It didn’t take The New York Times to tell us there’s a shortage of automotive technicians. Ringing your car dealer to get an appointment – and being told openings are two weeks out – illustrates the problem. But reporting by the Times’ Norman Mayersohn makes it official.
In the Times’ article – Short on Mechanics, Car Companies Call School Into Session – Mayersohn reports on the shortfall and the increasing complexity of today’s automotive fleet. The story points out that stop-level technicians with master-mechanic status can earn $100,000 a year, and the director of Fiat Chrysler’s Performance Institute says FCA dealers have hired 3,000 mechanics in the past two years – and need yet another 5,000. Overall, the mechanic shortfall at dealerships across the country is conservatively estimated at 25,000 in the next five years.
But there’s a disconnect between those needs and today’s 20-somethings. Quoting Gary Uyematsu, national technical training manager at BMW, there’s “less of a mechanical interest and understanding among young people. They are not hands-on. Mechanics used to start with some gas station experience. Now the experience a person gets working at a gas station is selling slushies.”
Earlier generations also gained skill under a shade tree, keeping their second- or third-hand vehicles running. But even cars that today are 10 or 15 years old are far more reliable.
The shortage of mechanics has been building for decades, and while the advent of EVs might make the oil change obsolete, electronics issues in modern vehicles will more than offset that. Training programs are well established. So if America wants to get working again, we could start with a Snap-on tool set.