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The Big Picture: Changing perceptions

The announcement that Toyota has appointed its first non-Japanese director, American Jim Press, underlines the growing global opportunities for the best people.

This is not just at manufacturer level. The retail business is also becoming more global. United Auto Group is at the forefront, with dealerships in America, UK, Puerto Rico and Germany; Pendragon covers UK, Germany and California; Inchcape and Ford Retail have mainland Europe interests; Asian businesses, such as Sumitomo with Summit Group, have dealer groups in the UK.

The top leaders have a massive opportunity to work in a variety of countries. The best will seize this opportunity. The wage potential is impressive, from sales staff to chief executive. In what other industry can someone at entry level, such as a sales executive, earn £50,000?

So, with that in mind, why is it so difficult to attract the best people into the industry?

The motor industry’s track record on self-promotion is terrible. Through the rip-off Britain campaign, via the OFT repairs investigation to the confusion over warranties, automotive has been regularly targeted by those looking to fill newspapers or create public sound-bites. And the industry’s response? To pull the covers over its head.

A handful of more proactive dealers are selling themselves and the industry. They need more support from the associations and trade bodies. The SMMT, RMIF, IMI and, especially, Automotive Skills, should be pooling their resources and having a presence at careers days, visiting colleges and universities to promote the industry as a fantastic place to work.

Careers advisers are stuck in the Eighties with their view of automotive – if they aren’t brought up to date they will continue to persuade pupils against joining the industry. For them, almost any other job is preferable.

Retailers, repairers and carmakers can, with the support of the trade bodies, change these perceptions – but only if they all act together.

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