Hire interns, save on wages

Dealership profit margins seem to get tighter every year, and that requires operating with fewer and fewer full-time employees. Internships offer a cost-effective way to get work done around your dealership — and can even let you test whether an individual has what it takes before you make a full-time job offer.

See their potential

Suppose you need simple, routine work done in your service bay, such as oil changes, car washes, tire rotations — or data entry or accounting transactions (providing another set of eyes for “segregation of duties” tasks). Why not hire an intern from your area vocational school or community college automotive program? The student will receive valuable on-the-job training and possibly qualify for credit hours.

Similarly, your sales department might use business school interns to handle new car sales to customers who’ve done extensive online research before visiting the showroom. Internet-savvy shoppers already know the vehicle specifications and price they want, so their simplified deals can be handled by rookie salespeople. Enthusiastic interns who prove themselves with these sales may eventually be worthy of a full-time sales position.

Interns can also serve as delivery specialists who drive vehicles directly to buyers’ homes and set up Bluetooth, GPS and other technology options on-site. This value-added service personalizes and simplifies the car-buying experience — and frees up your sales force for selling.

Check the rules first

Federal and state labor laws govern the use of interns. In many states, dealerships can pay interns hourly wages below the statutory minimum level, depending on factors such as their ages, hours worked, length of internships and responsibilities. Some may even qualify for unpaid internships. Consult an attorney to make sure you’re complying with all applicable laws.

© 2014