Automotive Industry: Jobs/Careers--Job Classifications

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The automotive industry offers numerous types of employment for people with a good understanding of automotive systems.

Service Technician

A service technician assesses vehicle problems, performs all necessary diagnostic tests, and competently repairs or replaces faulty components. The skills to do this job are based on a sound understanding of auto technology, on-the-job experience, and continuous training in new technology as it’s introduced by auto manufacturers.

Individuals skilled in automotive service are called technicians, not mechanics. There is a good reason for this. Mechanic stresses the ability to repair and service mechanical systems. While this skill is still very much needed, it’s only part of the technician's overall job. Today's vehicles require mechanical knowledge plus an understanding of other technologies, such as electronics, hydraulics, and pneumatics.

A technician may work on all systems of the car or may become specialized. Specialty technicians concentrate on servicing one system of the automobile, such as electrical, brakes, or transmission. These specialties require advanced and continuous training in that particular field.

In many automotive shops, the technician also has the responsibility for diagnosing the concerns of the customer and preparing a cost estimate for the required services.

Often individuals begin their career as a technician in a new car dealership by performing new car preparation, commonly referred to as "new car prep." The basic purpose of new car prep is to make a vehicle ready to be delivered to a customer. Each dealership has a list of items and services that are performed prior to delivery. Some of the services may include removing the protective plastic from the vehicle's exterior and interior and installing floor mats. At times, new car prep includes tightening certain bolts that may have been intentionally left loose for shipping. New car prep is a great way for a new technician to become familiar with the vehicles sold at the dealership.

-- A service advisor's main job is to record the customer's concerns.

Shop Foreman

The shop foreman is the one who helps technicians with more difficult tasks and serves as the quality control expert. In some shops, this is the role of the lead tech. For the most part, both jobs are the same. Some shops have technician teams. On these teams, there are several technicians, each with a different level of expertise. The lead tech is sort of the shop foreman of the team. Lead techs and shop foremen have a good deal of experience and excellent diagnostic skills.

Service Advisor

The person who greets customers at a service center is the service advisor, sometimes called a service writer or consultant. Service advisors need to have an understanding of all major systems of an automobile and be able to identify all major components and their locations. They also must be able to describe the function of each of those components and be able to identify related components.

A good understanding of the recommended service and maintenance intervals and procedures is also required. With this knowledge they are able to explain the importance and complexity of each service and are able to recommend other services.

A thorough understanding of warranty policies and procedures is also a must. Service advisors must be able to explain and verify the applicability of warranties, service contracts, service bulletins, and campaign/recalls procedures.

Service advisors also serve as the liaison between the customer and the technician in most dealerships.

They have responsibility for explaining the customer's concerns and/or requests to the technician plus keeping track of the progress made by the technician so the customer can be informed. This monitoring is also important because it impacts the completion of service on the vehicles of other customers.

Often automotive technicians or students of auto motive service programs realize a need to change career choices but desire to stay in the service industry. Becoming a service writer, advisor, or consultant is a good alternative. This job is good for those who have the technical knowledge but lack the desire or physical abilities to physically work on automobiles.

Many of the requirements for being a successful technician apply to being a successful service consultant. However, being a service consultant requires greater skill levels in customer relations, internal communication and relations, and sales.

Service consultants must communicate well with customers, over the telephone or in person, in order to satisfy their needs or concerns. Most often this satisfaction involves the completion of a repair order, which contains customer information, instructions to the technicians, and a cost estimate.

Accurate estimates are not only highly appreciated by the customer, but they are also required by law in most states. Writing an accurate estimate requires a solid understanding of the automobile, good communications with the customers and technicians, and good reading and math skills.

Most shops use computers to generate the repair orders and estimates and to schedule the shop's workload. Therefore, having solid computer skills is an asset for service advisors.

Service Manager

The service manager is responsible for the operation of the entire service department at a large dealership or independent shop. Normally, customer concerns and complaints are handled by the service manager.

Therefore, a good service manager has good people skills in addition to organizational skills and a solid automotive background.

In a dealership, the service manager makes sure the manufacturers' policies on warranties, service procedures, and customer relations are carried out.

The service manager also arranges for technician training and keeps all other shop personnel informed and working together.

Service Director

Large new car dealerships often have a service director who oversees the operation of the service and parts departments as well as the body shop. The service director has the main responsibility of keeping the three departments profitable. The service director coordinates the activities of these separate departments to ensure efficiency.

Many service directors began their career as technicians. As technicians they demonstrated a solid knowledge of the automotive field and had outstanding customer relations skills and good business sense.

The transition from technician to director typically involves promotion to various other managerial positions first.

Parts Counterperson

A parts counterperson can have different duties and is commonly called a parts person or specialist. Parts specialists are found in nearly all auto motive dealerships and auto parts retail and whole sale stores. They sell auto parts directly to customers and issue materials and supplies to auto repair specialists working in automotive services facilities and body shops. A parts counterperson must be friendly, professional, and efficient when working with all customers, both on the phone and in person.

-- A parts counterperson has an important role in the operation of a store or dealership.

Depending on the parts store or department, duties may also include delivering parts, purchasing a variety of automotive parts, maintaining inventory levels, and issuing parts to customers and technicians. Responsibilities include preparing purchase orders, scheduling deliveries, assisting in the receipt and storage of parts and supplies, and maintaining contact with vendors. An understanding of automotive terminology and systems is a must for good parts counterpersons.

This career is an excellent alternative for those who know about cars but would rather not work on them. Much of the knowledge required to be a technician is also required for a parts person. However, a parts specialist requires a different set of skills. Most automotive parts specialists acquire the sales and customer service skills needed to be successful primarily through on-the-job experience and training.

They may also gain the necessary technical knowledge on the job or through educational programs and/or experience. To better understand the world of the parts industry see terms below, which defines the common terms used by parts personnel.

Parts Manager

The parts manager is in charge of ordering all replacement parts for the repairs the shop performs. The ordering and timely delivery of parts is extremely important for the smooth operation of the shop.

Delays in obtaining parts or omitting a small but crucial part from the initial parts order can cause frustrating holdups for both the service technicians and customers.

Most dealerships and large independent shops keep an inventory of commonly used parts, such as filters, belts, hoses, and gaskets. The parts manager is responsible for maintaining this inventory.

An understanding of automotive systems and their parts, thoroughness, attention to detail, and the ability to work with people face to face and over the phone are essential for a parts manager.


Some of the common terms used by parts personnel:

ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE Money due from a customer.

ALPHANUMERIC A numbering system commonly used in parts catalogs and price listings. This system uses a combination of letters and numbers. They are placed in order starting from the left digit and working across to the right.

BACK ORDER Parts ordered from a supplier that have not been shipped to the store or shop because the supplier has none in its inventory.

BILL OF LADING A shipping document acknowledging receipt of goods and stating terms of delivery.

CATALOGING The process of looking up the needed parts in a parts catalog.

CORE CHARGE A charge that is added when a customer buys a remanufactured part. Core charges are refunded to the customer when he or she returns a re-buildable part.

CORRECTION BULLETIN A bulletin that corrects catalog errors due to printing errors or inaccurately assigned part numbers.

CUSTOMER RELATIONS A description of how a salesperson interacts with the customer.

DEALERS The jobber's wholesale customers, such as service stations, garages, and vehicle dealers, who install parts in their customers' vehicles.

DISCOUNT The amount of savings being offered to a customer, normally expressed as a percentage.

DISTRIBUTOR A large-volume parts-stocking business that sells to wholesalers.

FREIGHT CHARGE A charge added to special order parts to cover their transportation to the store.

GROSS PROFIT The selling price of a part minus its cost.

HIGH-VOLUME Describes a popular item, which is sold in large numbers.

INDIVIDUALLY PRICED The condition of having each part of a display priced for customer convenience.

INVENTORY The parts a store or shop has in its possession for resale.

INVENTORY CONTROL A method of determining amounts of merchandise to order based on supplies on hand and past sales of the item.

INVOICE The record of a sale to a customer.

JOBBER The owner or operator of an auto parts store usually wholesaling products to volume purchasers such as dealers, fleet owners, and businesses. They also may sell retail to do-it-yourselfers.

LIST PRICE The suggested selling price for an item.

MARGIN Same as gross profit.

MARKUP The amount a business charges for a part above the actual cost of the part.

NET PRICE A business's profit after deducting the cost of all of its merchandise and all expenses involved in operating the business.

NO-RETURN POLICY A store policy that certain parts cannot be returned after purchase. It’s common to have a no-return policy on electrical and electronic parts.

ON HAND The quantity of an item that the store or shop has in its possession.

PERPETUAL INVENTORY A method of keeping a continuous record of stock on hand through sales receipts and/or invoices.

PHYSICAL INVENTORY The process whereby each part is manually counted and the number on hand is written on a form or entered into a computer.

PROFIT The amount received for goods or services above the shop's or store's cost for the part or service.

PURCHASE ORDER A form giving someone the authority to purchase goods or services for a company.

REMANUFACTURED PART A part that has been reconditioned to its original specifications and standards.

RESTOCKING FEE The fee charged by a store or supplier for having to handle a returned part.

RETAIL Selling merchandise to walk-in trade (do-it-yourselfers).

RETURN POLICY A policy regarding the return of unwanted and unneeded parts. Return policies may include restocking fees or prohibit the return of certain parts.

SELLING PRICE The price at which a part is sold. This price will vary according to the type of customer (retail or wholesale) who is purchasing the part.

SPECIAL ORDER An order placed whenever a customer purchases an item not normally kept in stock.

STOCK ORDER A process by which the store orders more stock from its suppliers in order to maintain its inventory.

STOCK ROTATION Selling the older stock on hand before selling the newer stock.

SUPERSESSION BULLETIN A bulletin sent by the parts supplier that lists part numbers that now replace (supersede) previous part numbers.

TURNOVER The number of times each year that a business buys, sells, and replaces a part.

VENDOR The supplier.

WARRANTY RETURN A defective part returned to the supplier due to failure during its warranty period.

WAREHOUSE DISTRIBUTOR The jobber's supplier who is the link between the manufacturer and the jobber.

WHOLESALE The business's price to large-volume customers.

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Next: Automotive Related Career Opportunities; Service Training

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