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The Big Picture: Learning from experience

So what do you think of manufacturer training? Is it a tick box exercise or do your staff really improve their skills?

Dealers pay considerable sums for training and they have little say in how that money is spent.

Too many manufacturers demand that dealer staff attend a certain number of days’ training to meet franchise requirements.

Training under this type of coercion is not very productive. In fact, it can be quite destructive by de-motivating staff and creating the perception that training is a waste of time.

That was the experience in the Volkswagen retail network a couple of years ago. VW was appraising sales staff and those that didn't hit the required standard attended training. Often the questions verged on the bizarre, such as asking which country sold more VWs, the UK or USA. It was costly for dealers and de-motivating for staff.

VW has addressed the issue after dealers battled to get their voice heard. Other manufacturers continue to fail their retail networks.

Staff do need training, but dealers need to have more control over how it is carried out. In the Ford network, for instance, the manufacturer carries out training needs analysis to identify skills shortfalls.

Citroën provides the best example. It has been much maligned by dealers who have seen profits eroded in the chase for volume. But the management has started to listen and the National Dealer Council has taken a more assertive approach.

This approach saw them play a full role in deciding how network staff can be better trained, which will lead to the formation of the Citroën Academy next year. Citroën will take the money dealers currently pay into the training pot and use it to plug gaps in knowledge and competency. And it will lead to qualifications from an independent awarding body. Staff will gain generic skills that are transferable to other franchises.

If more manufacturers took this altruistic approach, it would help to raise skills levels across the industry rather than forcing dealers to tick the wrong boxes.

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