Wednesday, 31 October 2007 17:00

Snapshot of the Collision Industry

Written by I-CAR Education Foundation

Background
Previous surveys conducted every three years confirmed the need for a continual supply of qualified entry-level technicians, while also showing changes concerning business operations and the collision repair technician workforce.

A similar survey was commissioned in 2007 to verify earlier data and to monitor trends. These results are intended for use in recruiting and training new technicians today as well as for use in long-term industry issues.

 

Sample
A random sample of 4,001 collision repair facilities from all 50 states was selected by an independent information provider. Replies were solicited by both direct mail and personal phone calls in the same manner as previous surveys. Valid responses were received from eight percent of the sample and represent a good cross section of the industry.

 

Business Statistics
While the total number of collision repair businesses has again decreased, the average years in business has increased.

The percentage of large shops (with annual sales of $300,000 to $1 million) and super shops (over $1 million) have steadily increased. Percentage of small shops (with annual sales under $300,000) has continued to decline.

The overall average for square feet of production space has again increased. Businesses also reported a higher average number of employees with the percentage of shops employing more than six technicians increasing over 50 percent since 1995.

 

Current Technicians
Average technician age has steadily increased every year since 1995. Percentages of technicians in the under-45 age groups have generally declined while the over-45 age groups have increased.

Most of the current working technicians were hired from another shop (61%). Over 20 percent were hired from a non-automotive industry or hired as their first job. Just over six percent were hired from a related automotive industry, while seven percent were hired directly from a technical school program. Women still represent less than one percent of the technician workforce. These figures have not changed significantly from previous surveys.

Slightly above the entire adult population, 88 percent of technicians are high school graduates.

Businesses responding to the survey report that 23 percent of technicians participated in no training in the last two years from I-CAR®, vehicle makers, vendors, or others. ASE certification was reported by 32 percent of the technicians covered in the survey. Both results are similar to those reported in previous surveys.

 

Compensation
Compensation plans have remained consistent, with over half based on flat rate (commission) plans.

Although there is a wide distribution, annual income tends to increase with shop sales volume and frequent training, especially I-CAR classes. Income figures shown below are for production technicians over 20 years old.

Average income for production technicians has again increased since the previous survey. Several other skilled trades actually decreased. Average income for all technicians is $51,312, competitive with similar skilled trades and higher than most.

Average income among the top 10 percent was $88,460, showing an attractive earning potential as a collision repair technician.

 

Benefits
Benefit packages offered to today’s collision repair workforce show slight decreases from previous survey data in all categories.

Businesses offering no benefits increased to slightly under nine percent in 2007.

Employee performance reviews have risen with almost 60 percent reporting regular formal reviews. Those providing written consistent level of benefits for technicians.

Technician Turnover
A significant amount of turnover remains in the trade, with 27.5 percent of technicians leaving their jobs in the last 12 months, higher than the 24.3 percent reported in 2004. Over half (58%) of technicians have been with their current employer for five years or less. Since 1995 there is a slight increase in technicians staying with their employer for more than five years. One of every six technicians (16.4%) left their job for a similar position in another shop, trending slightly higher in every survey since 1995. This is turnover within the industry and, while disruptive to an individual shop, does not increase or decrease the pool of available technicians.

Industry turnout is a greater concern. In the last 12 months, approximately 21,500 collision technicians (11%) left the trade, higher than the nine percent reported in 2004.

Some technicians (6.3%) left the collision industry completely. Others (3.3%) left their technician position for an industry-related job, such as estimator, manager, or shop owner. In addition, 1.5% of technicians retired from the workforce and an additional 2.6% are expected to retire next year. Both retirement figures show an increase from 2004.


New Technicians

Over 10,300 new technicians hired in the last 12 months were hired from technical school programs, filling positions for almost half of the technicians that left the trade. To completely make up this shortfall, over 11,000 new technicians were hired from other sources.

Of the 21,800 new entry-level technicians, over 12,000 (56%) were reported to have left in the last 12 months.

When asked, “If available, how many more technicians would you have hired?”, 45 percent of businesses said they would have hired at least one more technician, higher than the 33 percent reported in 2004.

Technical Training Programs
Survey respondents indicated which tasks they would expect a technical school program graduate to be able to perform with very little supervision. Respondents chose an average of 7.5 tasks, similar to 2004.

Respondents expected to pay entry-level new hires about half the wages of a journeyman new hire.

Most respondents would be willing to serve on a technical school advisory board (52%), although current participation is 19 percent. Almost half (47%) reported no high school program available in their area, while 43 percent reported no postsecondary program available.

The collision industry does not currently have a uniform plan for apprentice, co-op, or work study programs; however, 64 percent of the respondents indicated a willingness to support such programs, higher than the 2004 Survey (58%).
“In how many years would you expect an inexperienced, entry-level person to become a fully productive technician?”
Most common answer 3: years
Average answer: 3.6 years
Range: 0.5 to 10 years

 

Conclusions
•  The collision industry is predominantly independent businesses that continue to decrease in number while increasing in average size, number of employees, and sales volume.
 • Collision repair businesses have not, on average, increased technician benefits in the last three years.
 • The number of production technicians has decreased overall.
 •  The average age of technicians continues to increase, with smaller percentages in the younger age ranges.
 • Both technician turnover within the industry and technician turnout (leaving the industry) have increased. Current and expected retirements are also increasing.
 • Average technician income has increased over the last three years, is still higher than most comparable trades, and averages over $85,000 for the top 10 percent. Technicians with recent training and/or ASE certification average significantly higher incomes.
 • A higher percentage of new technicians are being hired from technical schools (47%), but a high percentage of all entry-level technicians are leaving the trade within their first year (56%).
 • Expectations for collision repair skills of technical school program graduates have remained fairly steady.
 • Participation on technical school advisory committees has increased (from 17% to 19%), and the percent of those willing to serve has increased to over half (52%).
 • The percentage of collision repair businesses that would be willing to sponsor an apprentice, co-op, or work study student increased to 64 percent in 2007 from 58 percent in 2004.

 

For more information, please contact:
I-CAR Education Foundation
5125 Trillium Blvd Hoffman Estates, IL 60192 888.722.3787
FAX 847.590.1215
info@ed-foundation.org

 

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