Navigating Today’s Tech-infused Autos and Discovering the Super-mechanics Who Keep Them Running
By Bill Hanvey, President and CEO, Auto Care Association
Just like the inner workings of our businesses, challenges that arise in the automotive aftermarket are seldomly singular – they all have a cause, an effect and contributing factors. Today’s topic is no different. As we collectively work towards addressing the technician gap or adapting to new vehicle technologies, we must realize that these challenges can’t be talked about in a vacuum – they’re related and can enable us to address both more effectively!
New Vehicle Technology
It seems that every few months we’re evaluating new vehicle technology which the automotive aftermarket needs to learn, adapt to and innovate. With a litany of features that present both challenges and opportunities, there are a few key advancements to highlight when it comes to manufacturing, maintenance and repair:
- Electric vehicles (EVs) have gained market share due to technological breakthroughs in battery performance and affordability. Major automakers have committed to electrifying their lineups, while new players have emerged with innovative designs and features. Additionally, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles offer an alternative zero-emission option, with potential for expansion in the future. Electrification is contributing to the parts market growth, projected to be $51B in 2045, according to the 2022 Joint EV Trends Forecast.
- Autonomous driving technology has advanced rapidly, with several companies deploying self-driving vehicles in designated areas. While full autonomy (Level 5) has not yet been achieved, many vehicles now offer advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and collision avoidance. Continued investment and collaboration are driving the development of sophisticated Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), radar and computer vision systems that will enable higher levels of autonomy. The ADAS market alone is expected to grow 6.6% by 2045.
- Vehicle connectivity and connected car technology have become a standard feature in new vehicles, enabling seamless integration with smartphones and other devices. In-car infotainment systems offer advanced navigation, voice assistants and entertainment options. Vehicles now communicate with each other and their surroundings (V2X) for improved traffic management and safety. Over-the-air (OTA) updates allow manufacturers to remotely upgrade software and firmware, enhancing vehicle performance and addressing potential issues. These serviceable components continue to grow with every new model of car that is introduced.
- Advanced safety systems now come as standard in many vehicles, utilizing cameras, sensors and artificial intelligence to monitor the environment and minimize risks. Features like automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot detection and pedestrian detection have contributed to a reduction in accidents and fatalities. New developments, such as augmented reality (AR) heads-up displays (HUDs) and advanced airbag technologies further enhance vehicle safety.
Today’s vehicle technology continues to progress at a rapid pace, resulting in more efficient, connected and safer transportation options. As the industry moves toward electrification and autonomy, consumers can expect even greater innovations in the years to come. What do all of these technological advancements have in common? The need for maintenance and repair by your friends in the automotive aftermarket!
While our great industry continues to be the primary place that drivers go to after their vehicles have exited the warranty period, not only do we need to continue innovating the manufacture of parts, but also preparing the technicians of the future to diagnose and repair these vehicles. The industry professionals of today and tomorrow should be considered ‘super-techs’ – technicians who combine the skill of de- and reconstructing vehicle components while expanding their knowledge of code and computer science.
Strategies to Find Top Talent
The challenge remains: How can the automotive aftermarket find top talent to repair and maintain vehicles? By highlighting our advanced methods of diagnosis and repair, along with employing a combination of strategies that focus on recruitment, training and retention, we can make a dent in this issue:
- Partner with educational institutions: Collaborate with technical schools, community colleges, and high schools that offer automotive programs. This can help you identify and recruit promising students and create a pipeline for future talent. Here are just a few that foster both automotive service and diesel/heavy truck technicians: University of the Aftermarket, TechForce, ASE, UNOH, Collision Education Foundation, Lincoln Tech, Universal Technical Institute, United Education Institute, Arizona Automotive Institute, J-Tech Institute, South Texas Vocational Technical Institute, Advanced Technology Institute, Motorcycle Mechanics Institute, Penn Foster, and even local high schools with vocational programs are all viable candidates for finding super-techs.
- Offer apprenticeships and internships: Providing apprenticeship and internship opportunities to aspiring technicians will help them gain valuable hands-on experience and will also give you the chance to evaluate their skills and work ethic.
- Competitive compensation and benefits: Offer attractive salary packages, health and retirement benefits, and other incentives to attract top talent and retain skilled employees.
- Create a positive work environment: Foster a positive, supportive, and inclusive work culture that emphasizes teamwork, continuous learning and professional growth.
- Invest in training and development: Provide ongoing training and development opportunities to help employees stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends, technologies and best practices.
- Promote your brand: Showcase your company’s culture, mission and values through various marketing channels such as social media, websites and job boards to attract the right candidates who align with your company’s vision.
- Attend industry events and job fairs: Participate in automotive trade shows, conferences and job fairs to connect with potential candidates and to network with industry professionals.
- Leverage technology: Use digital recruitment tools like job portals, online assessments and social media platforms to streamline the recruitment process and identify the best candidates.
- Employee referrals: Encourage your current employees to refer qualified candidates from their networks and consider offering referral bonuses as an incentive.
- Be open to diverse talent: Expand your talent pool by considering candidates from different backgrounds, skill sets and experiences, including those from other industries who may be interested in transitioning to the automotive sector.
By implementing these strategies, the automotive aftermarket can attract, recruit and retain top talent to repair and maintain the next generation of vehicles, ensuring the continued success and growth of the industry.
Bill Hanvey, MAAP, is president and CEO of the Auto Care Association, which represents the entire supply chain of the independent automotive aftermarket. Before becoming president and CEO on Dec. 1, 2015, Hanvey served as senior vice president of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) since 2012. At AASA, he advocated for North American parts manufacturers to the auto care industry, federal and state government agencies and the business community.
May 15, 2023