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EFG Companies

Labor in the Retail Automotive Space

2022 is already shaping up to be another banner year. In fact, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) issued their 2022 forecast recently, projecting new vehicle sales to reach 15.4 million units – an increase of 3.4 percent. However, labor shortages could put a crimp in an otherwise positive 2022. The good news is there are three simple steps you can take to make your dealership more competitive in today’s labor market.

2022 Labor Market

Auto dealerships certainly felt the impact of the pandemic on employment. In March 2020, COVID-19 shutdowns forced dealerships across the country to lay off most of its sales staff. Since then, many dealers have not returned to pre-pandemic staffing levels. According to NADA, dealership employment for 2021 measured down 4-5 percent throughout the year.

As dealers look to restaff in 2022, some are finding themselves competing in a very tight labor market. Some economists are starting to believe the pandemic has changed the behavior of the job market in ways that could have a lasting impact, including resetting the relationship between workers and their employers.

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Economy F&I Industry Trends

2022 Predictions: Demand for Units Bodes Well for Dealers

2021 has felt like a dance with very complex steps, back and forth. In the first half of the year, the economy took a step back with severe semiconductor chip shortages, persistently high levels of COVID-19 infections across the country, and challenging labor shortages. As a result, the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for August dropped to 13.09 million, reflecting a steady decline since the April peak of 18.5 million according to Motor Intelligence. The August reading was the weakest of the year and the lowest since June 2020’s 13.23 million rate, early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, we are experiencing a different story. According to TD Economics, in October, U.S. vehicle sales took a step forward, rising by 6.5 percent month-over-month to 13.0 million SAAR units. Last month’s gain came in well ahead of expectations, which called for a more modest gain to 12.5 million units. These forward steps brought an end to five consecutive months of declines.

However, inventory availability is still taking a step back, putting a false cap on consumer demand. New vehicle inventory remains compressed, with estimates for October revealing that dealership supply slipped to an all-time low of just 20 days. The combination of strong demand and limited inventory has continued to exert upward pressure on new vehicle prices, which are estimated to be up nearly 20 percent from last year’s levels. The October gain indicates that at current depressed production levels, 12 million seems to be the natural floor for sales.

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EFG Companies

What a New CFPB Director Means for Auto Dealers

On September 30, the U.S. Senate confirmed a new Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Rohit Chopra, formerly with the Federal Trade Commission, brings an enforcement mindset to his new role.

Chopra, 39, will serve a five-year term at the helm of the Bureau. He has a long history with the organization, which was created in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008. He worked closely with Senator Elizabeth Warren on establishing the Bureau, then joined it in 2011 to investigate industry abuses in the student lending market.

His appointment comes at an interesting time for automotive dealers and lenders. As FTC Commissioner, Chopra actively pursued auto dealers perceived of implementing discriminatory practices. He also was a vocal proponent for more protections for consumers, specifically regarding auto lending abuses of all minority demographics and military families.