The shortage of car stereo installers continues to plague retailers, some of whom believe the issue is getting worse.
Some stores have been looking for qualified techs for a year or more. One owner said he left $30K of business on the table in a single month after losing an installer.
A promising trend is that more retailers are training kids out of high school who are mechanically inclined. It takes about a year before these trainees can work on a car and essentially pay for themselves, retailers said.
On the other hand, more retailers are seeing their older installers move to other industries, as crawling under cars and dashboards becomes too demanding physically.
“It’s getting worse because a lot of the installers that have been around the industry for a while are getting older and installing is difficult physically and so some are moving on.” said Dean Magnesen Owner, Sound Warehouse, UT.
Even the shops that pay top dollar are finding it difficult to fill all tech positions.
John Coleman, President of Stereo King, OR said, “I don’t lose [installers] to other stores, I lose to other industries.” He cited the problem of car stereo not being cool anymore so it’s not attracting as many young technicians.
Ken Ward of Musicar NW, OR sees it this way; “I think we’ve been telling kids for 20 years that working with your hands says you are stupid and you have to go to college and have a white collar job. Everyone wants to be in a startup and write software. SnapOn has been taking out a lot of ads promoting the idea that working with your hands is fine. They have a cool meme of a mechanic with a wrench in his hand that says, ‘I have the get rich slow plan.’ We definitely, as an economy, have trouble finding technicians of any kind.”
He added, “I’ve heard from people in the automotive service business that it’s also hard to get automotive service technicians on that level. And they earn more with better benefits.”
On the flip side, award winning installer Chris Ott said it took a while to find a new job as a top installer. He visited many shops across the country and some didn’t have enough business to justify a salary for a leading installer with 20 years of experience.
Most stores said they pay an hourly rate which might be around $12/hour plus commission. Newer installers with a few years of experience can make $35K or more and installers with more experience can bring in $50K. Some said top installers make about $60 to $65K a year. And we heard of some making as much as $95K or more in some instances.
Sound of Tri-State, DE said its having success with training kids out of high school. So did The Specialists, AZ.
Freeman’s Car Stereo, NC also said its cross training some of its window tinters to perform car audio installations and it plans to cross train the car audio installers to do window tint.
John Haynes of Al & Ed’s Autosound, CA said the installer shortage is at the same level as last year. “We could definitely do more business in some locations if we had more installers. We have three locations where we’re scheduling out and sometimes customers can’t wait.”
Installer Institute of FL is one of the few training centers specifically for car audio in the country. The school receives inquiries from retailers looking for installers about 4 or 5 times a week. “We are definitely seeing a shortage,” said Director Monica Anderson. She said 5 years ago the demand for installers was slower.
The school produces about 100 to 150 graduates a week through programs that range from 5 weeks to 6 months.
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