The evolution of the automotive world, particularly with the rise of electric vehicles (EVs), demands a shift in traditional dealership roles and practices. Sales representatives now must transcend their conventional duties, evolving into empathetic educators and advisors attuned to the changing dynamics of EV buyers. While this transformation unfolds in the showroom, there’s a simultaneous need for Financial and Insurance (F&I) professionals to grasp the nuanced financial expectations of these customers. The goal? To ensure revenue generation aligns with the contemporary automotive landscape.
Meanwhile, a looming challenge persists in the technician domain, underscored by a significant talent gap in Ontario. The solution may not just lie in recruitment but in reshaping perceptions, refining training programs, and fostering a culture of value for technicians. This comprehensive overview examines these pivotal changes, drawing insights from industry experts and charting the roadmap for dealerships of the future.
From Sales Representatives to EV Advisors: As Electric Vehicles (EVs) redefine consumer lifestyles, the role of sales representatives must pivot from traditional selling to an empathetic, educational, and advisory approach. This transformation hinges on building strong relationships and understanding the evolving expectations of EV buyers.
In his article in the Canadian Auto Dealer Magazine September issue, Darren Slind , an esteemed automotive analyst, highlights varied EV customer expectations. For example, while innovators, accounting for 2.5% of EV buyers, prioritize technological advancements, the early majority (34%) seek to determine the feasibility and affordability of EVs in their lives. To meet these demands, sales representatives need to adapt their pitches; for innovators, it’s about technological novelty, whereas the following benefits may sway the early majority:
F&I: Comprehensive Training for Customer-Centric Financial Solutions: As sales representatives refine their pitches to suit EV buyers, F&I professionals must master the art of financial counsel tailored to individual needs. Innovator buyers, often less concerned about price, may find value in opting for extended warranties and loan protection plans. This approach enhances dealership revenues and allows consumers to relish their new purchase without concerns. Conversely, early majority customers might be drawn to these financial products when they realize integrating them into their fixed monthly payments results in a minimal increase, safeguarding them against unexpected future costs.
Considering the low maintenance required for EVs, it is undeniable that F&Is drive dealership revenue. Therefore, continuous upskilling is essential, covering product knowledge, compliance, market conduct, and strategies for prime and non-prime customers. For instance, Greg Morissette, the Eastern Canada Sales Manager for Rifco, has highlighted that for non-prime customers feasible payments matter more than interest rates. Additionally, with advanced AI tools simplifying customer prequalification, well-trained F&Is can tap into this segment’s revenue and loyalty potential.
Redefining the Technician’s Role & Workplace: A recent report  commissioned by the MVRO and supported by CADA, spotlighted a gaping vacancy of over 3,000 technician roles in Ontario by Q1, 2023.
The study hints at underlying issues – a less-than-appealing service department culture and persisting stereotypes, deterring potential recruits. The report also underscores the pressing challenge of hiring technicians, emphasizing the increasing sophistication of modern vehicles. It further highlights the tame promotional efforts of dealerships for technician roles, perpetuating the myth of it being a less desirable job. Supporting these findings, Marc C Dupuis, Associate Director – Partnerships from Algonquin College, stresses the need for educational institutions to update their curricula in line with contemporary automotive demands. Marc states, “Even with these educational transformations, the talent shortfall will likely persist unless dealerships invest in soft skills training and foster a culture of value for technicians.” Dupuis’s alliance with People’s Choice Warranty aims to elevate the technicians’ skill set to help them discern warranty-covered issues more effectively.
The automotive industry, particularly in electric vehicles, is experiencing a paradigm shift that demands adaptability across all its sectors. From sales representatives transitioning to EV advisors to F&I professionals crafting personalized financial solutions, there’s a pressing need for upskilled and knowledgeable staff. The challenge of filling technician roles and reshaping their workplace environment further highlights the importance of addressing technical training and workplace culture.
Dealerships must foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptability, embracing the evolution of automotive trends. By doing so, they meet consumers’ evolving expectations and create a vibrant, knowledgeable, and satisfied workforce poised for the future.
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 D. Slind, “How can dealers continue to win?,” Canadian auto dealer, pp. 34-35, 2023.
 M. LLP, “The Labour Market for the Automotive Trades in Ontario and the Impact on New Car and Truck Retailers,” MNP LLP, Toronto, August 9 2023.