DALLAS, Texas — Staffing and customer engagement models are the top issues impacting the future health of the retail automotive industry, EFG Companies President and CEO John Pappanastos said today.
The F&I product provider’s chief executive delivered his comments as part of a state of the industry address the company posted on its website. Pappanastos encourage dealership principals and senior managers to quickly address those issues or risk becoming a dinosaur in today’s rapidly changing consumer car-buying mode, noting that digital buying habits, millennial and Gen Z consumers, and women are forcing industry change.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s 2017 Workforce Study, retail automotive suffered from a 43% turnover rate — up two points from 2016. Additionally, the automotive industry experienced an 88% attrition rate among female new hires, and a below average rate of millennial new hires when compared to other industries.
Pappanastos said many retail automotive businesses lack a comprehensive plan to become an employer of choice, and instead rely heavily on traditional “bell-to-bell” hours, commission-only payment plans, and limited training. He urged them to immediately develop a strategy for hiring, training, and promoting the best and brightest employees to operate in a world where consumers are demanding a more digital process with a better customer experience.
The executive noted that a single poor hiring decision in F&I can easily result in up to $75,000 in lost profit due to onboarding costs and lost production, adding that the retail automotive industry’s focus on daily operations also hampers leadership development and obscures the growth path for millennial hires who, as a group, require opportunities for promotion.
The F&I product executive also touched on recent research from Cox Automotive, which showed that 80% of consumers want to complete at least half of the car-buying process digitally. He also cited a 2018 Deloitte study showing that “dealers create a fragmented and inconsistent approach to the customer,” which leads to inefficient customer contact, inconsistent messaging, and ultimately failure to sell and build loyalty.
“While I realize change is difficult, dealership principals must incorporate greater consumer-facing digital platforms into their dealerships,” said Pappanastos, adding that hiring employees who are experts in online customer engagement and digital sales approaches represents one solution. “Failure to do so will result in lost revenue. We must remember the old adage of ‘meet the customer where they are.’ And today’s customer is clearly online.”
Pappanastos also encouraged dealerships not to lose sight of compliance. “Job skills are easy to assess. What’s difficult is finding candidates who have solid character,” the executive said. “During these tumultuous times, dealerships must maintain a high degree of integrated compliance. The resulting fines, and damage to reputation, can result in significant business loss due to very clear and public online postings and reviews.”
Pappanastos remarks during his state of the industry address focused on the future health of the retail automotive industry and sounded a wakeup call to dealership principals to quickly embrace changing consumer buying preferences. He also encouraged future millennial and Gen Z employees to seek out careers in retail automotive, noting that exciting changes and their opportunity to make industrywide impact.