22/07/2024 11:29 PM

Fights Plog

Exceptional automotive

Car dealers offering bonuses to fill jobs

LaFontaine Automotive Group dangled signing bonuses of up to $10,000 last month in a hiring blitz to woo candidates for key jobs across its Michigan footprint.

The attractive offer advertised on social media such as the dealerships’ Facebook pages and LinkedIn lured more than 900 applicants over 16 days in January. And it has resulted in 51 hires as of Friday, Feb. 5.

CEO Ryan LaFontaine said the hiring push comes amid growth within the past year as the retailer acquired two franchised dealerships, opened new body shops and expanded its used-only business. LaFontaine Automotive, with 22 stores and seven collision centers, has big aspirations in 2021 to sell nearly 45,000 new, used, commercial and fleet vehicles, up from nearly 31,000 last year.

“We only can do that with the right people,” LaFontaine said.

The Highland, Mich., company ranks No. 52 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 18,462 new vehicles in 2019.

LaFontaine first offered the bonuses — the amount is dependent on position, experience and qualifications — in spring 2020 after sales restrictions lifted on Michigan dealerships amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The dealership group hired more than 80 people during that round, including 36 in one day in sales and business development center positions, said Nick Papcsik, LaFontaine’s corporate trainer.

The group’s current aim is to bring 100 people on board. LaFontaine has about 1,650 employees. Promotions of existing personnel have opened up spots to fill.

“Our biggest needs fall in the new- and used-car sales, also in technicians and also in body technicians,” LaFontaine said.

LaFontaine continues to review the influx of applications and set up Zoom videoconferences and phone calls for interviews, group spokesman Max Muncey said. Most positions filled so far have been in sales and the BDC, though a few technicians also have been hired. Agreed-upon bonuses have ranged from $1,000 to $10,000, the latter for tough-to-fill positions such as managers, master technicians or salespeople with established client lists.

“That’s a chunk of money that can be life-changing for some and very impactful for everyone else,” Papcsik said.

LaFontaine has company among dealers in awarding signing bonuses.

Ivette Dominguez, president of Alpine Buick-GMC in Littleton, Colo., and owner of six other stores in Colorado, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma, said her group has been offering $5,000 bonuses to technicians for signing on and up to $5,000 in moving expenses.

Dominguez’s group advertises open positions in eight markets, highlighting location attributes such as low cost of living in Oklahoma and Illinois or abundant outdoor activities in Colorado. The retailer has lured some candidates from Texas to Oklahoma.

Signing bonuses have proved successful for dealerships that use them, especially in urban areas where the labor pool is larger, said Adam Robinson, CEO of dealership recruitment technology firm Hireology. He especially advocates signing or referral bonuses for positions such as technicians.

“It seems like a lot of money,” Robinson said. “Then you realize that having an unfilled tech position can cost your dealership $1,000 to $1,500 a day in lost gross profit opportunity.”

Signing bonuses for technicians make sense if jobs go unfilled for two or three weeks or more, Robinson said, “especially when you pay them out, some percentage when they start and most of it after they’ve stayed for six months or 12 months.”

At LaFontaine, eligible hires will get half their bonus after 14 days, with the rest spread across the first six months of employment.

“We’ve had great traction, a lot of interviews, a lot of conversations and a lot of different people that we are bringing up for work,” LaFontaine said. “So, yes, it’s had great, great results.”

David Muller contributed to this report.