Maybe you think the motor industry's just for techno-freaks who like to get under the bonnet? If so, you'd be surprised how many jobs you can get into that are mainly showroom or desk-based. Such positions require people to greet, persuade, deal with numbers, organise stock... you name it. Welcome to the dealership.
The DP, as they're sometimes known, may be the owner of the business or a general manager appointed by the parent company or dealer group to which the dealership belongs. They have overall responsibility for managing the dealership and its profitability across all areas of the business. They make major decisions affecting the successful operation of the dealership, using financial, interpersonal, negotiating, analytical and leadership skills.
Do you like talking to people? Or more specifically, talking to lots of different people every day? First impressions really do count, which is why this front-line job is so important. Showroom receptionists take calls and welcome customers who arrive at the dealership, so personal presentation is crucial, as are communication skills and the ability to think on your feet. You may also have administrative responsibilities, so ICT and office skills are important.
For many people, a car is their one major purchase, and the competition between different manufacturers and dealers is fierce. So the sales executive has to win the customer's confidence to achieve a successful sale. The customer will be asking a number of questions about the product range, so a good knowledge of specifications, features and benefits is important. The ability to negotiate terms is vital, as is a determination to close the sale. A large part of the sales executive's income comes from a commission on each sale.
An important front-line role, the service adviser is the first person to take a look at a car when it is brought in for servicing. They talk the customer through the problems and the likely course of action. This is a key role in many dealerships, as "after-sales" (or servicing) is often the most profitable department. If a customer feels that they have received good advice, and that their car will go on to be fixed efficiently, it means repeat business for both service and sales.
All dealers will have someone who works on the accounting side, raising customer invoices and dealing with payments to suppliers. In some larger dealers this may be a small team with an accounts manager running the office, but in small businesses the work may be handled by a full-time book-keeper, or a secretary or stock controller in a combined role. Good IT skills and attention to detail are essential.
The parts department can sometimes be overlooked because of its lower customer profile within a dealership, but it makes a major contribution to the success of the business as a whole. A significant part of the dealer's operating costs will be tied up in carrying stocks of vehicle parts to support the after-sales department in its daily repair and maintenance work. The parts manager manages a substantial budget and ensures that the right parts are stocked in the right quantities at any given time. Getting this wrong can slow business down when essential parts are out of stock - or lose business altogether for the dealership. The job usually involves managing a team of two to six people, often called parts operatives.
Simon Morris, 29, is a service adviser at rates ford in essex
Service advisers provide an interface between the customer and the workshop. When a customer brings in a car for servicing, they look at the vehicle and assess the scale of the problem and the possible solutions.
For Simon Morris, the role provides the opportunity to give a little extra service that even the most demanding customer wouldn't expect. "A car was brought in for a routine service and I noticed a clicking noise as I was parking it up," he says. "As it was a Fiesta, I knew from experience that it was just the rubber trim flicking against the back door. I repositioned it for the customer and she was delighted; it had been nagging her for ages but she hadn't thought to trouble us with it!"
Simon enjoyed cars and learning about how they worked from an early age, and he couldn't wait to get stuck in under the bonnet when he left school. But after a few years' experience in a workshop he began to look at options beyond the hands-on side.
Starting with more junior work, he progressed into service reception, where a combination of technical expertise and customer skills are needed. "I deal with a lot of technical queries over the phone - simple things, like advising on oil and tyre pressures - but the majority of time is spent face-to-face with customers." The team is well balanced, with four women working in the service department.
"I like to be in a position to make a difference, to exceed a customer's expectations. There's real satisfaction and, if you can stay calm, it's a very rewarding job."
Interested? Want to learn more? For further inspiration on careers in the dealership, try the Automotive Skills job search at www.automotiveskills.org.uk/jobs, where you can also find links to recruitment sites.Reuse content