The research suggests that while 69 per cent of franchised dealers are having general recruitment difficulties, the most chronic problem centres on filling aftersales posts, primarily service technicians. Seventy-four per cent of dealers reported problems.
And the independents aren't escaping the problems. Forty-nine per cent of independent garage workshops responding to the Pay Guide survey also reported problems recruiting - again, primarily technicians.
The picture for franchised and independent bodyshops was similar: 59 per cent of bodyshops reported problems recruiting, with panel beaters and painters making up the majority of reports.
In his introduction to the report, the RMI's new chief executive Matthew Carrington says: "All of this is potentially a nightmare scenario for the industry, and recruitment issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Bodyshops have the additional problem that skilled technical staff are leaving as pressure increases on them to increase productivity. For bodyshops, there must be a rise in labour rates to retain talented workers and to invest in training, and this can only be done with the co-operation of the large insurance companies.
"Across the industry, 69 per cent of franchised dealerships and 49 per cent of independents are reporting recruitment problems, and the majority of reports concern productive service and bodyshop staff."
The report shows that high staff turnover seems to go hand-in-hand with skills shortages. It found staff turnover at 18 per cent in 2001/2002 for franchised dealers, 16 per cent for independents and 14 per cent for bodyshops.
The Pay Guide suggests that at the heart of the problem is the poor image of the sector. Says Carrington: "We have to reverse its outdated image of being 'low tech' and 'dirty'”.