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Accredited training will safeguard the future of automotive retail, says IMI

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is backing a scheme to give automotive retailers the professional status they deserve and create a nationally recognised qualification for the millions of pounds the sector spends on non-accredited training.

Creating both an accredited training scheme and a professional register will save the industry money, define a career path for automotive retail management, attract external industry applicants and provide much-needed value to the estimated £40 million spent by the industry every year on non-technical training, according to IMI CEO Steve Nash.

AM has joined forces with the IMI to create an industry-first People Conference which takes place in central London on 12 June. Focused on helping franchised dealers attract, retain and train staff to safeguard the future well-being of the franchised network, the conference takes place at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, prior to the prestigious AM100 Dinner.

Automotive retail attracts the least amount of graduates than practically any other profession in the UK – just 17% compared to a national average of 58% and dealer principals are least likely than any other retail staff to receive training – just 1%.

“In some ways automotive retail’s greatest strength – its showroom and workshop floor to boardroom philosophy – is also its biggest downfall,” explained Nash, who will open the conference. “To its credit, it remains one of the few sectors where people can genuinely start at the bottom and end up at the top but whilst much of its training is exceptional, the lack of a nationally recognised qualification renders it valueless when it comes to moving brands and quite often managers will receive pretty much the same training all over again from a different manufacturer.

“As well as training current managers to ensure they have the skills required to take on DP roles, we also have a job to do as an industry in ensuring our current DPs are trained to the highest levels. Currently, only around 1% of DPs receive training for a number of reasons; they are often too busy but many also harbour concerns about being exposed to a learning environment.”

The nationally accredited managerial scheme, which will tap into the current NVQ system will take participants up to and including Level 5, degree level equivalent, was instigated by the top 10 retailers who recognised their managers received repetitive training between brands, to create a more professional body of managers and a defined career path.

Nash said: “Whilst there is a fear that national accreditation could make people become more promiscuous there’s a greater argument for creating a much more highly skilled workforce in general, encouraging more aftersales managers to receive training and move into DP roles and attracting more external applicants to safeguard the future of the sector.”

The IMI has also launched a professional register in the same way accountants, building surveyors and even plumbers are accredited and their professional worth ‘rubber stamped’. So far 45,000 people have registered and it is hoped 200,000 members will have ‘signed up’ by the end of the year. Eligibility for the Professional Register requires Level 3 qualification or accreditation.

“Franchised dealers have fallen into the trap of promoting their best sales executives to sales managers, general managers and DPs for fear of losing them to the competition,” said Nash. “There are undoubtedly some natural leaders out there but they are the minority. People leave people and staff turnover is the bane of all managers’ lives. The creation of a structured, national accreditation will provide our people with the professional recognition they deserve whilst attracting the highest calibre applicants who will be our future leaders.”

The creation of a nationally accredited training programme for general managers, DPs and divisional directors in automotive retail will be the biggest challenge since the IMI introduced the ATA scheme for technicians.

Tickets are available to dealers, manufacturers and automotive businesses, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133, email or visit

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