Techs’ strike in Chicago highlights work-force issues affecting all dealerships

For seven weeks over the summer, 2,000 service technicians went on strike at 129 new-vehicle dealerships in the Chicago area, seeking better pay and working conditions.

One dealer estimates the walkout cost his store hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost service revenue. Another calls the strike "unnecessary ... devastating" and says it left him "bitter."

Yet the terms of the strike's settlement deserve attention because they address challenges that confront all dealership service departments — not just unionized shops in one city — as they seek to recruit and retain productive technicians.

The stakes are higher than ever for dealerships in the competition for techs. As new-vehicle sales cool, fixed operations will account for a greater share of dealership profits in coming years. The chronic shortage of technicians will grow more acute as those now on the job retire.

And as the cars and trucks coming into the shop become ever more complex, the training and skills required of techs will have to be more sophisticated as well. So the status of service technicians becomes increasingly critical.

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