Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE Master
Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1
certification, and has an associates degree in business
A Strange Industry Indeed
(Printed in the Journal
of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
Have you ever had someone tell you something that makes you realize how strange the automotive service industry is? That happened to me recently when one of our technicians told me that he wanted to share something with me that was bothering him.
A little background information is in order here. We have a technician whose wife is employed in a pharmaceutical division of the biotech sector. His wife had told him that a new employee had come onboard recently at her job and that he stated that he thought he knew her husband, (our technician). Turns out this guy had gone to school with our technician years ago and both had graduated high school. Our technician went on into the automotive sector and his friend went to work for a local bakery. Time and lifestyle changes had led to lost contact amongst the two for more than 12 years.
So here we now have a situation where our technician's long lost friend was now newly employed by the same company as our technician's wife. Not an issue in itself, the real issue that our technician found troubling was the discovery no that this guy is going to make nice money in the biotech sector, with little to no training or up-front expenses.
Our technician went on to state that it troubled him that a person that he went to high school with, that has no other educational credentials, had just walked into a 40,000 per year job. In addition, within two years time and some specialized training, this person will be making over 52,000 per year. The job specifics? How does shipping and handling prescription medication, 40 hours a week, and all weekends off sound?
I began to understand our technician's frustrations. Our technician when on to state that this guy was the same age as him, had less education, and was easily slipping into this decent starting salary job without the huge expense of a tool box, and its tools. In addition, it required no annual weekend or night training classes, not to mention, working on Saturdays, and it lacked the daily automotive cuts scrapes burns, grime, etc. I felt a little odd myself hearing the frustration in our technicians voice. How is it that many other jobs require less experience, knowledge, training and work, but pay more?
Sure the automotive industry has its difficult working environment, requires specialized training, high levels of knowledge and tooling, but unfortunately, automotive technicians' salaries have not kept up with other similar career fields. The end consumer is the one that should be paying for this expertise, but in reality, that is still not happening.
Perhaps it is worse in independent repair shops like ours because we do not use the flat rate pay system. Like many small shops we pay our technicians hourly so that they don't get burnt financially since the independent sector services so many different makes and models.
Across the board it appears that labor rates are rising nationally, but only in pace with inflation and market conditions. The decades old mantra still remains: When will the automotive repair sector become as financially rewarding as other less knowledge and labor intense fields? Perhaps its a matter of semantics. Perhaps automotive repair was never supposed to be a high paying, rewarding career. It still troubles me that workers in this industry are/were called grease monkeys. I can even remember seeing an oil change receipt in a customer's car several years back. The company name on the receipt was: Grease Gorillas. Lets face it, you only get back a mirror reflection of the impression that you give.
Without a doubt, the automotive industry still needs help. I believe that as the image of this industry gradually changes to the high-tech career that it really is, the general public will understand the increased costs, and shops will bill accordingly. In addition, the general motoring public needs to understand how car design and technology has so drastically shifted, especially in the last 20 years. Hopefully once the motoring public sees us in a more positive light they will be willing to reimburse us for the ever so challenging jobs that we do each and every day.