Getting Buy-In on EV Service

April 4, 2023

When you need an existing employee to develop a new skill, what do you do? How do you talk to them? In the case of a technician, has “the talk” come up about electric vehicle (EV) training? If it did, how did it go?

I ran a shop for more than 25 years and had many valuable employees, so I will draw from that experience. Today, I own and operate a technical training center educating in-service techs into the world of hybrid (HEV) and electric vehicles (EV).

I have “the talk” with shop owners who struggle with this new technology every week. (Honda of America uses the term “associates” for their employees, so we will go with that.) Let me introduce you to three technicians and their employers, who own a tire dealership that is new to the world of HEV and EV service.

Technician Doug. A seasoned tech, Doug has been with you for more than 20 years and is in his mid-40s. He is your ASE master technician and your diagnostic lead. Doug is married, with teenagers at home and one elderly parent who needs help. Both Doug and his spouse are working. Doug is solid, hard-working and dependable.

Technician Alex. This “B tech,” who is 27 years old, has been with you less than a year. Alex is single, fun-loving and loves his hopped-up truck. Alex has been in the business for six years and this is his fourth job. (His parents paid for him to attend a 12-month private tech school after high school.) Alex likes his time off.

Technician Sarah. At 22, she is mature beyond her years. Sarah is smart, articulate and serious about the environment  — both the working one and the planet. She graduated from a local community college with an associate’s degree in automotive science and technology. She was a paid intern at two other shops before going to work for Eric and Bella, who we will discuss below. Sarah works full-time.

Owners Eric and Bella. At 54 and 52, respectively, Eric and Bella are a married couple, with one grown daughter away at college who is not interested in a career working for the family business. Eric and Bella took over their tire dealership six years ago from its original owners, JoAnne and Scott, when they retired at age 72. There was great potential to modernize and grow. Eric and Bella added four bays and went all-in to service the entire vehicle. When they took over, they started monthly meetings with their 14 employees on Wednesday, every week. They also conduct random, individual talks with employees when walking around their shop.

Recently, Bella was the first to raise the subject of EVs at dinner with Eric one night. She said, “EV sales were up 65% last year. What do we do about the future?” They both agreed doing nothing was not an option. Both Eric and Bella were ready to move ahead on servicing EVs, but they needed their associates to get there, too.

So Eric and Bella decided to have “the talk” about EVs with each of their associates individually. It was time for employees to share their ideas and concerns. (And the concerns didn’t have to be rational.) Everyone had their turn. Then Eric and Bella summarized all of their feelings and held a big meeting.

What did Doug, Alex and Sarah object to during those individual conversations?

Doug was worried he would get electrocuted, that the tools he would have to buy would cost too much and the training would take too much time away from his family. Alex hated the idea and thought EVs were not necessary. Gasoline and diesel were just fine and the government should not tell us what to buy, he said. Sarah was afraid that some of her co-workers would make fun of her as she followed her dream of a zero-carbon world.

This process needed to happen first. Next up was discussing conditions. (In my experience, this part of the process is much easier and usually happens faster.) Conditions, in this context, require spending money. Doug, Alex and Sarah each needed something  — and in Sarah’s case, many things.

Doug said he would go along with the plan if he could attend training during the day. Alex said he would get safety trained in high-voltage systems so he could be a helper, if needed. Sarah presented a long list  — from tools, equipment and training to an HEV and EV shop car, chargers in the store’s parking lot and more.

Nobody quit. The funding was there and the work began. Eric and Bella added HEVs and EVs to their dealership’s list of services. Are you ready to have the EV “talk” with your employees?

About the Author

Craig Van Batenburg

Craig Van Batenburg is MTD's monthly EV Intelligence columnist and the owner of Van Batenburg's Garage Inc. dba Automotive Career Development Center, which provides training for facilities that service - or want to service - electric and hybrid vehicles. For more information, see www.fixhybrid.com or email Craig at [email protected].

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