become highly sought after.
2017 has also seen an increase in the appointment of CRM specialists within the industry. This role is becoming increasingly specialised, maximising every touchpoint in the customer journey. These CRM specialists will continue to have elevated responsibility as they act as the key interface between Sales, Aftersales, Parts, distributors and their marketing and communications agencies. With the new GDPR legislation coming into effect in early 2018, strong CRM specialists will become highly sought after to ensure full compliance with the new guidelines.

Typically, the role of CRM specialist has fallen within the marketing function and while in smaller-sized dealerships, this role can be more easily combined, we envisage that in 2018, these functions will become increasingly separated.
Product Specialists
Candidates who became Product Specialists did so because of their love of the technical side of the product.
Many dealers in 2017 pursued the pre-sales Product Specialist model, which has provided a direct point of entry for many candidates into the sector. A number of these roles have quickly developed into Junior Sales Executive positions after a typical period of 12-18 months. Many candidates who became Product Specialists did so because of their love of the technical side of the product and may not necessarily want to pursue a sales career.

In 2018, might we see the development of a technical specialist or Product Manager at retail level flowing directly from the creation of the product specialist approach in the first place?
Electric Vehicle Specialists
The roles of Fleet and Commercial Vehicle Sales Executive will become even more important.
2017 was the year in which the electric vehicle market finally made some significant gains in Ireland. Sales of electric and petrol electric cars increased by 58% and 73% respectively* (all be it off a very low base), Tesla opened its new Irish base and the government announced a number of electric vehicle incentives. These initiatives included a zero rate of BIK for company cars, a grant to support the installation of home chargers and incentives for the adoption of electric taxis. The public charging network will also be expanded to include a number of 'rapid chargers' and electric vehicle owners will also benefit from reduced road tolls.

Sales of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles are also set to significantly increase in 2018 so those OEMs already with a strong foothold in this area may become an attractive proposition for sales specialists with an interest in this field.

While standalone electric vehicle product specialists have existed within dealerships for some time, we foresee this role increasing in responsibility as more customers and businesses explore electric vehicle ownership for the first time.

With the recently announced zero BIK and the accelerated capital allowance providing sole traders the opportunity to make significant income tax savings, electric vehicles will become increasingly attractive to SMEs. As a result, the roles of Fleet and Commercial Vehicle Sales Executive will become even more important within the dealership for driving revenue.

*Source: up to Nov 31 '17
Aftersales Customer Retention Specialists
With a potential softening of new car sales in 2018 the Aftersales Department will become more important than ever.
Throughout the year, we assisted many dealerships in the hiring of dedicated aftersales customer retention specialists within their businesses.

With a potential softening of new car sales in 2018, the Aftersales Department will become more important than ever and as a result, this type of candidate will continue to be in high demand in 2018.

One of the key trends in this area in 2017 was the movement of marketing specialists into this dedicated customer retention position. With the importance of this role set to only increase in 2018, marketing specialists with a thorough understanding of DMS software and more importantly, a background in customer facing environments will be well placed to gain employment next year.

It will be interesting to see how this type of position develops next year as already we have seen a trend grow; whereby dealers have filled these positions on a fixed-term contract basis.
The demand for Technicians has led to a number of dealers looking outside of Ireland to attract qualified candidates.
Technicians continued to be in significant demand this year and that is not likely to change in 2018. The demand for Technicians has led to a number of dealers looking outside of Ireland to attract qualified candidates. The lack of available skilled Technicians within the industry needs to be addressed before this shortage becomes a serious cause for concern.

With a predicted levelling-off in new car sales forecasted for 2018, dealerships will be focussing on revenue streams within their Service Departments. The challenge in ensuring these departments are staffed with quality talent lies in the limited pool of highly skilled Technicians.

We have noted that some dealers have had to improve benefits packages in order to attract and retain top Technicians including: toolbox allowances, toll cards and flexible start/finish times.
Aftersales/Service Managers
High performing Service Managers will reinforce their position within the dealership
Service Managers were very much in demand in 2017 and particularly those with highly developed IT and analytical skills. For dealers in 2017, the ideal Service Manager was a trained Technician from an earlier stage in their career who had a keen eye for identifying areas of profitability within the workshop. While the ability to increase productivity and efficiency rates remained vitally important, having the propensity to procure new business opportunities was also highly valued.

We have witnessed some of our large dealer clients win significant fleet maintenance business as a direct result of their Service/Aftersales Manager proactively developing new business through their own professional networks.

In 2018, high performing Service Managers will continue to reinforce their importance within the dealership and as a result, will remain one of the most highly sought-after candidates within the sector.
In Summary
Understandably, dealers are focusing their energies on their new car sales strategy for January and Q1 however, it is vital that they have a robust recruitment strategy in place as they move into the remainder of 2018.

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