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The Next Endangered Species: Your Auto Mechanic

The auto mechanic industry is another casualty of emerging technology
Leo Shvedsky
September 20 2021
Car mechanic using a computer laptop: Shutterstock

We get it. You’re the most fix-it-yourself gearhead of all time. Your blood flows with oil and you were born with a wrench for a hand. But even you’ve had to use the services of an auto mechanic at some point in your life (even if it's just to compare notes.) So, what if we told you that the mechanic profession is undergoing a crisis that could turn it into a different kind of job altogether? 

Don’t take our word for it. The U.S. Department of Labor Statics believes that there will be 0% growth in the mechanic workforce from now until 2050. That might not sound so bad until you consider that other professions like nursing, for example, are projected to grow nearly 21% in only a decade. So why are we going to need nurses and not mechanics?

The obvious culprit might be the one that is usually associated with any major change in the auto industry these days – electrification. But, while it is definitely one of the reasons the car technician business is undergoing dramatic change, it is certainly not the only one. And perhaps not even the main reason.  

The first and most evident reason is that many of the most “bread and butter” aspects of a mechanic’s job are going away. At some point, in the not-too-distant future, things like replacing spark plugs, tune-ups, oil changes, brake pad/rotor changes, and engine cooling repairs will simply no longer be needed for electric vehicles. `  

But, as we said, this is not the only issue that would befall the trade. Another issue is that new mechanics are replacing older ones, and older ones are retiring at higher rates. This is despite the fact that top-tier mechanics can make over $60,000 a year, which is right around the median household income in the United States. All across the country, there is a glut for new mechanics, with some who run technical schools saying, “I have more automotive job orders than I can fill.” 

So why are prospective new mechanics being pulled away from rotating tires and turning wrenches? It’s difficult to say, but it could be that more and more people are seeking higher education as opposed to more specialized technical jobs. Only 26% of baby boomers had a college degree, while 40% of millennials have at least a bachelor’s. But again, there’s no definitive answer one way or the other.  

Finally, the last reason stems from, as we said earlier, older mechanics retiring at a higher rate. This is happening because of reason one. Most simply aren’t prepared for the coming days of electric everything. Not to mention, older mechanics are also being fed stories of technicians getting electrocuted by Teslas and such. It’s not hard to imagine the appeal of just throwing in the towel (or oil-slicked rag in this case.) 

The combination of newer emerging technology, lack of preparedness, and a smaller talent pool all prescribe a change in the way mechanics will work. There are currently 160,000 independent shops across the country. Will they all close down? Probably not, but some surely may while others will need to learn to adapt and persuade more talent to come their way.



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