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Skills shortage leaves aftersales an area of 'untapped potential', say Ford and Nissan bosses

Ford of Britain former chairman and managing director, Andy Barratt

Ford and Nissan bosses in the UK have both claimed that one of the biggest challenges facing dealerships in 2016 is a skills shortage leading to the “untapped potential” of aftersales.

Ford of Britain chairman and managing director Andy Barratt and Nissan Motor (GB) managing director Jim Wright both expressed concerns about the difficulties that dealerships are having recruiting staff for their aftersales departments.

Speaking to AM at this week’s Geneva  Motor Show each identified that recruiting the right young people would be key to changing the trend as qualified technicians command an ever higher cost in a market suffering a shortage of aftersales expertise.

Their comments come less than a months after a survey of automotive firms, developed by automotive industry consultants SMMT Industry Forum on behalf of the Automotive Industrial Partnership, revealed a “critical” skills shortage within Britain’s automotive industry – with up to 5,000 jobs left vacant.

Wright said: “The industry is doing extremely well but there are opportunities being missed in aftersales. Absolutely.

“Because of the shortage of skilled technicians, the costs associated to putting together a good team are going up and there is a huge challenge in simply recruiting the right people too.

“It doesn’t help that dealers often set an aftersales budget by looking at last year’s targets and then adding a bit. They need to be budgeting by looking at the potential out there and with our car parc growing year-on-year that is growing.

“Something needs to be done about the skills shortage and dealers’ approach to aftersales. It’s a whole mindset change and something we are working closely with the NDA to address.”

Barratt agreed that as the UK’s record registration figures in 2015 look set to grow even further in 2016, aftersales departments need investment. He said: “Aftersales remains an area of potential business that is relatively untapped by the dealer network.

“There is a skills gap across the entire industry, though, and it’s imperative that we start to recruit young talent to help address that.

“This is a huge issue and something that the industry as a whole needs to address.”

Speaking after the publication of last month’s survey by the SMMT Industry Forum SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: “The automotive industry has already invested heavily in apprenticeships and training for existing staff to grow and develop a new generation of skilled workers. However, even more support is needed.

“The struggle to fill vacancies is holding back growth and opportunities for business, and it is essential that both government and industry work together quickly to identify ways to plug this gap.”

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