Scoring a Fast & Furious Career in Automotive

Here’s an inspirational story for you. Dominic “Dom” Torreto started out as a humble mechanic, today he’s a fully fledged international special agent using cars to defy gravity. This could be your career.

The big bright world of the automotive industry, globally, in manufacturing alone accommodates 2.7 million jobs and 120,000 jobs in South Africa. The diversity of the industry sets it apart for growth and opportunity, and you could come from nearly any walk of life and land a dream job in the automotive sector. 

Today, that’s our job, to bring you up to speed in a few positions you could work towards achieving with or without a tertiary education. 

Now, when we look at the industry, we understand it to be divided between manufacturers (OEMs) and privateers (grey dealers), both offering Sales and After sales functions, along with this a flurry of supporting jobs.

Sales, involves any buying, selling, trading or auctioning of the motor vehicles, from road cars to 18 wheeler trucks. After sales, is the technical support, repair, and servicing function that is offered across the same product segments. 

In South Africa, manufacturers have been around for decades and continue to offer opportunities in their factories, warehouses, dealers and head offices. BMW, Ford, Isuzu, Mahindra, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen are some of the major manufacturers that run operations locally, the rest that you know and see on the roads are only offered at retail level, which in itself also creates a multitude of jobs, so enough with the history lessons, let’s break down what you’re in for.

Sales! Sales! Sales! We love selling, it’s how we made it through life so far, selling our hours of labour, our skill sets that companies pay in meat and memes for, it's our revenue generation, others sell shares. Nevertheless, this is one of the easiest routes to go when entering the industry, you have levels, for now we will assume you have no job experience whatsoever.

You may enter sales, as a Sales Assistant, in the dealer level you may play a supporting role of administration and customer assistance to a Sales Executive or Sales Manager, these roles are offered in dealerships around the country, in OEMs or private dealers and is a role that does not necessarily need you to be qualified in a business degree or diploma, although any further qualification is advantageous. I personally believe it is a great way to get started in the industry, if you look at some of the MDs or CEOs of your favorite brands, often than not, they started in a sales role. 

To be in sales, you have to be able to sell yourself before you sell the cars, you have to carry yourself in confidence and charisma. This is all fundamental when it comes to being a people’s person, connecting to your customer, building the trust in your relationship and sealing the deal. I am sure you have heard of the typical car sales guy who just wants to make a buck, that’s not the route to go - we will do a selling the car masterclass in time to come. If there’s one thing to remember, you’re never selling a hunk of metal - you’re selling an experience.

Needless to say, it can be a stressful job, you are chasing targets, dealing with angered customers and in some workplaces, the unreasonable managers. Right, so onto the next one, Aftersales, this in itself is an extensive part of the industry, and careers offered are technicians, workshop and service managers, service advisors, service administrators, parts assistants, parts managers and body shop technicians and managers.

It may be daunting to you as these are more technical, hands on roles, which we can advise to not approach if you are not ready to get down and dirty. Generally, these departments are also filled with heated arguments and pressure, it is the nature of this part of the industry as you all work at speed to get the car back to the customer. Also target driven in time and volume, time to repair and service in the shortest possibility and volume in servicing and repairing as many as you can. Next up, marketing, this is what I do, so strap in and listen properly!

There goes a saying:

Marketing strategy will impact every piece of your business and it should be tied to every piece of your business

Brandon Andersen, Chief Strategist of Ceralytics

If you feel like you want to be fully integrated into a business, it’s the job for you, also across many brands there’s usually a strong succession plan for marketing talent. You may start out as an Intern, or Assistant, then you’ll be promoted to a Marketing Executive, Manager, Director and one day we would hope to see some of you who have worked hard and smart, be the Chiefs and Heads of Marketing in organizations. 

To be in marketing, you need to combine the world of creativity and structure, you have to apply your mind critically and approach every situation uniquely, as marketing in the car world is ever changing, one day you are targeting students with limited budgets and unlimited needs, the next day you are aiming at an all new product for a niche, high net worth few. It’s quite exciting when you apply yourself dynamically. 

Remember, car manufacturers work like any other business, they also need accountants, lawyers, human resources, research and developers, engineers, and the list goes on, but we just want you to land your first automotive job, give you three main entry points which you can work towards and grow in future.

Treat every interaction and interview seriously & take time out and prepare rigorously. If you’re applying for a more technical role it simply won’t cut it to pull out a crinkled copy of “Speed & Sound” and point to ¼ mile times as your reason for joining a precision engineering team. Like with any career, your ability to stretch your grasp of an industry outside of the scope of work required is a massive advantage. Follow the industry, keep up with latest motoring developments and have a strong grip on brand positioning. Most importantly, find ways to demonstrate and highlight your work ethic. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard enough. 

Here’s why it’s a great choice to explore a career in automotive:

  • Diversity, there is so much opportunity in various roles that you can learn and grow in - it is near on endless with the choice you have. 
  • Longevity, automakers have been around for decades and will continue to be, even with the adoption of enhanced and electric mobility, the average career span in the industry locally is 15-20 years, as many who are in the automotive space have always had the passion to continue in it.
  • Opportunity, the post-automotive life can be very rewarding, you have spent time in the industry, ranked up and then you are headhunted by another organization in a completely different industry and you have a new challenge… love it! 

So we won’t leave you high and dry, maybe just dry with the following.

We have listed some fantastic programes and opportunities offered locally; 

Volkswagen: Graduate Trainee Program

Toyota: Toyota South Africa

BMW: BMW Opportunities 

Ford: Ford Career Opportunities 

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