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  • Why Dealer Techs Won't Consider Jobs at Independent Shops

    Posted by Site Administrator on October 23, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    “I am a former dealer tech.

    I worked exclusively at one make of dealerships for over a decade.

    We had been convinced by management, and ourselves, that the independents had no information, improper tooling, and had no idea what they were doing. We, at the dealerships, were the only ones that really should have been touching those cars in the first place, and everyone else was just goofing them up. We were factory authorized. Everyone else was a pretender. They were hacks.

    When a non-Chrysler product came into our Dodge shop, we’d rather stand around (flat rate – standing around meant zero pay) than work on that stuff. We’d have them sublet it out and wait for the right kind of car.” – Jeff Ruffing – Ruffing Automotive Services

    For more about dealers as competitors:


    Competition – 42% Dealer, 41% Quick Lube, 9% Indie, 8% Franchise

    Alan Ollie replied 4 years, 7 months ago 7 Members · 6 Replies
  • 6 Replies
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  • Joe Mazur

    October 24, 2017 at 10:25 am

    This is a great post, and one that we as independent shops should be talking about more. Dealers are great at convincing their techs that the grass will never be greener, and keeping them stuck in the mud that is the toxic dealer environment. It would be nice to see some kind of PSA promoting the independent, non-chain shops to techs. Dealers are also part of an association where they collaborate to promote the dealer model. We as independents should do something like this, and use that larger platform to promote the better hours, better pay, and better environment that the independent shop has (the nice ones at least). And if we can do that effectively, i think dealer techs would line up to work for us.

  • larrybloodworth

    October 25, 2017 at 10:20 am

    They get paid 27% of labor, plus they only work on one carline unless it’s a multi-line franchise.  Read more at

  • Greg McConiga

    October 25, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    For as many shops as there are there are as many reasons why a tech believes working in one place is better than working at the other.  We are having EXACTLY the same discussions about the trade as we had 40 years ago… with the added challenges of embedded technology treated as if our national security depended on keeping it secret and a crop of youngsters who view a car as an appliance and a forty hour workweek as if it’s a life sentence at a maximum security prison.

    For you denizens here who are “more mature” you’ll remember that I’ve worked in both arenas as tech, working shop owner and manager and even at that there’s no guarantee that I have anything to offer other than one more opinion… but for what it’s worth, here’s what I think I know….

    All makes and all models is nearly impossible to do anymore for a number of reasons.  Tooling, software, training and proficiency all weigh heavily against it now.  It CAN be done, but doing it profitably is virtually impossible unless you severely limit the number and type of services offered.  Even at that, smoking an instrument cluster in a Porsche after a brake job because the software that homes the rear caliper pistons is hard to swallow at $1200 a copy… which two local indy’s discovered last month in our market area.  Nothing nefarious or incompetent here, just outdated software and difficulty getting the information that could have prevented the problem.

    From what I see “directed repair processes” are making us all dull.  We are acclimated to having the car’s computer do lunch with our diagnostic computer and proceeding from there.  I still baseline a car before I drive it… still check coolant, engine oil, brake fluid, feel the brake pedal and look at the tires, belts and hoses… and then do a short test hop followed by my road test.  The flat rate guys all think I’m an idiot because “what’s it pay?” but then I’ve not had to walk back from a road test or call a customer explaining why I was behind the wheel when the rods sought their freedom from the block.

    Dealer life can be very good IF you have good support people, a parts department that stocks parts and a good work mix.  You get good training (too much at times I think) and the shop has to provide all the tricky tools, but every day will be a bitchfest because… well… because every tech is born with a bitchbone and it just comes out at times.  You don’t HAVE to know HOW it works anymore… you have to be really good at reading the flow chart (the directed repair process), recording your results, complying with documentation and image requirements and cultivating a good relationship with your tech line guy who will tell you what part to hang if the flow chart lets you down.  Just because you follow the recipe for cake doesn’t mean you always get cake… sometimes, for reasons we will never know… you get biscuits.

    On the indy side you tend to be or become a much better mechanic (which is by definition a more highly skilled person than a technician.)  You learn to think, work around problems and shortfalls in tools or equipment or information and figure out how it’s supposed to work and then make it work, whether it wants to or not.  You’ll spend more on personal tools and in my opinion you have to be the kind of person who loves a challenge.  Of the two paths, in my experience, you’ll generally earn more money at the dealer if you can master the dealer game plan, but at the expense of peace of mind at times because of the politics and bitchfests that get inside your head and destroy your sanity.

    Let’s face it, it’s a dying trade anyway.  ICE cars have 2500-5000 parts and the electrics have 15-30…. If they couple plug-in EV with autonomy, in a very few years there won’t be privately owned transportation at all… and with no parts to fail there’ll be nothing to fix.  Even the body shops will get hammered as fewer cars are wrecked due to technology.  People in fifty years will pick up their cell phone or whatever has taken its place by then, and a self driver will whisk into the drive, take them to where they have to go and bring them back… all for a fraction of what it costs to own, insure, maintain and operate a private means of transportation (you won’t have a driver to pay and the cost of operation for the autonomous plug-in EV makes it a natural business venture.)  Even long distance trips will be possible with car exchanges strategically located every few hundred miles with fully charged cars waiting for you to swap into to continue your trip….

    It would be interesting to see what the very, very few techs working the trade then will be complaining about then…. but I’m hoping I won’t be around to find out.

    Best to all,


  • stevebfl

    October 27, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    I believe Greg has defined the issue. We have never had a problem getting techs and many of them have come from dealers. Our 25 bay shop with 13 techs works in teams of two to three guys. Each team works on at most two car lines. Totally specialized by manufacturer. This allows a Mercedes tech to work on what he knows. Our teams have the factory tooling for the car they work on, which in some cases means we have more than one factory tool. No need to share outside ones team.

    I have seen other shops take in dealer techs and lose them in a month. The issues always seemed to be that the shop didn’t have the tooling to do what the tech knew and they didn’t have enough of what he knew to keep him busy on what he knows. Dealer techs know that is often the case, but many dealer techs also know that a independent that specializes will pay him what he is worth and utilize what he knows. I have never hired a tech that I didn’t guaranty at least 10% more for the first year than the best year he had ever made. It was never hard to do either. In all cases they did better. Pay based on a guaranteed hourly wage with various levels of bonusing. The pay would be designed to make sure the tech made the guaranty with the possibility to make more. That combined with better health care insurance than is ever offered at the dealers made it so that we didn’t need to look for techs except to grow. Current staffing includes a couple thirty year veterans and eight more with over ten years seniority (Ranging from 10 to 25 years).

    I don’t see the issue with the future, except to keep up with changes. Fifty years is a different story, but something rolling on wheels will still be around for a long time be it electric propelled and driven by electronics. It will be possible over time that disposability will take over totally. In the mean time the next generation is here to keep up with whatever changes are necessary.

  • JoeHenry

    October 30, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Great subject, however allow me to give you a different prospective.

    Our company consults and recruits for over 3000 non-dealer shops. We have provided insight of what Techs want and don’t want. Which when our clients follows our recommendations, get plenty of dealer techs responding.

    Here are some examples of our recommendations on this subject:

    Most dealer techs don’t know that Independent shops usually can afford and pay MORE per flat-rate hour to the tech than a dealer

    Dealer techs most of the time get shafted on warranty work (especially domestic brands), we advise our non-dealer shops to hit hard on that every job pays fairly

    Most dealer techs feel like a small fish in a big pond, we advise our non-dealer shops to communicate that the techs efforts in a non-dealer shop are much more recognized than in a dealership

    There are many more attractions you can use. – Joe Henry of ACT Auto Staffing

  • Alan Ollie

    November 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    I have found a new in site about this subject from this post.

    I need a BMW tech soooooo bad.