EDMONDS, Wash. — Most people can count on one hand the number of things that the pandemic made better — digital retailing, certainly; the possibilities of remote work, perhaps.
But hunting for auto techs?
Yet at Magic Toyota in Edmonds, a fluke of circumstance, some innovative thinking and a solid assist from COVID-19 have allowed the dealership to build its own pipeline that now provides a steady flow of highly trained technicians to staff its huge, new service department.
By what magic has a dealership on Puget Sound solved one of the most vexing problems to plague dealerships? It turned the dealership's conference room into a classroom, hired a full-time instructor, worked out an innovative tool deal and recruited young adults to earn a living while they learn for free.
The process began nearly three years ago as Magic Toyota prepared to move into a new facility, expanding to 54 bays from 28, which was going to require many more bodies in the service department. In addition, Toyota Motor Co.'s two-year complimentary maintenance plan meant there was more need for lower-level technicians to process basic orders, Peter Chung, the dealership's general manager, said.
"We used to do what everybody else does — scour trade schools, go out and try to acquire techs from neighboring dealerships," Mr. Chung explained. "But what we found is that the people who will leave other dealerships to come work for you are the same people who will leave your dealership to go work for someone else."