The cars of tomorrow are becoming a reality for today's consumers, and the way people shop for motors is evolving. Discover what this means for new recruits in the automotive industry…
Technology news website Digital Trends and business magazine Forbes have both recently discussed how far-advanced cars could feasibly be over the next five to ten years. While flying cars may still be confined to the realm of science fiction, online in-car technology and driver-assisted features are already standard in many new cars, while self-driving and driver-override technology are not far away either.
The rapid progress of what's possible in terms of car production, along with changing consumer needs in the digital age, have demanded changes in the automotive retail industry. The resulting workforce skills shortage has coincided with heavy government investment in the nation's road and rail infrastructure, making it a great time to consider the raft of career opportunities that will be available in the transport sector over the coming years.
There are a variety of graduate roles in car retail that can be found across a range of disciplines - including sales, marketing, digital, customer service, IT and finance. You'll also be able to map out a career path with professional training available to all.
The automotive retail sector is a great choice for those who love to work directly with clients
Selling the product
As Nigel McMinn, managing director for Lookers' Motor Division points out, in previous decades customers looking to buy a new or used car would visit their local dealership to learn about vehicles of interest. It was the salesperson's job to inform and advise on the specific product details.
Now, with increased connectivity and information readily to hand, consumers are much better informed, he explains. They no longer want the 'hard sell' or to hear facts and figures repeated to them. Instead, they expect to receive great service and practical advice from knowledgeable staff.
As a company, the car dealership chain has sought to address common misconceptions about the industry and the image of the car salesperson in order to attract graduates to the industry, letting them know about the wide range of careers, in sales and beyond - for example, finance, people development, marketing and vehicle maintenance.
'We've looked to change this image by creating exciting and challenging job roles that offer competitive salaries and great perks,' reveals Nigel. 'While it's true that we look for skilled sales people, graduates should know that there are more aspects to the company than they might think.'
Moving towards digital
To keep pace with its customers' buying habits, which encompasses a variety of digital channels, Lookers places great value on its online presence. Nigel says, 'Our high-performing in-house digital teams are constantly working to ensure we're able to reach new customers, as well as supporting our existing clients as much as possible.'
This remit is overseen by the firm's head of digital marketing, Graeme Kerr, who is tasked with providing an excellent experience for customers across all digital channels. However, continuing to find candidates with the required skills and experience is a real cause for concern.
Graeme reveals, 'We've been successful in attracting talented personnel with digital experience into the business - but each recruitment drive is becoming increasingly difficult and it feels like there's definitely a skills shortage in this area.
'The automotive retail business has possibly been lagging behind big retailers when it came to their digital offering, but there's now definitely an appetite for change and we're seeing investments in digital growth across the industry. This is only going to increase demand for people with digital-related experience, which offers an excellent opportunity for graduates.'
Find out about the digital skills needed to work as a digital marketer for motor retailers such as Lookers, as well as other graduate employers.
Opportunities for career progression
Lookers Motor Group consists of Lookers and Benfield in the UK mainland, plus Charles Hurst in Northern Ireland and Taggarts in Scotland. It also represents 31 vehicle manufacturers, including Audi, Alfa Romeo and Jaguar Land Rover. In business as far-reaching as this, graduates will be able to find their perfect niche.
For instance, if you've got management ambitions, the aim of the 24-month Lookers graduate programme is to develop leaders by providing graduates with a full overview of the business. They'll get to spend one of the years rotating around different functions as well as with retailers and partners.
In addition to sales and management jobs, there's always a place at Lookers for people who aim to deliver first-rate customer service, says Nigel. 'The automotive retail sector is a great choice for those who love to work directly with clients.'
Even if you begin in an entry level role, 'there are many opportunities to advance if you show enthusiasm, initiative, and a dedication to the job', he adds.
Showing your professionalism
Whether you have entered the motor industry as a graduate or have gained other relevant experience, you can progress your career with a professional body.
Hayley Cromwell-Dorrell, membership services manager at the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), reveals that IMI membership is available to everyone - spanning all levels and job roles in the vast automotive sector, including graduates in both technical and non-technical positions. 'By becoming a member, you are demonstrating your professionalism,' she adds.
Individuals are also recognised for their experience and qualifications within the industry, with plenty of support available on how to grow their careers, explains Hayley. This, in turn, gives consumers total confidence in IMI members.
'The IMI offers a Professional Register for consumers to search for skilled, competent and trustworthy automotive professionals - whether they are buying or hiring a car, or taking one in for parts, servicing or repair. There are two routes onto the register: through IMI membership or IMI accreditation.'
For more information on automotive careers, you can visit IMI Autocity, its dedicated resources platform for those wishing to find out more about the sector. You can also search for graduate jobs and graduate schemes in transport.